A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life: A Lighter Side Of The Peninsular Campaign

Originally posted on A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life.

In this year of the Waterloo bicentenary, there are so many illuminating posts on various historical sites, detailing the events and describing the countless other military engagements that have led to the ultimate Allied victory against Napoleonic France.

I have taken the liberty to address a lighter side of the gruesome conflict that had gripped Europe for such a length of time. In doing so, I am perhaps reinforcing the stereotype. It is often said of Regency aficionados that they view the era through rose-tinted glasses. That they choose to focus on the glamour, the balls, the manners, the high-society people in elegant apparel – whilst ignoring the dark realities of the time, such as the plight of the dispossessed, the lengthy wars that have crippled the country or the plain fact that even the muslin-clad ladies whose carefree lifestyle they admire were not immune to the tragedies of death in childbirth or the ravaging effects of...

via A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life: A Lighter Side Of The Peninsular Campaign.

Albert Evacuated by Stanley Holloway

by Stanley Holloway [1890-1982]

Have you heard how young Albert Ramsbottom
Was evacuated from home
With his mother, clean socks and a toothbrush
Some syrup of figs and a comb.

The stick with the ‘orses ‘ead ‘andle
They decided that they’d leave behind
To keep safe with the things they weren’t wanting
Like their gas masks and things of that kind.

Pa saw them off at the station
And shed a few crocodile tears
As he waved them goodbye from the platform,
‘Twas the best break he’d had in ten years.

Ma got corner seat for young Albert
Who amused all the rest of the team
By breathing hot breaths on the window
And writing some swear words in steam.

They arrived at last somewhere in England
And straight to their billet were shown
There was one room for mother
But Albert was in a small room of his own.

The very first night in the blackout
Young Albert performed quite a feat
By hanging head first from the window
And shining his torch down the street.

It flashed on an A.R.P. warden
Patrolling with leisurely gait;
“Good Heavens,” he said, “it’s Tarzan,
I’d better go investigate.”

So reading his book of instructions
To make himself doubly sure
Then in an official manner
Proceeded to knock on the door.

It was opened by Mrs Ramsbottom
“Now then,” said she, “what’s to do.”
And in stern air-warden manner, he said
“I’m going to interrogate you.”

This fair upset Mrs. Ramsbottom
Her face was a picture to see
“I’ll have you know, you’ll do nowt of the sort,
I’m a respectable woman.” said she.

“Has your son been evacuated?”
Said the A.R.P. man at the door
“He’d all them things done as a baby,” said mother
“He’s not being done anymore.”

“Be off now,” said Mrs. Ramsbottom
As she bustled him out of the porch
And the A.R.P. man patted Albert
And then confiscated his torch.

Now that were unlucky for Albert
He had no torch to see him to bed
But being a bright little fellow
He switched on the hall light instead.

“Put out that light,” a voice shouted
“Where’s the men of our A.R.P.?”
“I’ve told them already” the warden replied
“They take no bloody notice of me.”

Soon, Mrs. Ramsbottom and Albert
Were feeling quite homesick and sad;
So they thanked the landlady most kindly
And prepared to go back home to Dad.

When at last they reached home to Father
They were fed up and had quite enough;
But in the front parlour they found six young women
And Father were doing his stuff.

“Hello Mother,” said Mr. Ramsbottom
“Come right on in, don’t be afraid,
When you went away I joined Ambulance Corps
I’m instructing the girls in first aid.”

“First aid?,” said Mrs. Ramsbottom
With a horrible look on her brow.
“If ever you wanted first aid in your life,
By gum, you’ll be wanting it now.”


Stanley Holloway
Albert Evacuated… Stanley Holloway

New Statesman | Mary Beard: humour in ancient Rome was a matter of life and death

Originally posted on New Statesman | Mary Beard: humour in ancient Rome was a matter of life and death.

Frankie Howerd in Up Pompeii! (1969-1970)

Frankie Howerd in Up Pompeii! (1969-1970)

One evening at a palace dinner party, in about 40AD, a couple of nervous aristocrats asked the emperor Caligula why he was laughing so heartily. “Just at the thought that I’d only have to click my fingers and I could have both your heads off!” It was, actually, a favourite gag of the emperor (he had been known to come out with it when fondling the lovely white neck of his mistress). But it didn’t go down well.

Laughter and joking were just as high-stakes for ancient Roman emperors as they are for modern royalty and politicians. It has always been bad for your public image to laugh in the wrong way or to crack jokes about the wrong targets. The Duke of Edinburgh got into trouble with his (to say the least) ill-judged “slitty-eyed” quip, just as Tony Abbott recently lost votes after being caught smirking about the grandmother who said she made ends meet by working on a telephone sex line. For the Romans, blindness – not to mention threats of murder – was a definite no-go area for joking, though they treated baldness as fair game for a laugh (Julius Caesar was often ribbed by his rivals for trying to conceal his bald patch by brushing his hair forward, or wearing a strategically placed laurel wreath). Politicians must always manage their chuckles, chortles, grins and banter with care.

In Rome that entailed, for a start, being a sport when it came to taking a joke, especially from the plebs. The first emperor, Augustus, even managed to stomach jokes about that touchiest of Roman topics, his own paternity. Told that some young man from the provinces was in Rome who was his spitting image, the emperor had him tracked down. “Tell me,” Augustus asked, “did your mother ever come to Rome?” (Few members of the Roman elite would have batted an eyelid at the idea of some grand paterfamilias impregnating a passing provincial woman.) “No,” retorted the guy, “but my father did, often.”…

via New Statesman | Mary Beard: humour in ancient Rome was a matter of life and death.