Are ye all sorted?” people asked us before the birth. We thought we had it all sorted: The clothes, the nappies, the various baby-shaped containers. But what we didn’t have was enough songs.
Most of us stop singing after a while. I mean, we all sing, but not the whole song, just bits and pieces. Some people will learn all of Adele’s song, maybe murder it on an X Factor audition. The rest of us will sing “Hello” and tum-ti-tum the rest.
With a new baby, it’s handy to have full songs. Technically you don’t have to have all the words. The baby’s not going to know. You could cheat and just make everything about nappies. Adele’s chartbuster could easily become “Hello. How are ya? I heard you did a poo and I know just what to do”. But having the full lyrics keeps you committed and focused during those times of emergency serenading when you have to try and persuade the baby not to change supplier.
I used to know all the words of songs when I was small. I would have my biro and copy ready and then press play — stop — wait — rewind a bit — ok, play —stop! on the tape player and scribble what I thought were the lines. It came in handy one day in business studies class when our teacher Mr Keenan gave us homework off if we’d sing a song. If he did this now, he’d be part of a viral video called “He teaches ledgers but he’s The Ledge” but this was in the days when people did things without caring if the world was watching. I astonished the class with a completely phonetic rendition of hip-hop group, De La Soul’s 1989 smoove-groove “Eye Know”. But that mightn’t be that suitable for the under-ones.
To tide us over until we learn a few new tunes, we do have some old reliables that go on a bit. One handy one is “The Rattlin’ Bog” about “oro the valley-o” containing a rare and rattlin’ bog, tree, limb, branch and twig. At first, it looks like this song is headed towards smaller and smaller bits of tree but then it takes an abrupt departure into nests, birds, eggs, feathers and finally a flea. You could probably carry it on to flea-atoms, protons and so on but by the time you get to quarks, hopefully the child is worn out and ready for sleep.
Another recursive favourite is “Hush Little Baby” — a song about what Daddy is going to buy you if all the preceding products seem to be faulty. The Daddy in this case seems to be a man completely unaware of or unwilling to pursue his basic consumer rights. If I bought a mocking bird and that mocking bird don’t sing, don’t think I would just go and buy a diamond ring. Thankfully for us though, Daddy in this case has spectacularly poor luck with his purchases. Daddy was sent off to get a looking glass, a billy goat, a cart and a bull, a dog named Rover, a horse and a cart. Quite what Daddy was going to do with brass diamond, broken looking glass, non-pulling billy-goat, overturned horse and cart, and bark-less dog, I don’t know but who cares if the song does its job.
If nothing else, learning a few tunes will be handy for sing-songs, the ones that occur when we are ageing disgracefully and tearing the arse out of a wedding. If you’ve hounded the residents bar manager to keep it open, you’ll need to be ready with a few dirges about fighting the Black and Tans.
In the meantime, though, the Rattlin Bog and Hush Little baby are used up and she’s still awake. Luckily, I know an old lady who swallowed a fly...
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