OrnaVerum
v 5.10.00
6 Oct 2018
updated 17 Jul 2019

William Bridges-Adams
(1 Mar 1889 – 17 Aug 1965)

Following his successful theatrical career, "Bridges" (William Bridges-Adams) had retired to live in Bantry Bay. He there discovered a kindred spirit in Ron Kaulback and became a habitué of the bar at Ardnagashel, where he was sometimes prevailed upon to recite this wonderful comic declamation (actually called Notting Hill Polka), to universal acclaim. There were numerous other rhythmic ditties of his, which will hopefully come to mind in due course. (The Wiki profile of him is rather dry and dusty – as fruit falls close to the tree, see also the marvellous obituary of his son Nicholas from the Independent website.) I was very lucky indeed to have heard this one "live" during my first visit to Ardnagashel.

I'm utterly ignorant of metre and rhythm and suchlike brainy stuff, but it's self-evidently composed with a nervous staccato delivery in mind:

There's bin a body in the 'ouse
Since Farver passed away;
'E took ill on the Saturday night
An' 'e died the followin' day.

Mum's pulled the blinds all down
An' bought some sherry-wine,
An' we've put the tin wot the arsenic's in
At the bottom of the Ser-pen-tine.

His œuvre (much of it sardonic rather than comic) was eventually collected in a slim volume entitled To Charlotte While Shaving and Other Rhymes, Barrie Books Ltd, London 1957 (now disastrously out of print, though we have a copy), which however doesn't include the following masterpiece, intended for recital as per the Habanera in Carmen, and typed out, with handwritten commentary, especially for Ron's daughter Susie, with whom he had a particular affinity.

HABANERA FOR A FAT GIRL

(The original photocopy is by now far too faded to be scanned successfully, and so I've transcribed it. Bridges' manuscript notes are rendered in red.)

Dear Mr Mayor ofSweetly reasonable
Weston-Super-Mare, you
Certainly were unfair to
Me.
I have been since
I was seventeen the
BEAUTY QUEEN OF
ANGMERING-ON-SEA, and
Now I'm twenty-one and I
Really have begun to
Blossom as the Rose I'm going to
Be,
I
Thought it would be fun, like
Lots of girls have done, to
Send in my name and
See
If
Weston-Super-Mare had a
Queen that could compare with the
Queen of Angmering-on-
Sea.
Well, whenFirst sign of anger
I saw that
Skinny Little Rat, why I
Never even reckoned she'd aIncreasing anger ...
Hope of running Second, but you
Put Her First,
Upon my word! and
What was worst you
PUT ME THIRD!!!
Everything you thought about my
Ankles
Rankles,
Everything you thought about my
Knees! You
Didn't like my Toes, you
Didn't like my Nose, which
Has been known
To please! Ha! Ha! AndAngry laughter
As for all the rest of me, the
Ripest and the best of me, I
S'pose you thought it Rude to
Stare?
Eh?Prolonged and devastating sarcasm
'Cos you only took one
Frightened little Look!
Oh, Mr Mayor, Mr Indignation
Mayor!

Poor Mr Mayor of
Weston-Super-Mare!
What a lot you've got to
Learn!
You in your Position ought to
Stage a Competition in
Which you took your turn.
I
Wouldn't bear a Grudge, I'd
Be an honest Judge, but
OhhowIwouldliketoSadistic
See you in a teenyCrescendo to fortissimo
Weeny little Bikini
AND TELL THEM ALL ABOUT YOU ON THESavage
MIKE! That you're
Much too Stout where you
Ought to be Thin, that you
Shouldn't stick Out what you
Ought to hold In!
I thought that Girl you thought
Delightful
Frightful.Smug
But I've got a healthy
Mind. You
Lathered at the lips 'cos she
Hadn't any Hips and
Nothing To Write Home About
Behind, which a
Real Girl's got to –Prim
Wouldn't be Natural not to, so
On the whole I'm glad you didn't Renewed sarcasm
Dare
To Learn from Me what a
Girl can be if she
Doesn't come from Weston-Super-Venom
Mare! So
There! I'm
Writing this in Bed 'cos I'veSelf-pity
Got a splitting Head, but I
JUST – DON'T – CARE, Mr
Mayor!

See?Tears

Darling Susie,
Don't be put off by the queer metre – It's so as to give you the beat of the Habanera. Think of Carmen's first song in the opera.

My wife's particular favourites are Lapse (Charlotte etc, p 54), and Mrs Chatterton (Charlotte etc, pp 42-46), the one character that Bridges stated in his disclaimer was not entirely fictitious.

It's all redolent of a bitter-sweet valedictory civilised English sense of humour swept away by the angry proletarian crudity of the 1960's, the materialistic vulgarity of the 1980's, the self-centred hedonistic 1990's and the po-faced sanctimony of the puritanical noli me tangere of the 2010's (Eboracus: have I missed any?).