I like to think that, despite reaching what Faris the Rascal would describe as A Great Age, I nevertheless keep a firm handle on popular culture. It is important, I am sure you agree, to be aware of “the practices,
beliefs and objects that embody the most broadly shared meanings of a social system” - to quote the Oxford Bibliographies. Which isn’t something I do very often. If ever.
However, popular culture starts almost from the cradle so keeping up with it is incredibly difficult for anyone who isn’t, well, a child. It’s okay, I have a perfect example for you.
Towards the end of our wholly wonderful Christmas, with most welcome input from all the family, I paid a visit to the pantomime with My Boy, the Darling Daughter-in-Law and my (Not So Very Little) Welsh Boys. It was Aladdin,
he of the magic lamp, son of Widow Twanky, brother of Wishy Washy - but for the purposes of my tale it probably could have been any pantomime you care to mention. Though it wouldn’t have been Cinderella, to be honest, because the Welsh Boys would dismiss
that offering as far too “girly.”
I am not a great fan of pantomime, myself, mostly because these productions never seem to stay close enough
to the original story for my liking. Even when they do, the most important elements of the story are covered in the briefest of detail to allow room for plenty of slap-stick comedy, dance routines and in-jokes. It would be a very unusual pantomime staged in
Worthing, for example, which didn’t contain at least one slightly derogatory comment about near-neighbour Bognor Regis.
Still, my grandchildren have
always enjoyed their pantomime visits, especially in the days when their Grandad, aka Mr B, was in charge of booking tickets. Not for nothing was he known as Grandad-Best-Seats-At-The-Pantomime. I have failed miserably to match his resolve and expertise since
taking over Ticket Duty. When the older granddaughters were little, they used to dress up for a visit to the panto - I remember with delight following behind three small Snow Whites, running along the prom (prom, prom) towards the theatre.
An even earlier memory: Hazel Bagel’s first panto trip to see Jack and the Beanstalk. Her mother, the Youngest of the Darling Daughters, and I were not at all sure she wasn’t
a little too young to enjoy the experience - but Hazel, stage-struck from an early age, was determined to prove us wrong. All through the performance (I seem to recall it was a very long production) I was required to take her to visit the facilities around
once every quarter of an hour. Each time we paid a visit, she would gaze up at me and say, winningly: “I am being GOOD in Jack and the Beanstalk?” It was a question expecting - and receiving - the answer “yes.”
Anyway, I digress (though digression and various diversionary tactics are surely part of the Daily Blog. Aren’t they?) - you want to known how my latest panto experience brought
me face to face with a piece of popular culture of which I was previously (blissfully) unaware. Here’s what happened:
Wishy Washy (brother of Aladdin, do
keep up) was on stage, marking time while the rest of the cast members were changing into their finery for the final number. It was time, he announced, for the customary audience singalong. This time, however, it would be Something Completely Different - we
would be singing along to an old song first performed in pantomime more than a hundred years before. What on Earth? we all wondered.
At which he started to sing
a song called “Baby Shark.” I expect you all know it well, it being a piece of popular culture, don’t you know? It involves a small shark and a number of his nearest relatives.
Now, here’s the thing. Young Morgan is six years old, going on sixteen - on account of the fact that as the youngest of three brothers he is always trying to give the impression that he is at least as old, and ideally,
older than his siblings. The unfairness of life in not allowing him to catch up with his brothers in terms of age is a recurring theme in our Early Morning Conversations when he comes to visit. He is One Uber Cool Kid.
Except that, at the very first strains of Baby Shark, he was beside himself with delight, bouncing up and down on his booster seat, face alight, eyes shining, joining in with all the (largely incomprehensible)
actions. It was one of my absolute favourite moments of Christmas 2018.
My friend, who went to a completely different pantomime, in a completely different town,
tells me that Baby Shark was also the choice of her audience singalong. Popular, you see what I mean?
Culture? Well, it’s over to you on that one...