Jaqui's Daily Blog

Our Rita and the Saucy Sailor

When I venture into the café at the Heene community centre at the end of our weekly Singing for Pleasure choir session, I catch sight of Ann and Michael waving at me frantically. From their extravagant gestures I gather that they have saved me a seat at their table. Bless them!

Ann and Michael don't come to choir anymore though when I saw Ann last, in the car park at Tesco's where I had reluctantly driven to buy cod loins (Mr B's Dinner of Choice) she told me she was missing me so much that she was planning to rejoin the Bacon Bap Brigade. The BBB, regular readers will recall, meets in the café after choir for a quick lunch and a long chat. It is true that some people have moved on from the bacon baps to sample other delights on café owner Kevin's new menu, chalked up enticingly around the serving counter. I, however, being the original Creature of Habit, stick with the bacon bap, to which I always add a mug of filter coffee and a scone to take home for Mr B. Sometimes it's cheese and herb, other times it's fruit - either way it's a little treat for Him At Home.

Ann is telling us all about her new puppy and the trials of house training. This does not go down at all well with poor Margaret who is half way through eating her bacon bap (with added fried egg). Ann carries on regardless, not having finished her Tall Tale and apparently unable to stop midway. I am fine because my bacon bap hasn't arrived yet and doubtless Ann will have moved onto another topic of conversation before it does. There's only so long you can talk about dog poo, isn't there? Although, maybe not, remembering countless parish council meetings I sat through many years ago as a fearless reporter on a local paper when dog poo was almost a standing item on the monthly agenda.

Myra is talking about her boiler. She wants to know what make of boiler we have and is horrified when I confess that I can't remember. I'm not sure I ever knew, to be honest, but I reckon this would be an Admission Too Far. (When I get home, I check. It's a Potterton which is about the only boiler I have heard of. I should have just guessed when Myra asked me. She would never have known I was guessing and, in this case, I'd have guessed aright.)

Ann wants to know what we sang at choir this morning and I am keen to assure her that it was a joyful session as I'm still trying to entice her back into our somewhat depleted ranks. Mr B will ask the same question when I arrive home : "Sing one for me!" he always says when I leave the house, always in an almighty rush, clutching my Birchgrove primary school carrier bag - present from Sam, the eldest of my (Not So Very Little) Welsh Boys some years back - in which my red music file and bottle of water are stowed.

I explain that we started off with "I like to be in America!" from West Side Story, moving onto "Tea for Two" and "The Saucy Sailor." The latter, in case you don't know, tells the story of a sailor returning to port, chatting up a local lass. She turns him down sharply, complaining that he is "dirty, ragged and smells of tar." Our conductor, the Redoubtable Muriel, makes us sing this verse again because she complains that we simply aren't putting enough feeling into the words. We try again, spitting out the words "dirty" and "ragged" with commendable venom.

The saucy sailor then tells the fair maid that he may be dirty, ragged and smell of tar - but he has silver and gold in his pockets. At which the Winsome One thinks better of her objections and declares that her affections are unaffected by dirt, raggedness of the smell of tar. (Incidentally, according to Muriel, whose word I would never doubt, sailors used to coat their hair in tar to stop it blowing about - hence the name nickname of Jolly Jack Tar. I know you like it when the Daily Blog comes over all educational. My Dad used to use Brylcreem which doesn't have the same ring about it at all.)


Anyway, there are no flies on Jolly Jack the Saucy Sailor (possibly the smell of tar puts them off?) and he tells the Greedy Girl that he will keep his silver and plain gold ring for a more worthy recipient.

When we finish singing this song to Muriel's satisfaction, Rita from second row back in the soprano section, pipes up and asks if she can tell us a story.

Years and years ago, she relates (in her inimitable fashion) when she was but a teenager, she and her best friend - fresh from a swim in the briny - used to walk arm in arm along Brighton beach, still in their swimming costumes, towels flung carelessly over their shoulders, singing The Saucy Sailor at the top of their voices.

Dear Rita is well into her eighties but an Indomitable Soul despite the unkindnesses of age. She can still recite, with relish and a roguish twinkle in her eye, a Joyce Grenfell monologue or the tale of Albert and the Lion, bringing her audience to helpless laughter.

It isn't the least bit difficult to imagine her sauntering along the beach as a sassy teenager tossing back her hair, still wet from the sea, and singing as if nobody were listening. I love, love, love the picture she has planted in my head.

Believe me, the Saucy Sailor has nothing on Our Rita.



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Latest comments

23.04 | 20:15

lovely and heartwarming - an inspiration to us all x

09.03 | 12:07

Love this story told as ever beautifully.x

10.11 | 21:31

What a super account of a special event. I loved meeting you last night and seeing your creation come together. I’m so pleased you got so much from the activity

07.09 | 13:17

I have broad shoulders x

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