Friday, 23 May 2014

"Atherstone once known for hats"

Setting the record straight.  For Steve Beeson
     We are one of only a few to have written a song about Bedworth. Actually, the song is about Towns in Warwickshire, generally. Bedworth is just the one featured in the title and the chorus:
On Bed'uth Bank the grass is black: 
 a grand view of the Sunbrite Slack
If tha' stands on top and tha' walks around,
 tha' feet'll sink into the ground

   The words are our own, and the tune we employ is an adaptation of "Owdham Edge," by the Owdham Tinkers. The original song celebrates the beauty and fresh air of a spot in Lancashire. Our version does the same with Warwickshire. But takes a slightly different approach.
      My dad lived in Bedworth for a while. My daughter still does. The air has not always been fresh there. It had several collieries. When I was a kid the slag heaps, winding gear and railway yards of several pits were still visible.
    The last colliery to go was Keresley-later called Coventry Colliery. Not really in Bedworth, but it had a massive coke and anthracite producing plant run by Sunbrite. You could see the Sunbrite spoil tip and Gas plant from miles away. The Bank itself is “The Black Bank” in Bedduth. .Bedworth Folk Club runs one of its folk evenings at The Old Black Bank Public house. The grass is no longer black. But if you dug down, after a little while, you'd probably find the soil was! 
     The CD version is relatively benign. So much so that local radio have played it several times. The “live” version is racier, and in the BPS comedy tradition, we lead our audience through many verses. Using wordplay we let them form their own line endings and images. Here's a few examples from the relatively clean and healthy section.

Foundry chimneys near and far,
where the  Leyland workers parked their cars
worked all day for me and you, then drove home in their N.S.U.
Straight up front there's Wyken Slough, M6 packed wi' tons of stuff
If tha' stands on highest van, tha' can see the smog of Birmingham
O'er to North Nuneaton Town- once lived a comedian of renown
Everard was his best friend's name,campanology was his game

     Then we travel further afield. To Atherstone, for starters. .

Atherstone, has pubs and inns, 
 parking Signs and Wheelie Bins
This fine old town once known for hats
now seems full of three-toed ….....

    Could the missing word be "cats" in this instance? Or "bats"? Depends how often you've visited Atherstone. Things do annually go a bit strange there during the Annual Ball Game, when all the shop windows have to be boarded up. "Adderscum" , as some unkind Nuneatonians call it, is a border town, with Roman roots. It is on the A5, heading out towards the Bandit Country of Staffordshire. Near neighbours North are Tamworth, and east, Nuneaton. There is, to put it mildly, a bit of a love-hate thing going on between the three towns. I've been on the receiving end of some of it, attending football matches. In fact, the first non-League football game I ever saw was at Atherstone Town's Sheepy Road ground in about 1964. I had a friend called John Hicks, who played for "The Adders" then. It was a very new experience for me by comparison with Football League matches I'd been to.

    I've been back to Atherstone  loads of times since. I'm a keen gardener and it has a Dobbies Garden centre nearby. It's the nearest town to the wonderful Church End Brewery up in the Warwickshire Alps, behind the town. My daughter in law works there, my sister lectures in Creative Writing there and my good friend Phil Benson lives close to the town in an idyllic spot. I've sung many times in The Larder Cafe in Atherstone High Street. Delicious food and a great military themed eatery. I've been to Toy and Train fairs there, and in our conservatory is a lovely old pine armchair we recently bought from an antique shop opposite the library. Like most towns, it has some scenic places. And some not so scenic places. Some good pubs..and some dodgy ones. Like most towns it has some friendly people, and some right nutters.

As the song progresses, no-one is spared from the sword:

Warwick is our County seat where Councillors and bigwigs meet
The Castle is a wondrous sight, although the moat is full of *****
Rugby Folk have lots of balls, oval ones as I recalls
Birthplace too, of Rupert Brooke,
and Chavs who think they're hard as********
At Stratford in The Olden Days,
Billy Shakespeare wrote some plays
Along the Avon pole the punts, full of tourists, silly *********

Get the idea? Some line endings are missing. If that's the case then one simply substitutes the most appropriate alternative of one's choice.

Leamington, once known for Spas Now is full of tapas Bars
In Jephson Gardens steal a kiss bedind the bogs that smell of *****
AL-CEST-ER “ you must not say- it is pronounced a different way
Ulster “ is the proper job, If you are a pretentious  **************

Meriden is fairly dull, a rat run through to Solihull
I was born there- what a curse-the centre of the universe?
At Coleshill , stacked containers rise, 4 by 4 up to the skies
The Rivers Cole and Blythe converge-handy if you get the urge
Kenilworth “ by Randolph Scott- (Perhaps Sir Walter?--I forgot)
Castle, Theatre, Water tower-see it all in half an hour

And then finally,after our little Warwickshire tour....back to Beduff. For the concluding verse- a return to the fact that the industrialised 'Beduff once had pits, mills and factories all of them belching out smoke and pollution:

They should come up here from Switzerland
and have a gas mask in their hand
For Bed'uth air let me tell thee, beats alcohol and LSD.

     The only complaints we receive are about omissions. The Coleshill and Leamington verses for example, were later additions, requested by audience members. Folkies from Barwell, Hinckley and Earl Shilton have also asked for the inclusion of their towns, but of course they are not in Warwickshire.  Tamworth actually was long ago, and look out Shipston, Knowle, Balsall Common  and Southam. You just never know...