The Edmondson Blog

The Anacreontic Song

The Anacreontic Song, sometimes (but erroneously) called To Anacreon In Heaven, is an old English drinking song. Interestingly, the tune was used for the American national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner. Try singing it.

To Anacreon in Heav’n, where he sat in full glee,
A few Sons of Harmony sent a petition;
That he their Inspirer and Patron would be;
When this answer arrived from the Jolly Old Grecian;
“Voice, Fiddle, and Flute, No longer be mute,
I’ll lend you my name and inspire you to boot,
And besides I’ll instruct you like me, to intwine,
The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus’s Vine.”

The melody became well-known after Francis Scott Key wrote a poem Defence of Fort McHenry while detained on a British ship during the night of 13th September, 1814, as the British forces bombarded the American fort. His brother, on hearing the poem, realised it fitted the tune of The Anacreontic Song. Later retitled The Star-Spangled Banner, Key's words, with the English music, became a well-known and recognized patriotic American song and was officially designated as the U.S. national anthem in 1931.

Vauxhall Bridge

Vauxhall Bridge, over the River Thames in London, was completed in 1906, and opened on the 26th May that year by the Prince of Wales. It has eight statues commissioned to commemorate arts and sciences.

F. W. Pomeroy (1856-1924) created those on the upstream side. First, there’s Pottery, who holds a pot, of course. Meanwhile, Engineering holds a steam engine in her left hand and a hammer resting on an anvil in her right.

Architecture is next, holding a model of St Paul’s Cathedral in her left hand - the fact this model is about 2ft long indicates the scale of these statues. Finally, closest to the north-west bank is Agriculture, with a shepherd’s crook and a sheaf of corn.

The downstream-side sculptures are by Alfred Drury (1859 – 1944). His subjects are Education, Fine Art, Science and Local Government – surely the only statue of this subject in Britain?

The pick of these is Fine Art, who carries a palette and brushes and holds to her breast a small leafy branch bearing some fruit. In her other hand she holds a small nude statue.

Everything You Need To Know About Money

£20 = score
£25 = pony
£50 = bull's eye
£100 = ton
£500 = monkey
£1,000 = gorilla or grand

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All sorts of things, places and creatures that we believed would last for ever, have vanished – trams, tosheroons* and Constantinople.

From The Daily Mirror 18 February 1979.

*tosheroon = half a crown coin = 2/6 = 12½pence.

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“’Ere, Dad, bung us a pony.”

Conversation overheard some years ago by your Editor between an 11 year old inner-city girl and her doting father. At the time your Editor thought it was a request for a small horse, but now thinks it may have been a demand for that week’s pocket money.

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British coins have always had a series of traditional inscriptions, or legends, upon them, either surrounding the monarch’s head or on the obverse. The present legend is:


ELIZABETH II, of course, refers to Her Majesty, the Queen.

D.G. stands for Dei Gratia, By the Grace of God.

REG is an abbreviation of Regina, Queen. (A king will have REX.)

F.D. stands for Fidei Defensor, Defender of the Faith. Henry VIII had originally been a very devout Catholic and had written a book, The Defence of the Seven Sacraments to counter the accusations of heresy against the Catholic Church by Martin Luther. For this Pope Leo X bestowed on Henry the title of Fidei Defensor. The English church eventually broke away from Rome, partly in an attempt to counter false doctrines and malpractices, and so considered itself to be the true church. Consequently, Henry VIII continued with the title.

The legends have changed over the years. For example, the legend on a 1918 penny was:


BRITT OMN stands for Britanniarum Omnium, King of all the Britons.

IND IMP stands for Indiae Imperator, Emperor of India.


Don't over-trim your gowns or other articles of apparel. The excess in trimmings on women’s garments, now so common, is a taste little less than barbaric, and evinces ignorance of the first principles of beauty, which always involve simplicity as a cardinal virtue. Apparel piled with furbelows or similar adjuncts, covered with ornaments, and garnished up and down with ribbons is simply made monstrous thereby, and is not of a nature to please the eyes of gods or men. Leave all excesses of all kinds to the vulgar.

From A Manual of Mistakes and Improprieties, 1880.

Be sure to be at the station several minutes before the time for departure of the train by which you propose to travel. Hurried excitement and bustle will throw you into a perspiration, which will be fatal to all comfort during your ride, and will expose you to the danger of catching cold.

From The ABC Railway Guide, April 1859.

Doggersea Bats' Home

A home for old ladies in south London.

9, W

Answer to the question, "Do you spell your name with a 'V', Mr Vagner?"


In March 1944, at the height of the Burma Campaign during the Second World War, the Japanese Army invaded India but were stopped at Kohima, about 120 miles inside the border. Here there was probably the most bitter fighting of the entire Burma Campaign when a 2,500 strong British Empire force held out against repeated attacks by 15,000 Japanese. Finally, after 64 days, amid terrible losses on both sides, the Japanese were beaten back.

The fiercest of the fighting was in and around the garden of the Deputy Commissioner’s bungalow in Kohima: it is here where the Japanese invasion was halted and it is here where the military cemetery is sited.

No trace remains of the bungalow which was destroyed in the fighting, but white concrete lines mark and preserve for all time the tennis court.

Keeping silent witness to the surrounding 1,378 grave markers, is the Kohima Memorial with its famous inscription:
When you go home
Tell them of us, and say,
For their tomorrow
We gave our today.
These lines, composed by J. Maxwell Edmonds after the Great War, are clearly inspired by the events at the Battle of Thermopylæ.

In 480BC the Greeks send a 100,000 strong force to delay the invading Persians, whose army numbered over 800,000, with some accounts suggesting up 1,700,000. The Greeks took their stand at the pass at Thermopylae.

After inflicting great losses to the Persians, the Greeks evacuated their army, leaving 300 Spartans to defend the pass to allow the rest time to withdraw. Every Spartan fought until they were all killed.

Simonides’ famous epitaph for the Spartans instructs:
Go tell the Spartans, thou that passest by
That faithful to their ideals, here we lie.

Speach by Mr. Telephone Budreaux

"My friends, my name is Telephone Budreaux of Bayou Pont-Pont. I am recognised as the biggest man in the bayou. I am president of the Budreaux National Trust and Savings Bank, Incorporated, I am president of the school board, I am president of the General Merchandise Stores, Incorporated, I am the postmaster, I am a member of the legislator and I am also chief of police, by virtue of the new office to which I have just been elect, and which makes me today the biggest politician in the bayou.

"Let me see what they call me now - hot dog, I cannot remember that name. Jean, what do you call that female horse?"


"Mare, that's what I am - I am now the Mayor of Bayou Pont-Pont."

Taken from the album Western Flyer by Hapshash and the Coloured Coat, 1969.

Eliza Doolittle

"My aunt died of influenza, so they said.

"But it's my belief they done the old woman in. Y-e-e-e-e-s, Lord love you. Why should she die of influenza? She come through diphtheria right enough the year before. I saw her with my own eyes. Fairly blue with it, she was. They all thought she was dead; but my father he kept ladling gin down her throat 'til she came-to so sudden that she bit the bowl off the spoon.

"What call would a woman with that strength in her have to die of influenza? What become of her new straw hat that should have come to me?

"Somebody pinched it; and what I say is, them as pinched it done her in."

Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady

Are You Lonesome Tonight?

Are you lonesome tonight?
Are your corsets too tight?
Are your brassières all tattered and torn?
Did you put on your vest
With the hole in the chest
Or was it too bad to be worn?

Are your stockings all crinkled?
Your shoes worn and thin?
Are your knickers held up with a big safety pin?
Are you frightened to yawn
’Cos your teeth are all gawn?
Well! That’s why you’re lonesome tonight!

As sung by Ken Dodd.

More Holiday Destinations

Bastard, Norway
Bloody Dick Creek, Montana
Bottom, North Carolina
Brassiere Hills, Alaska
Condom, France
Coon Butt, Tennessee
Cunt, Turkey
Dildo, Newfoundland
Intercourse, Pennsylvania
Licky End, West Midlands
Mollies Nipple, Utah
Poo, India
Pratts Bottom, Kent
Shag Island, Indian Ocean
Shite Creek, Idaho
Toad Suck, Arkansas

Scottish Joke

The Queen is being shown around an Edinburgh hospital. Towards the end of her visit, she is shown into a ward of people with no obvious signs of injury. She greets the first patient and the chap replies:

Fair fa' your honest sonsie face,
Great chieftain e' the puddin' race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm,
Weel are ye Wordy o'a grace,
As lang's my arm.

HMQ, being somewhat confused, grins and moves on to the next patient and greets him. He replies:

Some hae meat, and canna eat,
And some eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit.

The third starts rattling off:

Wee sleek it, cow' in, tim'rous beastie,
O, what a panic's in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi bickering brattle!

HMQ turns to the doctor accompanying her and asks, "What sort of ward is this, a mental ward?"

"No," replies the doctor, "It's the serious Burns unit."

Holiday Destinations

Interesting places to go on holiday:

Arsoli, Italy
Bollock, Philippines
Brown Willy, Cornwall
Cuckoo’s Knob, Wiltshire
Dikshit, India
Fucking, Austria
Knoblick, Arizona
Minge, Lithuania
Semen, Bulgaria
Shit, Iran
Virgins Breasts, Maine
Wanker’s Corner, Oregon
Wee Wee Hill, Indiana
Whorehouse Meadow, Oregon

Royal Flush

Playwright Tara Summer's mother, Nona, was born under a gaming table. Nona’s mother was a world class poker player and very pregnant. She went into labour when she was dealt a royal flush and chose to play the hand rather than go immediately to hospital.

She explained she was excited about having a child, but adamant that nothing was going to get in the way of playing such a rare hand*.

*The odds of being dealt a royal flush are 649,739 to 1.

Risks and Gambles

During the Second world War, the German general Erwin Rommel, once made a distinction between a risk and a gamble. Both involve an action with only a chance of success, a chance that is heightened by acting with boldness. The difference is that with a risk, if you lose, you can recover, your reputation will suffer no long term damage, your resources will not be unduly depleted and you can return to your original position with acceptable losses. With a gamble there is no going back and the road may well lead onto disaster.

Cecil Rhodes

"Remember only this, that you are British, and in the lottery of life you have won first prize." Cecil Rhodes.

"I admire him, I frankly confess it; and when his time comes I shall buy a piece of the rope for a keepsake." Mark Twain’s summation of Rhodes.

Democratic paradox

John Podhoretz, columnist in the New York Post poses this conundrum:

What if liberal democracies have now evolved to a point where they can no longer wage war effectively because they have achieved a level of humanitarian concern for others that dwarfs any really cold-eyed pursuit of their own national interests?

Pay attention!

First-year students at medical school were receiving their first anatomy class with a real dead human body. They all gathered around the dissection table with the body covered with a white sheet.

The professor began the lectured by telling them, "In medicine, it is necessary to possess two important qualities as a doctor: The first is that you not be disgusted by anything involving the human body."

To illustrate his point, he pulled back the sheet, stuck his finger in the anus of the corpse, withdrew it, and stuck it in his mouth.

"Go ahead and do the same thing," he told his students.

The students freaked out, hesitated for several minutes, but eventually took turns sticking a finger in the butt of the dead body and sucking on it.

When everyone finished, the professor looked at them and said, "The second most important quality is observation. I stuck in my middle finger and sucked on my index finger. Now learn to pay attention."

Hat tip: Claudia

Applied Philosophy

A philosophy professor stood in front of his tutor group and put some items on the desk in front of him. When the class was ready to start he wordlessly picked up a very large empty clear glass jar and proceeded to fill it up with small rocks, about 2” in diameter. He then asked the students if they would agree that the jar was full. They all agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of small pebbles and gradually poured them into the jar as well, shaking the jar as he went until the pebbles rolled down amidst the gaps in the rocks. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. With some smiles they all agreed that it was.

He then picked up a box of fine sand and poured that into the jar. He asked once more if the jar was full. They all laughed and agreed unanimously.

The professor now produced from under the desk a bottle of fine champagne and poured it slowly into the jar. The students roared with laughter.

“Now,” said the Professor, as the laughter and talking subsided, “I want you to recognise that this jar represents your life. The rocks are the important things – your family, your partner, your health, your children – things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, your car, etc. The sand is everything else – the little stuff.”

“If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued “there is no space for the pebbles or the rocks. The same goes for your life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have time for the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take the time to have a medical check-up. Take your partner out to dinner. Visit your family. There will always be time to clean the house, give a party and fix the car. Take care of the rocks first - the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just fine sand.

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the bottle of champagne represented. The professor grinned and said, “I’m glad you asked. It just proves that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a good bottle of fizz!”

Bridget Driscoll

On 17th August 1896, Bridget Driscoll, age 44 or 45, became the world’s first person to be killed in a car accident. As she and her teenage daughter, May, (and possibly one other person) crossed the grounds of the Crystal Palace, an automobile belonging to the Anglo-French Motor Car Company and being used to give demonstration rides struck her at a speed witnesses described as, “A reckless pace, in fact, like a fire engine.”

The driver was Arthur James Edsall of Upper Norwood who claimed that he had only been doing 4mph and that he had rung his bell as a warning. His passenger, Alice Standing of Forest Hill, alleged he modified the engine to allow the car to go faster although another cabbie analyzed the car and said it was incapable of passing 4½mph because of a low-speed belt.

The jury returned a verdict of “Accidental Death” after an inquest lasting some six hours. The coroner, Percy Morrison, said he hoped, “Such a thing would never happen again.” No prosecution was made.

Thomas Port

In the churchyard at Harrow-on-the-Hill is a gravestone with the following inscription:


Bright rose the morn and vigorous rose poor Port
Gay on the train he used his wonted sport
Ere noon arrived his mangled form they bore
With pain distorted and overwhelmed with gore
When evening came to close the fatal day
A mutilated corpse the sufferer lay
The accident happened on the London and Birmingham Railway, which runs about a mile away from Harrow-on-the-Hill. The railway had only opened on the 20th July the previous year.

The train hit an obstruction on the track, Thomas was thrown from the train by the impact, fell between the carriages, and lost both legs by being run over. The railway company accepted liability.

However, a quite different story is told by Thomas’ descendants. The Port family had extensive canal interests and had started to feel the effect of competition from the railways. Although Thomas had travelled by train, it was earlier during the day, and at the time of his injury, he and some accomplices had constructed a barricade across the railway line, expecting to stop the train in the way that such a barricade might stop a stagecoach on the highway. When the train was unable to stop in time, it struck the barricade and pushed it out of the way and fatally injured Thomas. The train did not derail and after a delay, continued on its way. Everybody assumed Thomas had fallen from the train and his accomplices did not correct them. Also, Thomas still had the train ticket from his earlier journey in his pocket that was taken as confirmation that he had been aboard.

Zimmerman Telegram

Arthur Zimmerman was the German foreign minister during the Great War. On 16th January 1917, he sent his notorious telegram to the German ambassador in Mexico instructing him to approach the Mexican government with a proposal for a military alliance against the United States.

The telegram’s message was:


We intend to begin on the first of February unrestricted submarine warfare [against British shipping]. We shall endeavour in spite of this to keep the United States of America neutral. In the event of this not succeeding, we make Mexico a proposal of an alliance on the following basis: make war together, make peace together, generous financial support and an understanding on our part that Mexico is to reconquer the lost territory in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. The settlement detail is left to you. You will inform the President [of Mexico] of the above most secretly as soon as the outbreak of war with the United States of America is certain and add the suggestion that he should, on his own initiative, invite Japan to immediate adherence and at the same time mediate between Japan and ourselves. Please call the President’s attention to the fact that the ruthless employment of our submarines now offers the prospect of compelling England in a few months to make peace within a few months. Zimmerman.

Although the telegram was intercepted and decrypted by the British, it could not be publicised as that would have disclosed to the Germans that their code had been broken. Also, it could not be shown to the Americans as the British had obtained the original by illegally tapping an American private diplomatic telegraph.

However, the telegram had been sent via the German Embassy in Washington for forwarding to their embassy in Mexico City. The telegram to Washington was encoded using a newer, more difficult code. The British deduced that this code was not at the time in use at the Mexican Embassy, so the telegram would be transcribed into an older code in Washington; also, the onward transmission would be via the commercial telegraph system.

A British agent in Mexico, known only as Mr. H., bribed an employee of the commercial telegraph company to obtain a copy of the message, and, as expected, it was in an older code that could be easily decrypted.

The text of the telegram was given to President Wilson on 25th February and, on 1st March, the text was given to the press. Initially, the American public were sceptical but, in an unexpected move, Arthur Zimmermann confirmed the authenticity of the telegram in a speech on 29th March.

On 2nd April, Wilson asked Congress to declare war on Germany, which they duly did on 6th April, bringing the US into the Great War.

Jeanne Calment

In 1965, Frenchwoman Jeanne Calment, aged 90, signed an en viager agreement to sell her apartment to lawyer François Raffray. En Viager agreements, which are common in France, are an arrangement whereby an owner transfers ownership of their home but are allowed to continue to live there until they die. The purchaser does not pay a lump sum as with a conventional sale, but, instead, agrees to make a monthly payment to the seller until they die, at which point the purchaser takes possession of the home for no additional payment. At the time of the agreement, the value of Jeanne’s apartment was equal to ten years of payments.

Unfortunately for Raffray, who was age 47 at the time of the agreement, Jeanne went on to become the oldest living person ever, eventually dying in 1997 at the age of 122 years 164 days. Raffray never gained possession of the apartment. He died of cancer in December 1995, at the age of 77, leaving his widow to continue the payments for twenty more months.

Interestingly, Jeanne smoked until she was 117, quit, and then restarted a year later, simply because, “Once you've lived as long as me, then they can’t tell you not to smoke.”

Uncle Bob

The well known phrase, “Bob’s your uncle” used immediately following a set of simple instructions and roughly meaning “…and if you do this, you cannot fail” refers to the British Prime Minister, Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquis of Salisbury.

In 1887 he appointed his nephew, Arthur James Balfour, as Minister for Ireland. The press had a field day when Balfour referred to the Prime Minister as “Uncle Bob” and immediately the humorous implication that to have Bob as one’s uncle was a guarantee of success took hold.

Balfour later went on to become Prime Minister himself.

© 2007 The Edmondson Blog