Monday 21 January 2013

Buttercups and Oojahs

I'm not really a cakey person and, as I've mentioned before, I'm easily pleased. So after dinner on most evenings, what I like to do by way of dessert is put some plain yoghurt in a cup, add some fresh granola and a big dollop of our fruit of the week, stir thoroughly and consume.....then I'm ready to get on with the washing up.

A few weeks ago the fruit of the week was our frozen harvest of locally scavenged blackberries, before that, raspberries from the allotment and, earlier still, apples, windfalls courtesy of the chap across the road, stewed with a little added dried fruit - perfect. Last week, however, we ran out of locally sourced fruit and picked up frozen strawberries from the supermarket. Cooked down to a jammy consistency and swirled into the yoghurt - lovely. We managed to make the strawberries last about six days. So for six consecutive evenings after dinner, I reached into the fridge for the tub and on six consecutive evenings I also involuntarily reached into the very furthest depths of my musical memory to summon a call that has echoed through my life at such moments.....

'Strawberries... shan't be round tomorrow....the donkey’s pinched all the strawberries...' being the closing phrase from Anthony Newley's 1960 novelty hit version of 'Strawberry Fair.'

I didn't like strawberries as a kid, in fact, much to my parent's consternation, I didn't really do fruit at all, perhaps the occasional banana, but definitely nothing with pips. I realise strawberries don't have pips as such, but try telling that to me as a 4 year-old. I did, however, enjoy fruit in things; fruit cake, orange ski yoghurt, banana Nesquik (does that even count?) and best of all jam sandwiches - preferably strawberry jam sandwiches.

Grabbing any opportunity to get me to eat something even approaching fruit, my folks ensured that jam sandwiches were regularly on my menu. As Dad prepared my tea in the kitchen, he would sing 'Strawberry Fair' at the top of his lungs, complete with the 'buttercups & oojahs' and 'buttercups & wotsits' asides, so I could hear it in the living room. As he re-entered the room, my beaker of milk in one hand and jam sandwiches on a plate in the other he'd pause in the doorway, clear his throat, tip his head back and complete his performance by yelling....

'Strawberries... shan't be round tomorrow....the donkey’s pinched all the strawberries...'

45 years later, Anthony Newley's final market stallholder style shout-out is permanently ingrained into the recesses of my brain, thanks to Dad's repeated performances of it throughout my very early childhood. It lays there, dormant, until I am confronted by the fruit in question, when, as if awoken by a hypnotist's keyword, it rises from it's slumber and tumbles from my lips like a benevolent verbal tic.


Anonymous said...

Gor blimey! Lovely song. Tony Newley did a few classics. As for kids and fruit, I know just how your parents must have felt, having to hit my had against a wall to get the cubs to approach the stuff, even in their teens.

C said...

What a lovely story - and beautifully, warmly told.
The very nice art director for a publisher I've worked with is called.... Strawberrie! She must have had so much teasing and querying over that name during her life, but I have to say it suits her somehow, and what better world for her to work in than in children's books!
Now... what IS an 'oojah'?

The Swede said...

SB. My folks had an even harder time getting me to eat any veg at all other than spuds, which explains their bemusement when 30 years later I became a vegetarian!

C. Her name is Strawberrie? SHE WON'T BE ROUND TOMO....... sorry, I really can't help myself!

Long after Dad gave his final performance of 'Strawberry Fair', 'oojah'(and it's extended version 'oojamaflip') remained as a regularly used part of his lexicon, replacing words like whatshisname or thingumabob.

Kolley Kibber said...

I'm always pleased to hear the word "shan't" being used. Especially in a song. It's a dying word, sadly.

Your Dad sounds a bit of a grin.

Old Pa's Corner said...

Remember it so well 'buttercups and daisies' Have to say I like your choice of sweet...I tend to go for lo Cal Yogurt somtimes with fruit or Museli. But saying that a nice slice of whiskey cake I will not refuse.

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