Tuesday, November 27, 2018

From surgical boot to a stage clog

My cousin Tommy Harrington contracted polio as a child. He survived the illness but,like many others he ended with one leg shorter than the other.  The only remedy then was the surgical boot, a contraption consisting of a brace on the longer leg and a heavy boot with a thick sole on the shorter.  Like most children fitted with the boot Tommy hated it. He knew that it helped with his walking but it made him stand out from the other children. Also at this time in the early 1900s children whose limbs had been damaged by polio were "cripples" and rarely got beyond that either in description or aspiration.

Tommy Harrington would not accept that. He developed a liking for music possibly derived and perhaps learned from his grandfather Alphons Eder, a street musician,  how  to play the accordion and concertina. As well as being a natural musician, never learning to read music, he began writing comic songs and performing them for anyone who would listen.

Later he decided to go on the stage, developing a yodelling style of singing and dressed in his own version of a Dutch costume. He later said that the costume was inspired by wanting to cover his surgical boot so baggy trousers did that well.. Eventually he was able to have some special boots made which resembled wooden clogs, which he wore to the end of his stage career.

He appeared on the Music Halls which were still popular and numerous in those days, recorded many of his songs and even had hits, such as they were then.  I told much of this in a previous blog. I am reminded that he died twenty-five years ago but you will still find mention of him on the internet.  By today's standards a "celebrity".

Sunday, November 11, 2018

And so it's over

And so it's over

The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month has passed for the hundreth time.

The last post has sounded, the flags furled and the bands, army cadets,  scouts and guides  marched off. The crowds drift away from the memorial cenotaphs which will then continue to sit alone, on a village green or in the centre of an unapproachable  roundabout, for another twelve months.

The poppies will fall not just in the fields of Flanders but from the lapels of the folk in the shopping malls but the men and boys that  are supposed to be remembered by them will also drift back into the mists.

The centenary of the great war will have been commemorated and "Lest we forget" has been repeated over and over but within a few weeks it will be replaced with "Merry Christmas"or another Yuletide greeting.

But the men, many just boys, who died in that so called great war in some corner of a foreign field or in the depths of the sea, will still be there presumably still believing that they had died for something worthwhile.  After a century which has included another world war and numerous other conflicts since, it is difficult to understand why it was not the promised " war to end all wars".

The politicians and military of many countries, including our own still appear to believe that political problems can be resolved by military action.

If you, like me, do not believe this to be true, then don't unpin that poppy from your lapel. Wear it or a poppy badge every day in the hope that it will eventually mean that the death and maiming  of service men and women is not required.

         Ask, as did Siegfried Sassoon.  "have you forgotten?"