Friday, April 23, 2010

Someone's Got To Be Summonsed

Whilst the skies over Britain are once again open, and there has been no noticeable fall of volcanic ash, we are still enduring the substantial fall-out from the crisis. We may have stopped looking for falling cinders, but we have stepped up our search for someone to blame. This idea that someone must be to blame seems central to the 21st century persona : having mastered nature, mankind can only assume that any inconvenience is the result of someone else's deliberate mistake. And in the words of the famous Stanley Holloway monologue "The Lion and Albert", "someone's got to be summonsed". The airlines are launching multi-billion pound claims against the air traffic regulators, passengers are seeking to sue the undercarriages off airlines, and everyone is convinced that the government is to blame : any government.

I could go on at length about the shift from a society in which people took responsibility for each other to a society where someone else is always seen as responsible for negative events, but I won't because it would depress me and it would probably depress you as well (and then you could sue me for getting depressed after reading my blog). So instead I will stick with The Lion and Albert. As a philosophical work I reckon it ranks up there with Spinoza and John Stuart Mill. The monologue was written by the poet and comedian, Marriott Edgar who came from a family of theatrical performers embedded in the traditions of the music hall and the seaside pier shows. His half brother was the famous playwright and novelist, Edgar Wallace. It is thought that Marriott chose the name of the lion in the story - Wallace - as a tribute to his famous half-brother who he did not meet until they were both in middle age. The fact that they spent half a lifetime apart was just one of those things. As far as I know, they didn't try to sue anyone for it.

18 comments:

  1. I remember buying this on an old 78 record bought from EVANs on the Boothtown side of North Bridge in Halifax.I used to play it on My Mum's old windup record player that you were supposed to change the needle after every play.
    Alan , Ive just phoned an Injury-Claim lawyer (as advertised inbetween ITVs "The Jeremy Kyle Show") to sue you for "Making Me Feel Old"!

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  2. Tony. You don't have a legal leg to stand on : you ARE old.

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  3. Now why did I think it was Arthur Askey who did that sketch?

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  4. Bill : I would be tempted to say "because you have a tendency to get things wrong", but you might sue, so I won't.

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  5. One of my all-time favourites Alan. I've got a paperback of monologues from Stanley Holloway's repertoire. Inserted between the pages is a neatly folded letter I received from him about six months before he died. Needless to say, a treasured possession.

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  6. A treasured possession indeed Martin. Although I am very fond of Albert, I suspect my very favourite is "Brown Boots"

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  7. ...having mastered nature, mankind can only assume that any inconvenience is the result of someone else's deliberate mistake....
    There are a lot of assumptions in that deduction!
    So, did I miss who did the illustration. ? -J

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  8. Righ - I've got it in for you now Bob. It is Bob, isn't it?

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  9. Alan, you didn't leave me depressed and I thank you. You are simply astute and noting pertinent cultural commentary. (!) Who can I blame? is the question central to society today. I deserve more! is the attitude central to society.
    Thank you also for your always-kind comments on my blog.

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  10. Jayne : Not sure, I've a feeling its taken from an old postcard.
    Bill : Yes, it's Bob
    Enchanted : Thank you.

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  11. ok, so i am uncultured...i had not heard it prior, so thanks for enlightening me. have a great weekend alan!

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  12. Since a volcanic eruption is classed by insurance companies as an "act of God", along with floods and hurricanes, I suppose somebody will get the bright idea of trying to sue the nearest church, mosque, synagogue, temple, priest, pope, or whatever as being a legal representative of said God. After all, someone's got to be summonsed!

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  13. thanks for not depressing me..LOL! What a clever post!

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  14. Alan, I know what you mean. I've been arguing with some jerk on another website who seems to think the United States owns the moon. After all, he "reasoned", we went up there and planted our flag and we set foot on it so we proved it was real - and that makes it ours.

    I often wonder how some people remember to breathe. ;o)

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  15. God I haven't heard of the Lion and Albert (I always thought it was Albert and the Lion) for years, I actually have the book and the picture you've posted is from that book but buggered if I can find it. Probably lying dormant in the red suitcase that holds my life!
    It was a favourite of my father's.

    You're so right. How do we blame an act of nature. Perhaps we should take the islamic view. An Iranian cleric has proclaimed that women dressed scantily and adulterers are responsible for the world's earth quakes? Our litigious nature is pathetic. It's like passengers complaining about delays due to extra security measures since 9/11 . .what would you prefer? Be blown up in a plane or have an extra coffee while you wait for the security checks to be completed or that Thai businessman to turn up because his bags have already been loaded? Grow up people and start taking some personal responsibility. The blame game is for children.
    I am so glad I saw this on a lazy Saturday afternoon and had time to listen to the video. I still say to people "Oh stop making a fuss, nobody drownded!"

    Alan why do I get the feeling you could recite this verbatim and sing three rounds of "On Ilkley Moor ba tat"?

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  16. That was one of my dad's favourite party pieces too. I sometimes find myself saying "No shipwrecks and nobody drownded" and most people just look blank!

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  17. Enjoyed that and actually had never heard it before...the title of this post could be the anthem for life in the U.S. as well, unfortunately...

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  18. Love this. He got it so right, didn't he?! Terrific post, Alan.

    I think I saw the formation of a gratuitous litigator yesterday. I work in the burn unit of my local hospital and a three year old boy was referred to us with deep second degree burns caused by pulling a pot of boiling soup over himself. As I was explaining the process the child will be undergoing to the mother, she said, "You'd better not hurt him or I'll sue you and this whole F*****g hospital!

    She obviously feels "someone's got to be summonsed", and of course why not the medical staff attempting to care for her son!

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