Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Stout And Bitter

This posting isn't about my current state of mind and body (although it could be as my pre-holiday diet seems to have ground to a halt). Nor is another of my quite boring pieces about the state of the British brewing industry (if it was, it would be seriously mis-timed as May is National Mild Month according to CAMRA). It is paean in praise of the information society. Whilst everyone else sits around bemoaning the fact that their name is on some government database, I rejoice in the fact that almost unimaginable amounts of information can now be stored on a chip the size of a French Fry. Whilst others obsessively worry that someone is going to tap into their on-line medical records, I happily tap into one government sponsored collection of records or another. There is so much information available on-line these days that it is almost a full-time job just keeping up with it, listing it, reviewing it, recording it. This is my dream job, my St Gothard passion. I will become the keeper of the database of databases, the B&Q catalogue of information collections.

But I digress. Earlier today I visited the British Library "Collect Britain" portal ("portal" is such a wonderful word, isn't it?). This is an on-line, searchable showcase of just some of the material in the various British Library collections and exhibitions. Access is largely free and you can roam around all day looking at a diverse and entertaining collection of drawings, paintings, prints and photographs (and, if you are so inclined, audio clips). As you can see, I soon found myself amongst a collection of printed music from the days of the Victorian Music Hall. The record for Harry Rickard's song "Stout and Bitter" contains not only the full words and music, but also the splendid pictorial cover. The lyrics, poignant enough to bring tears to the eyes of a maiden, are as follows:

"I tasted have all liquors known, but none could I ever find,
Which could so well, dull thoughts dispel, and suit the languid mind,
I've paid high price, but things you know, are not all gold that glitter,
But good and cheap, I've found a deep, good draught of Stout and Bitter"

Eat your heart out Leonard Cohen! Not being of a musical nature myself, I am determined to act as impresario. I will pass on the words to my son who by some genetic fluke possesses a fine baritone voice. The music must go to my friend Janie. When there is a get-together at the time of my birthday, the rafters will roar to the sound of Stout and Bitter. All together now, "Ive found a deep, good draught of Stout and Bitter"

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