Joyce Grenfell and gentle humour

31 10 2012

This morning I woke up with Joyce Grenfell’s “Old Tyme Dancing” stuck in my head and it’s been on “one long whirl” in there ever since. It’s a great song for cycling up hills – the rhythm is just right!

We didn’t grow up with pop music. The closest we had was one tape of The Pogues’ greatest hits and a couple of Seekers and Boney M tracks that were on the end of a tape my grandparents made me.

We had Geordie folk music, children’s songs (mainly those to be found in Alice B Gomme’s Traditional Games), audio books and Joyce Grenfell. I was 12 or 13 when I started listening to local radio and bought my first Now… cassettes.

I’m glad. While I do enjoy pop (in fairly loose terms) in the car every now and again and am easily caught up in the catchy tunes, I soon become infuriated by the lyrics (why so much about partying and dancing on tables?  The last time I remember dancing on a table was at a friend’s fourth birthday and we were swiftly reminded we weren’t babies and made to get down).

I miss the likes of Joyce. Her songs and monologues are so well-observed and the humour is gentle. While smiling at the plights of the long-suffering nursery school teacher and Mrs Fanshaw and Mrs Tiverton, you also feel solidarity with and sympathy for them.

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