Scarborough Fair

Scarborough Fair’s an old old British ballad. It’s about love, or rather the lack of it. Listen to most recordings and you’ll hear a presumably jilted lover set an ex a series of impossible tasks. Things like:

Tell her to make me a cambric shirt,
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;
One with no seams or fine needlework,
And then she’ll be a true lover of mine.

Not bitter, then.

But listen to, say, Marianne Faithful’s version, and there’s more to the story. The ex in Scarborough sets her own counter-tasks, leading to the wonderful conclusion:

And when you have done and finished your work,
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;
Then come to me for your cambric shirt,
And then you’ll be a true lover of mine.

I sing this song to Alice to get her to sleep. I prefer the politics of versions like Faithful’s (and, for that matter, the lyrics on Wikipedia), but there are little inconsistencies and anachronisms that bother me slightly, so I thought I’d compile my own version – one with no yonders or ’pons, and with seastrand for the surely-misheard sea sand, and an invention or two of my own. It’s still not quite right (freshawater? Noooo) but these things can be mulled.

Scarborough Fair Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.
Remember me to one who lives there,
She once was a true love of mine.

Tell her to make me a cambric shirt,
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.
One with no seams, or fine needlework,
And then she’ll be a true love of mine.

Tell her to wash it in a freshwater well,
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;
Where never spring water or rain ever fell,
And she shall be a true love of mine.

Tell her to dry it on a juniper thorn,
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;
That never bore blossom since Adam was born,
And then she’ll be a true love of mine.

Now you have asked me questions three,
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;
I hope you’ll answer as many for me,
Before you’ll be a true love of mine.

Can you find me an acre of land?
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;
Between the salt water and the seastrand,
Or never be a true love of mine.

And can you plough it with a ram’s horn?
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;
And sow it all over with one peppercorn?
Or you’ll never be a true love of mine.

Then can you sheer it with a sickle of leather?
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;
And then thrash it out with a bunch of heather?
Or never be a true love of mine.

When you have done and finished your work,
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;
Come to me and you’ll have your shirt,
And then you’ll be a true love of mine.


If you wanted to, you could tell all sorts about my prevailing attitudes, moods and confidence levels by my social media avatars.

I’ve taken the link to headlessness down from I suppose in my head that means that new people won’t find it.

I think I prefer that. Hopefully that means I can just get on with typing things. If I’m going to push it, I’ll ask someone for money, or stick it on Medium.

A wee dilemma

A new café’s opened in our bit of East London. It’s nice enough, but its clientele is exclusively white and middle class. That takes some going in London these days, and it makes me uneasy.

You can attract a mainly middle class clientele by doing your place up with that faux-aged shabby-chic look achieved largely with battered wooden furniture. Finish it with bric-a-brac from a wholesaler who specialises in that faux-aged look – sewing machines, radios, maritime memorabilia – and watch the middle class punters roll in.

First it was pubs; then high street clothing retailers. Now it’s little suburban cafés. This one used to be a hair dresser’s for crying out loud.

But to achieve a solely white clientele takes something more: awful service. The other day I trotted up with a brand new book and an hour to kill. I ordered a black coffee. It was when I noticed I’d gotten to page 24 and my coffee hadn’t turned up that I suspected something was amiss. (Note: I’m a slow, deliberate reader.)

I was sitting outside, and looking in through the window, I could see the staff cleaning out cupboards. No new clients had placed orders. They’d simply forgotten to make my coffee. Like most establishments pitched at hipsters, the staff are exclusively young, beautiful and clueless. But to forget to make an order when there’s only one order outstanding – that’s a remarkable feat.

So what was the dilemma? It wasn’t, I hope you realise, whether or not to chase up my order. I did that. The problem was this wasn’t the first time this had happened to me there. Should I let them know, in the hopes that this will shake a still-new established out of a daze of complacency?

Surely this can’t only be happening to me. It must be happening to the other white middle class saps for whom shabby-chic trumps the minimum acceptable service. That being the case, this is a place in disarray, though it’s nothing one clueful part-time manager couldn’t fix after a day’s training and a few stern reminders. I want the place to succeed. I’m white and middle class. It’s right up my snicket.

What I did doesn’t matter. What would you have done? That’s the question.


I wonder which 200 words I’d type after a frazzled day house hunting. I imagine they’d start something like this, non-commital and directionless. Then I bet I’d make some wild assertion just to keep myself interested. Then I think I’d worry that 200 words is actually way too many to type after a day like that, and so I’d begin to pad out my sentences with vast numbers of pointless words that, strictly, I don’t really need to be using at all. Next I’d veer off to the first tangent that sprang to mind. Probably elephants: the differences between African and Indian, a lament of the ivory trade, or an observation about those cartoon elephants that certain types of people hang in their bathrooms. Then I’d begin to see a closed circle about how much of the 70s and 80s housing stock I’d seen that day was basically unfurnishable. No furniture exists that suits it. But do you know what does? Those cartoon elephants. In a bubblebath. Or in their pajamas. At some point I’d stop typing and proofread to work out where I could subtract a few words to nail the limit. I think it’d look like that.


I’ve been thinking about Instagram filters again. I still say live and let live, but I’ve come up with a better reason. You might say filters are tacky, but at least the people using them are (mainly) trying to do something beautiful. I don’t think it’s right to be snippy about that. I think if you go too far the other way, a certain type of pedestrianism can set in. That’s not just a refusal to use filters, but safety in composition and subject too. Maybe it’s between the two extremes that the talent and professionalism lies (not to mention time). Meanwhile, I’ll look at the Instagrams of people that look like they’re having the most fun.

System audio

I’ve been meaning to get back into playing with music again for ages. Quite recently – actually, it was a couple of years ago now – I put my toe back into the water. And though I was only ballsing around with code that already exists, this is the closest I’ve come to programming in years:

Stuck at 17

I’m declaring the 100 limerick project a failure. When I go through the motions I end up writing rhyming sentences which aren’t remotely funny. Believe me—I’d settle for remotely funny. The mistake I’ve made is choosing a writing project. I do enough writing already, and I set my bar too high. I need something I can just be happy having done each do—creating without worrying or thinking, almost.

I’m going to keep writing limericks, but they’re going in a notes file. And I’ll write them when the fit or the idea takes me, which is how it works best.

New idea…

16. Midhurst

A young undergrad from Midhurst
Had grades which were always the worst,
But was an expert undresser
Of a certain professor
And so graduated with a First.


Giles interviewed Russell about planning – Russell’s flavour of planning. It’s very interesting, even if you’re not that sort of planner, and not thinking of becoming one. Part of me wishes I’d given this sort of thing a go when I was starting out, when I didn’t realise I had options. I like the bit about making yourself useful – that chimed with me. From that point of view, it’s also sort of about succeeding in a corporate environment, which is useful. Maybe I’ll blog about some of my corporate experiences. Now that I’ve had a few years to put it in perspective, it might be time.

15. Kilkenny

An extravagant chap from Kilkenny
Needed to spend a penny,
“I’m off to the shop,
To buy a floor mop!”
Lo, he ended up spending many.

14. Woodstock

There was a young man from Woodstock
Whose knees would incessantly knock.
In his latter years
They fitted him with gears
And turned him into a clock.