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"When I'm feeling blue, all I have to do
Is take a look at you, then I'm not so blue."

A GROOVY KIND OF LOVE by Toni Wine and Carole Bayer Sager

When the world outside begins to look a little bleak most of us have a comfort blanket of some sort to fall back on. From thumb sucking to religion, it can range from strong drink to soft drugs, from the company of a trusted friend to the solitude of a quiet walk. I’ve tried most of these in my time but the thing that I keep coming back to is a battered, paperback book first published in 1952 and compiled by a cheery fellow called Arnold Silcock. It is called‘Verse and Worse - A Private Collection’.

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This is a gathering of poetry, verse, and rhymes, ranging in length between a couple of lines, to a couple of pages. It was assembled by Mr Silcock in-between writing books on the history of Art Chinese and the decorative use of wrought iron. It includes the witty, the somber, the lewd, the sweet, and the tasteless. The perfect thing to pick up for only a few minutes here or there. The Manchester Evening News described it as “a sheer delight in rhyming wit -verses to tickle every fancy, every humour, however stolid. Rhymes on love and food, on animals and children, limericks, parodies and nonsense verse from the lunatic fringe.” Dame Laura Knight said “It is funnier than a circus clown. The perfect bedside book.” She might have added the perfect companion in the loo.

‘Verse and Worse - A Private Collection’ has the beauty of being small, concise and compact. You’ll find no endless quotations in Latin or Greek or tedious verses about brave Lochinvar.‘Verse and Worse’ gets straight to the point…

This bloody town's a bloody cuss-
No bloody trains, no bloody bus,
And no one cares for bloody us-
In bloody Orkney.

CAPTAIN HAMISH BLAIR about the life of naval ratings in wartime Orkney

King David and King Solomon led merry, merry lives,
With many many lady friends and many many wives,
But when old age crept over them, with many many qualms,
King Solomon wrote Proverbs and King David wrote the Psalms.

DR JAMES BALL NAYLOR (born 1860)

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Silcock’s assemblage was suggested to him by friends as diverse as Edith Sitwell and Winston Churchill or just gathered from the wider world, from pubs to bus queues, from music halls to grave yards…

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Here lie the bones of Elizabeth Charlotte
Born a virgin, died a harlot
She was aye a virgin at seventeen
A remarkable thing in Aberdeen.

He passed the bobby without any fuss,
And then he passed the cart of hay,
He tried to pass a swerving bus,
And then he passed away

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There is plenty of folk wisdom included too…

He that would the daughter win,
Must with the mother first begin.

Rainy days will surely come:
Take your friend's umbrella home!

There are potted biographies…

When Charles 11
         Beckon’d
Nell
         Fell!

…and verses from around the world, best read with the appropriate accent…

Toity poiple bouids
Sitt'n on der coib
A'choipin' and a'boipin
An' eat'n doity woims

FROM THE STREETS OF NEW YORK

What a wonderful bird the frog are-
When he stand he sit almost;
When he hop he fly almost
He ain't got no sense hardly;
He ain't got no tail hardly either.
When he sit, he sit on what he ain't got almost.

ANON - French Canadian

Perhaps the best endorsement for‘Verse and Worse’ comes from Arnold Silcock himself in the book’s opening pages…

“Here you will find an unconventional salad of good things (mixed à l’Américaine) as pungent as cheese, as fresh as lettuce, as crisp as endive, as tart as grapefruit, as sweet as sun-drenched raisins, as smooth and mellifluous as exotic avocado, and as subtle as chicory. And some, no doubt (the rude reader might add) ruddier than the ultimate cherry!”

If your world is beginning to look a little bleak and you’re in need of a comfort blanket “Verse and Worse A Private Collection” by Arnold Silcock is currently available at the knockdown price of £4.00 including postage from Abe Books at www.abebooks.co.uk

– from Martyn Day