napoleon's uncky o!
Steve P. was fortunate enough to spend his spring break in Bath, England, and he returns with the marvelous story of the Hartlepool Monkey. During the Napoleonic warsso the legend goesa merchant ship wrecked off the coast of northeast England and went down with all hands save the ship's monkey, an enterprising little fellow who managed to swim ashore. According to some versions of the legend, he was dressed in a full naval uniform. The good people of Hartlepool discovered him on the beach and, having never seen a Frenchman, assumed that he must be an example of the type. After all, he was short and hairy and spoke a strange, shrieking language. Being decent fishing folk, the Hartepudlians decided that even Napoleon's spy deserved a fair trial and conducted it right there on the beach. As one of many local songs relates:
They put him on a gridiron hot,
The Monkey then quite lively got,
He rowl'd his eyes tiv a' the lot,
For the Monkey agyen turned funky O!
Then a Fisherman up te Monkey goes,
Saying "Hang him at yence, an' end his woes,"
But the Monkey flew at him and bit off his nose,
An' that raised the poor man's Monkey O!
A makeshift scaffold was summarily erected, and the monkey was hung from the neck. One can take no chances during wartime.
Dan Cruickshank, respected BBC historian, claims that this is "a wonderful story, but sadly completely untrue." In his view it simply documents the fear among inhabitants of northeast England that Napoleon would invade, presumably in order to take control of Newcastle's coal supply. But tiny fishing towns don't much care what the BBC thinks, and today the most enthusiastic proponents of the legend are the Hartlepudlians themselveseven though the legend isn't exactly a testament to the town's collective intelligence. The local rugby team is called The Monkeyhangers, and of course there is monkeyhangers.com, whose proprietor exclaims: "But do I really believe that my ancestors hung the monkey? Need you ask? Of course I do!" The rest of the site is a marvelous document of small-town life. Its BBS contains something over a hundred messages on the subject of Brian quitting smoking, and another hundred on George installing new taps in his home:
So I went and got me reciprocatin` saw out of its case, fitted a brand new metal cuttin` blade in it, ....which promptly snapped into two equal halves `cos I turned the screw too `ard that `olds` it....`bugger, damn and blast` I ses and put another brand new metal cuttin` blade in, went back up into the kitchen and after a lot of mutterin`, cursin` and judderin`, managed to cut the two pipes that was stoppin` me from liftin` the sink out.........Great.........the only snag now was that I still couldn`t get the sink out `cos when I put in a new backsplash back in 1993 it overlapped the sink at the back by about a quarter of an inch and the only thing I could do now was try to take off the backsplash, which is pine, and hope it wouldn`t split and break in the process..............So it split and broke in the process. ....
As a coda, there is more news from the pandas at the National Zoo: no love just yet. It's tough, unrequited panda passion.