Do you believe in fairies?

I was only a child at the time and probably shouldn’t have been there, or just wasn’t noticed. But three middle aged ladies were discussing some village scandal with a much older lady. The three younger women were all suitably and enjoyably shocked and horrified, and then one of them noticed the older lady didn’t seem quite so caught up in it all.

“Aren’t you shocked?” One of them asked her.

The older woman dryly replied, “I’ve lived through two world wars and a great depression, what’s going to shock me?”

Strangely, after all these years, I can no longer remember what on earth they were talking about but I do remember the older lady’s reply.

All this came about because for some reason, the words and tune of Henry Clay Work’s song, ‘Marching Through Georgia’ kept running through my mind. That’s the problem really; you wouldn’t believe the songs we were taught at school back then. Check the words

Bring the good old bugle, boys, we’ll sing another song
Sing it with a spirit that will start the world along
Sing it as we used to sing it, 50,000 strong
While we were marching through Georgia.

Hurrah! Hurrah! we bring the jubilee!
Hurrah! Hurrah! the flag that makes you free!
So we sang the chorus from Atlanta to the sea
While we were marching through Georgia.

Verse 2
How the darkeys shouted when they heard the joyful sound
How the turkeys gobbled which our commissary found
How the sweet potatoes even started from the ground
While we were marching through Georgia.

and so it continues…..

But then I can still remember when Sunday’s child was ‘bonny and blithe, and good and gay.’

I can even remember the year that the meaning of that changed; I was in the upper 6th so it’s about 1974 that the new meaning or gay hit a northern industrial town.

But then I saw all those TV comedies that are banned now, the Tom and Jerry Cartoons which they no longer show and even the Black and White Minstrel show, (which bored me rigid back in the day because it just wasn’t my kind of music.)

Now then I’d hate of offend anybody by accident, but the problem with erasing the embarrassing bits of the past is that you no longer understand the present.

I remember about twenty years or more ago a lad came to the more senior members of the wargames club (of which I was one) and told us he had to write something for history, they were  covering the American Civil War and the teacher wanted him to write something ‘empathising with the defenders of Richmond.’ Perhaps she’d just watched ‘Gone with the Wind’ or something.

Anyway we dug out some stuff for him and talked it over with him. He came across one bit that struck him as getting to the real nub of the mindset of the lads on the ground at the time.

Somebody had walked through the ‘defences’ and asked one of the defenders why there was no trenches and similar.

The young male southern defender (sorry to be sexist here but it does seem that the defenders were predominantly young males) just shrugged and said “Digging is for African Americans.”

Well obviously he didn’t. He used another word, which the lad in question, quoting his genuine historical source also used. And got absolutely slated over it.

But if the teacher hadn’t wanted the answer, she shouldn’t have asked the question.

If she wanted her pupil to empathise with a bunch of racist, sexist (and doubtless homophobic) young men, she can hardly object if he then does.

Still, where does that leave me? Well I’ll play nicely and try and remember the proper formulae. I’ll try and keep up with whatever’s the new ‘correct’ way of doing things. But that isn’t to say that if it embarrasses you I might not inadvertently slip into an older ‘correct’ way that was de rigueur a decade ago.

I suppose one advantage of being a farmer is that we’re so politically incorrect we’re beyond saving. One advantage of being a writer is that once you recognise the phenomena you can play with it. It becomes almost too easy to create characters that the ‘right on’ reader will cheerfully boo and hiss at, but then you can subvert things by twisting things slightly so that suddenly people are forced to think.

Never wise to get people thinking, once they’ve started who knows where they’ll stop


Oh and I’ll offer one piece of advice. It’s unwise to try and rewrite history too often. All the rubbing out and rewriting just wears the paper thin and eventually people start to see stuff through the hole and at that point you’ve no control at all over what they’re going to believe.

Happy New Year

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7 thoughts on “Do you believe in fairies?

  1. The Story Reading Ape January 1, 2015 at 9:14 pm Reply

    Well said Jim, like you, I have to think about what the current pc terminology is, the learn how to say it fluently, to replace what I had grown up with.
    The point is, when we first learned how to speak, we didn’t know any better and just thought the words used were the proper ones.
    Ah well, I suppose understanding and empathising is progress of a sort 😀

    • jwebster2 January 1, 2015 at 9:38 pm Reply

      Yes, you have to learn the new language. I actually thought hard about what to put and made a jest about the Confederate soldier saying “Digging is for African Americans.” We all know what he said. (or at least those of us over a certain age can doubtless work it out.)
      One British athlete of Caribbean descent kicked off with the US media because they kept calling him ‘African American’ because it was their synonym for someone of his skin tone. He pointed out to them that this was an insult because he was neither African nor American 🙂 I think they ended up calling him British African American or something. A Welsh born Nigerian friend of mine is at University in the USA and I’m hoping to see him to ask what they describe him as 🙂

      But I suppose that whilst we can learn the new language, we know that it’s only a transient thing, a new correctness will doubtless be along shortly, so we’re spared having to actually ‘believe’ in it all.
      Given Chinese attitudes to race and similar I await with interest their growing cultural impact 😉

      • The Story Reading Ape January 1, 2015 at 9:43 pm

        Likewise Jim – meanwhile, back to the (immediate) future to find out the latest ‘must not say’ 😀

      • jwebster2 January 1, 2015 at 9:50 pm

        I think the basic rule of thumb is it’s OK to slag off middle aged hetrosexual white men. Beyond that things get more fluid 😉

      • The Story Reading Ape January 1, 2015 at 10:17 pm

        😀 😀 😀

  2. M T McGuire January 2, 2015 at 3:52 pm Reply

    One of my white friends is African and particularly enjoys telling people this, especially Americans, who usually go on to ask her if she grew up in a mud hut! 😉 I would be most upset if I offended anyone who didn’t deserve it but I get so confused over PC that these days, all I can do is treat everyone as my equal and hope for the best. On the whole the people who tend to be offended by this approach are those who think they are better than me and find my equality policy rather insulting.



    • jwebster2 January 2, 2015 at 5:47 pm Reply

      I always remember the words of a folk song I once heard

      “Doctors and teachers exams must pass,
      If err they wish to rise above the working class.
      And if perchance, they just scrape through,
      I’ll give you ten to one that they look down on you.”

      I’m a great believer in insulting people by treating them as my equals 😉

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