Friday Poetry: my favourite poem when I was little

Old-Lady-Who-Swallowed-a-Fly-rhymesYesterday The Good Reading Guide started running a competition on their Facebook page, asking readers what their favourite book was as a child. This simple question took me far too long to answer.

Should I say Seven Little Australians because it’s an Australian classic? Should I say Ballet Shoes because I always loved the descriptions of the clothes? Should I say Ginger Meggs because I read those comics obsessively?

Finally I decided to put down the truth, even though it sounded a little strange. From the moment I read The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy in year 4, I completely fell in love. I wanted to be as adventurous as Sir Percy, as beautiful as Lady Marguerite and I even wanted to live in a time when Madame Guillotine could come to chop off your head.

It was a relief to write the truth. However this question got me thinking – what was my favourite poem as a child? From a young age, I was marched off to many, many, many drama eisteddfods. The first poem I ever performed was ‘Poor Old Fish’ about a fish that was killed by over feeding. I think my favourite poem was ‘I know an Old Lady’. My Dad used to read it to us and it’s completely ridiculous. I think I enjoyed how things become progressively worse for this poor old lady.  Also as a child I never liked poems that were very realistic. Who wants real life when you’re dreaming about far way lands and the French revolution?

 

I know and Old Lady

Rose Bonne and Alan Mills

I know an old lady who swallowed a fly
I don’t know why she swallowed the fly
Perhaps she’ll die

I know an old lady who swallowed a spider
That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly
But I don’t know why she swallowed the fly
Perhaps she’ll die

I know an old lady who swallowed a bird
How absurd to swallow a bird
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider
That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly
But I don’t know why she swallowed the fly
Perhaps she’ll die

I know an old lady who swallowed a cat
Imagine that. She swallowed a cat.
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider
That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly
But I don’t know why she swallowed that fly
Perhaps she’ll die

I know an old lady who swallowed a dog
What a hog to swallow a dog!
She swallowed the dog to catch the cat
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider
That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly
But I don’t know why she swallowed that fly
Perhaps she’ll die

I know an old lady who swallowed a goat
Opened her throat and down went the goat!
She swallowed the goat to catch the dog
She swallowed the dog to catch the cat
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider
That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly
But I don’t know why she swallowed that fly
Perhaps she’ll die

I know an old lady who swallowed a cow
I don’t know how she swallowed the cow
She swallowed the cow to catch the goat
She swallowed the goat to catch the dog
She swallowed the dog to catch the cat
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider
That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly
But I don’t know why she swallowed that fly
Perhaps she’ll die

I know an old lady who swallowed a horse
She’s alive and well of course!

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Baz Luhrmann directs The Scarlet Pimpernel

The Scarlet Pimpernel (musical)

The Scarlet Pimpernel

If I were friends with Baz Luhrmann, I would tell him for his next film, he should direct The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy.

This melodramatic and wonderfully romantic novel, which was also written as a play, would be perfect for Baz. The novel is about romance, fashion, adventure and over blown situations and characters.

Don’t you dare cast Leo again Baz! I think Mathew Goode or Rupert Penry-Jones  should be the Scarlet Pimpernel and Marguerite, his wife, should be played by Marion Cotillard. James McAvoy could be Chauvelin. He’d have the perfect level of intensity.

When I was a teenager, The Scarlet Pimpernel was my favourite book – I couldn’t resist the romance. Sir Percy Blakeney, who disguises himself as the Scarlet Pimpernel, is an irresistible character. He seems all powerful like superman, broods like Mr Darcy, dresses as well as James Bond and has this carefree attitude to life that was dangerously charming to a 15 year old reader. I would trust Baz to bring The Scarlet Pimpernel to life in all its theatrical glory.

Baz Lurhmann was not the right person to direct The Great Gatsby. Fitzgeralds novel is subtle and full of ambiguity. Lurhmanns film completely trashes every hint of subtlety. Toby Maguire, as the narrator, explains away every ambiguous line and every symbol in the film. The film leaves nothing up to audience. I felt Lurhmann had taken the advice to heart that an English teacher might tell her students: “Assume the reader knows nothing.” The film assumes we know nothing and it also assumes that without visual and verbal explanations, we are unliky  to understand. Give us some credit.

I actually enjoyed Lurhmanns film – how could you not? It’s beautiful to watch, fun, exciting and vibrant. The acting was fantastic; Joel Edgerton was perfect. However this film just didn’t do justice to the novel. The novel made me think, or ponder, if I can use such a word. The film left me with a ringing headache.