Posts Tagged song

Allan Ahlberg

I like listening to Desert Island Disks on Radio 4 – hearing people talk about their childhoods and their lives. I’d downloaded a few to listen to in the car this summer as we went up to Skye and across France. I’ve just listened to the one with Allan Ahlberg, which I recommend to you.

Allan Ahlberg has made so many brilliant books, and very nearly didn’t. It was meeting his late wife Janet who was an illustrator that got him writing.


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tiger soup

Here’s Sam making “tiger soup” – we made another pot full on Saturday and it was very tasty.

It’s called tiger soup not because it has any tigers in it, but because there’s another story about a tiger, this time a Jamaican Anansi story called Tiger Soup. It’s given in full at this soup website:

It’s a fine day, down by the side of Blue Hole, and Tiger is cooking. Tiger has a fire, and he has a pot, and in the pot he is putting everything that can make a soup delicious.

Tiger is stirring the soup with a big spoon. From time to time he takes the spoon from the pot. He sticks out his pink tongue, shuts his eyes, and tastes the soup.

“Mmmm,” he says. “This soup needs–Coconut!”

Tiger scatters in coconut. He slowly takes another taste.

“Ooo!” he says, shaking his head. “Better, better, better! What about I put some–Fresh mango!?”

Tiger chops the mango, flings it in.

“Ahhh, yes,” says Tiger, sniffing the steam. “This is sweet soup now. Maybe just some little pinch of–Nutmeg?”

Now along comes Anansi, dancing through the forest. His nose in the air, sniffing the breeze.

“Hmmmmmm!” says Anansi. “I smell sweet soup.” And he rubs his belly. “Soup time, Anansi, m’dear. Hi-hee!”

Anansi swings out of the woods. Lands just beside Tiger.

“Oh! Brother Tiger! Such a happy surprise to see you here. And you so busy working, m’friend.”

“I’m just cooking, Brother Anansi. Is nothing but a little soup to satisfy the working man hunger.”

“Yah!” says Anansi. “I’m not so fond of soup myself….Sure is hot today, not so, Brother Tiger? Nothing in the world so nice as a swim in Blue Hole on a hot day like today.”

“I’m not a swimmer, Brother Anansi, so I wouldn’t know about that.”

“Ah,” says anansi, shaking his head. “Such a shame to live your whole life near Blue Hole and never take a swim….You want me to teach you to swim, Brother Tiger? Is always a pleasure to help a friend.”

“Well, Anansi, is that I do appreciate the offer, but right now I was planning to eat some soup.”

“That soup?” says Anansi. “That soup looks mighty hot and nasty, Brother Tiger. That soup will burn your tongue, m’friend.”

“Let me just wait, then,” says Tiger. “Soup will cool.”

“You know,” says Anansi, stretching his legs this way and that, “swimming in Blue Hole like magic….”

“How’s that, Brother Anansi?”

“Swimming does make plain ordinary soup taste like angel soup, Brother Tiger.”

“The soup already delicious, Brother Anansi,” says Tiger.

Tiger is thinking, How am I gonna get shed of this lazy fellow so I can eat my soup?

Right then, Anansi says, “Brother Tiger, I am bound and determined to teach you to swim today. Let’s get started, so I can be on my busy way!”

“On your busy way, Brother Anansi? Agreed!” says Tiger.

Tiger and Anansi stand by the edge of Blue Hole.

They look down past their feet to the water.

“We close our eyes,” says Anansi. “then I count to three, and we both dive in.”

“Right,” says Tiger, and he shuts his eyes tight. “We close our eyes. You count to three. We both jump in.”

“Yes,” says Anansi, one eye on Tiger, one eye on the soup.

“ONE, TWO THREE!” yells Anansi. On three, he chunks a big coconut into the water. SPLASH!

Tiger, his eyes tight shut, hollers, “Here I come, Brother Anansi!” SPLASH!!!

Ooooo!” says Tiger, coming up all wet in Blue Hole. “This is nice. This is fine….Where you, Brother Anansi? Ooooo, I do like this swimming!” And off he goes, splashing and singing.

Back on shore, Anansi quick quick grabs up the spoon to slurp down all of the soup. Then, fast as he can drag his fat self, he scurries off to the woods.

Anansi is scared of Tiger now. He sidles along over branch, under leaf, thinking and thinking, till he comes to Little Monkey Town. All the little monkeys are playing outside. Shooting nutmegs, down on the ground.

“Psst!” whispers Anansi. “come, come!”

The little monkeys are curious. “Chee! Chee! Who is this fat fellow with all the legs? What will he say to us?”

“I hear a new song today,” says Anansi. The little monkeys–they love a new song, so they all come gather near.

“Is like this,” says Anansi, and he begins to tap his toes and sing.

“Just a little while ago
We ate the Tiger soup!
Just a little while ago
We ate the Tiger soup”!

“Try it, little monkeys!”

And they do.

Pretty soon all the little monkeys are dancing and singing with Anansi, beating sticks together, shaking shells, making that song a song.

So Anansi, leading the dance, quick thinks up another verse:

Yum yum yum yum yum
Taste that coco-nut!

Brother Anansi is so full up with soup, he can dance no more. Not only he tire, he fit to die laughing. Anansi falls down on his back, all his little legs in the air, and goes right on singing:

“Yum yum yum yum yum
Little bit o’ sweet mango
Yum yum yum yum yum
Little bit o’ sweet mango!”

Anansi feels a thump come up through the ground. Seems like he hears a roar in the woods.

The little monkeys–they so busy dancing they hear only the song. Anansi calls to the little monkeys, “One more time now, little monkeys! Sing it loud!”

And they do.


Just then, Tiger pokes his head out from behind a bush, and Anansi’s gone. All the little monkeys there, dancing and yelling their song for Tiger alone.

Tiger’s ears stand up, and his fur stands up, and his teeth stand up, and he stands up.

Tiger roars:


But in the time it takes Tiger to roar, all the little monkeys swing up into the treetops, where they been living safe, safe ever since.


Well, your very welcome, dear reader, to come round chez Gregg for some tiger soup.

I’ll also let you know my own special recipe:


6 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 kilogram carrots, peeled and chopped

4 onions, chopped

2 tablespoon ginger, peeled and finely chopped

6 cups vegetable broth

2 cans of cream of coconut

2 large mangoes, peeled and chopped

2 tablespoon lime juice

1 pinch of nutmeg

Salt, pepper

1. Heat the oil in a pot and sauté the carrots for 5 minutes. Stir in the onions and ginger and continue to sauté until the onions are soft.

2. Add the broth and simmer 10 minutes.

3. Add the cream of coconut, mango and heat. Purée.
Add lime juice, salt, pepper and nutmeg, and perhaps a little red chilli.

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goodnight moon

Sam is still not a keen sleeper.

I used to try The Gartan Lullaby. Not as tunefully as this of course:

Sleep, my son, the red bee hums
The silent twilight’s fall
The lady from the grey rock comes
To wrap the world in thrall
My darling boy, my pride, my joy
My love and hearts desire
The cricket sings his lullaby
Beside the dying fire

Dusk is drawn and the green man’s thorn
Is wrapped in wreaths of fog
The fairies sail their boat till dawn
Across the starry bog
My darling son, the pearl-white moon
Has drained her cup of dew
And weeps to hear the sad, sweet song
I sing, my love, to you

(Robin Williamson’s version)

Hypnotic incantatory picture books didn’t have much more effect.

I tried Husherbye by master illustrator / author John Burningham.

The classic Goodnight Moon was another one. It had more chance as a book than as a movie, but most times it was me that fell to sleep first.

Maybe it will work for you; perhaps you’ll wake up at 3 am with your head on the keyboard…

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I did not come here for recognition

1223675642-sc-240reading the story of Culwch and Olwen*:

I always like the bit where the young hero-to-be rides into Arthur’s court.

Here it is from Robin Williamson‘s brilliant retelling on the CD Gems of Celtic Story – One, where he plays along with harp and sings some of it too, and in his book The Craneskin Bag (both far too difficult to get hold of) –

To help you imagine the harp with the story, here is the man himself playing the harp:

It was the custom to dismount at the gate, but Culwch, when the door was opened to him, rode straight into the hall dogs and all. ‘Greetings, Lord of Kings in this island,’ he said. ‘May the low part of your house be no worse than the high. May this greeting reach equally your fighting men, your companions and your warlords. May no one here be deprived of this my greeting. May your fame, Arthur, resound throughout Britain.’

‘Greetings to you also, chieftain. Sit here by me among the warriors. You shall have the privileges of a prince when you are here.’

‘I did not come here for recognition, but to ask one boon* of you.’

‘You shall have whatever
your tongue can utter
while the wind blows with the wetness of rain
and the full extent
of your mind’s invention
while sun lifts day to the last ebb of land
except my sword, my shield, my spear,
or my wife Gwenhwyfar.’

‘I ask first that my hair be trimmed.’

‘You shall get that,’ said Arthur, and taking a golden comb and silver handled scissors, he commenced to comb and trim the hair of Culwch. But as he was about this he felt his heart warm to Culwch, and he said to him, ‘I know in my heart we must be kindred. Tell me who you are.’

‘I will. I am Culwch son of Cilydd son of Celyddon Wledig and of Goleuddydd my mother.’

‘Then,’ said Arthur; ‘you are my cousin. Claim what you will of me.’

‘Help me to win the hand of Olwen daughter of Ysbaddaden King of all Giants.’

* Culwch –> pronounced kill-hook
“boon” = a favour, a wish granted

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