Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Teddy Bears' Picnic

You know, it’s a small world. Vivien and I discovered the other day that we are going on vacation on the same day to the same country, Italy. Various of her family and friends are going to be at the same cities where their cruise ship will dock more or less when they will be, just by accident.

We were talking about our fall back plans should volcanic ash interfere with our flights. They will drive to Southampton instead of fly to catch their boat. We will abandon Italy altogether and get the ferry over to Amsterdam and see where we want to go by train, probably starting with Belgium. We’ve been on the ferry several times to go to Europe and Hollanders often come over here. I met two ladies at the bottom of my street when I was out for a run the other day, just off the ferry and seeking directions to their B&B. OK, so western Europe’s not really that big.

Anyhow, I read a lot about the 1920s and 30’s and I come across the same names, which is to be expected. Not long ago I read a biography of Vera Brittain, of whom I’d never heard. Then there was a TV programme about her with Jo Brand narrating. I visited a friend who recommended Sara Peretsky's Warshawski novels; Vivien has the collection to loan me. I read Peretsky's and Greenwood’s novels, they mention characters or events from Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayer’s novels. The people at the bookbinding group are talking about the setting of Dorothy L. Sayer’s novels. OK, Sayers is making a comeback here, I gather. Vera Brittain is a bigger name here than I’d appreciated. Petrowsky’s novels are widely read. These aren’t huge coincidences, though they seemed to all come at about the same time.

What really struck me as strange was that one day I happened to look up Caroline Bessette Kennedy on the internet, to look at pictures and read about her. Living over here in England I missed most of the hoo-ha about her. Her and JFK Jr’s deaths are another on the list of things I heard about in passing over here that I didn’t experience in the same way I would have had I lived in the US.

My surfing took me to an interview with Carole Radziwill, widow of JFK’s cousin, Anthony Radziwill. Her husband died at the age of 40 just weeks after John & Caroline, from cancer. Carole was talking with Oprah about the family. She said John was always good at dramatic moments, 'made for the big moment'. That when his cousin was thought to be near death, he came to visit and sat with his cousin, talking. They reminisced and John began to sing the Teddy Bear Picnic song to his cousin. Apparently, Jackie had sung this song to her son and nephew even as late as when they were 12 and 13, to remind them that they weren’t all that grown up yet. I’d never heard of the song and figured it was something about New York or rich people or something…

I swear I didn’t say a thing about this to Bill, but that very night as we were about to go to sleep he reached over to set the alarm on his mobile phone for 6 am and, in a (not uncommon) moment of silliness, began to sing a song about teddy bears in the woods having a picnic. Apparently he grew up with it as well. Having just discovered the song that day then to have Bill singing it at bedtime was, I thought, rather a larger coincidence!

For a kid’s song it’s a bit creepy, I think. Have a listen here. Did you already know about this song (from 1908/1932)?

No comments: