Ah, the music the kids of today are into. What a load of rubbish. Wait though! This isn’t a grumpy thirty-something’s venting about pop music. I’m not talking about Rihanna or Rita Ora, One Direction or Bruno Mars, or your other chartists. Actually I like quite a bit of all that, although reasons for the continuing success of Jessie J or The Script continue to elude me.

No, this is a grumpy thirty-something’s venting about nursery rhymes and children’s songs. I’ve been muttering and grizzling about this since gaining a nephew and nieces, initially baffled by what to me are new-fangled songs about winding bobbins and dingle-dangle scarecrows and so forth.

As I type this I’m singing the songs and chuntering away about them, and I’ve just been told that the “wind the bobbin up” song is actually quite old. I don’t remember it from my childhood (“Maybe that’s because your childhood was such a long time ago,” yes, yes, very good), but given my short-term memory cells took such a battering during my 20s, I’m prepared to accept that. And scarecrows are quite old-fashioned concepts as well, I suppose.

Of course, since having one of my own – a child, not a scarecrow – I’m actually quite getting into this pointing to windows and doors, ceilings and floors. Apart from the hilarious fun aspect of singing, it’s a very important part of speech and language acquisition. Dr Miriam Stoppard writes:

Children who are sung to, have nursery rhymes repeated to them, have rhythms in speech emphasized, and are involved in singing and rhyming games, speak more easily and better than children who don’t.

“Better”, that’s what we want! Although I still harbour uncertainty about the relevance of bobbins to contemporary children. Well, in the UK, anyway. “Yeah, all my shirts are hand-made in Bangladesh.” Hmmm, a different, more serious article, perhaps.

ANYWAY, my main knick-knack paddywhack, give the dog a bone of contention today is with “Row, row, row your boat”.

Row, row, row your boat,
Gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream.

Simple, yes? Boat, rowing, gently down the stream, merrily, bosh. Yet this classic has been augmented. Countless new versions, whereby the third and fourth lines are replaced by instructions to be carried out in the event of seeing various creatures, such as crocodiles or lions.
e.g.
“If you see a crocodile
Don’t forget to scream.”

Steve Irwin is spinning in his grave, perhaps wrestling a spectral croc. We should be teaching our children to know and respect nature, not row around being terrified by it, or making distressing noises. Yet it gets worse. Yesterday, my best beloveds attended a mother and baby class, where I am told they sang of rowing their boats “…gently across the puddle… teddy bear …cuddle”

I cannot even bring myself to write it out in full. IT DIDN’T EVEN SCAN PROPERLY! Appalling.

Send for Herman Dune!

Next week: The Sinister and Perplexing Machinations of Dr Fell.

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