Sunday, April 21, 2024

GAL FRIDAY: Who will pick up the paper?


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Bits of paper, bits of paper; Lying on the floor, lying on the floor.

Make the place untidy, make the place untidy;

Pick them up, pick them up

– Bits Of Paper, Mother Goose nursery rhyme.


TODAY we’re going to go back. Waaaay back.

I don’t know how old you are, but I have a good few years under my belt. So let’s do some time travel today.

Sung to the tune of Are You Sleeping, Brother John, the above nursery rhyme Bits of Paper has been passed down for generations. If you don’t know it, go on youtube and we could sing along. Let’s examine this little ditty from a past century.

Firstly, how did the paper get onto the floor? Well, perhaps a strong breeze (my Canadian friends like Bobbi McKay and Dean Del Mastro would refer to it as a nor’easter) blew it there.

Or, perhaps a petulant pupil pelted it there, without a care. Either way, it creates an untidy setting in its stagnant state.

Then we come to the third line, which – depending on the point from which you wish to view it – could be seen as a running commentary, or someone’s opinion. It could also be considered imperative, or a command.

So, some of us adults who’ve grown up singing that tune take heed and nonchalantly dump, so as to fulfill the apparent directive to “make the place untidy”.

But it is the very last line that can cause a furore.

There is no uncertainty that that line is in the command form. But alas? Who, pray tell, should do the picking up?

This, like the question of man’s existence, seems to be plaguing our minds for a definitive answer. But what is the answer? In this age of relativity, who should do what?

I remember being at high school and spewing out a (what I thought was) comical retort to a classmate. The teacher overheard and I was made to clean two bird-drenched benches with a toothbrush. I dared not tell my parents, for fear of seeing a look of disappointment shadowing their faces.

But of course, when a teacher welted my shoulder blades with a whack for not closing my eyes during morning prayer, I did indeed tell my parents, who in turn, had a discussion with the administrator.

That didn’t make the papers . . . until now. But, I think I’m diving into some deep waters when I don’t really wish to get my feet wet. So I will be drying them off now and walking in a different direction, singing a different song: Skip To The Loo (my adaptation of Skip To My Lou).

Let me tell you, there is one call that is unambiguous and definitive; a call that can cloud your judgement; that will give you cold sweats and bad feels. A call that doesn’t make a sound (most times) but you have to answer.

You ever had such a call? Ask Richard Purcell. It had him forcing a smile while trying to put the call on hold!

Veoma Ali is an author, broadcaster, advertising exec and, most important, a karaoke lover.


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