seiyaku
< Previous
Index
Next >

Asparagus

by Marriott Edgar
Illustrations by John Hassall

Mr Ramsbottom at the races
Mr Ramsbottom at the races

Today in the 21st century 'hood, the term "sparrow grass" probably means marijuana used by plump little feathered creatures, or alternatively, a junior gang member who rats on his dodgy mates to the cops.

But in the early 20th century, with this vegetable's short growing season, it was not such a familiar dish in Northern England. It was seen mainly on tables of those who would use the more refined term: Asparagus, and served for us in this monologue by Marriott Edgar.

Mr Ramsbottom went to the races,
A thing as he'd ne'er done before,
And as luck always follers beginners,
Won five pounds, no-less and no-more.

He felt himself suddenly tempted
To indulge in some reckless orgee,
So he went to a caffy-a-teerer
And had a dressed crab with his tea.

He were crunching the claws at the finish
And wondering what next he would do,
Then his thoughts turned to home and to Mother,
And what she would say when she knew.

For Mother were dead against racing
And said as she thought 'twere a sin
For people to gamble their money
Unless they were certain to win.

These homely domestic reflections
Seemed to cast quite a gloom on Pa's day
He thought he'd best take home a present
And square up the matter that way.

'Twere a bit ofa job to decide on
What best to select for this 'ere,
So he started to look in shop winders
In hopes as he'd get some idea.

He saw some strange stuff in a fruit shop
Like leeks with their nobby ends gone,
It were done up in bundles like firewood
Said Pa to the Shopman, "What's yon?"

"That's Ass-paragus-what the Toffs eat"
Were the answer; said Pa "That 'll suit,
I'd best take a couple of bundles,
For Mother's a bobby for fruit."

He started off home with his purchase
And pictured Ma all the next week
Eating sparagus fried with her bacon
Or mashed up in bubble-and-squeak.

Buying the asparagus
Buying the asparagus

He knew when she heard he'd been racing
She'd very nigh talk him to death,
So he thought as he'd call in the 'Local'
To strengthen his nerve and his breath.

He had hardly got up to the counter
When a friend of his walked in the bar,
He said "What ye got in the bundle?"
"A present for Mother," said Pa.

"It's 'sparagus stuff what the Toffs eat"
His friend said "It's a rum-looking plant,
Can I have the green ends for my rabbits?"
said Pa "Aye, cut off what you want."

He cut all the tips off one bundle,
Then some more friends arrived one by one,
And all of them seemed to keep rabbits
Pa had no green ends left when they'd done.

When he got home the 'ouse were in dark ness,
So he slipped in as sly as a fox,
Laid the 'sparagus on kitchen table
And crept up to bed in his socks.

He got in without waking Mother,
A truly remarkable feat,
And pictured her telling the neighbours
As 'twere 'sparagus; what the toffs eat.

Meeting his friends at the local
Meeting his friends at the local
Ma tries to light fire
Ma tries to light fire

But when he woke up in the morning
It were nigh on a quarter to ten,
There were no signs of Mother, or breakfast
Said Pa, "What's she done with her-sen?"

He shouted "What's up theer in t' kitchen?"
She replied, "You do well to enquire,
Them bundles of chips as you brought home
Is so damp... I can't light the fire."

sections

search 🔍

contact

about
 home

privacy policy

email

© seiyaku.com