You know Gail Baker down the road?

The daily prompt asks what traditions we have.   Oh goodness, where to start.

It would be fair to say that I come from a family of repeaters.   A single phrase can last for generations.   The title of this post relates to the distraction tactic my sister used to avoid bedtime.    The slightest hint that it was getting around the time that a young girl should be heading for the stairs was met with “You know Gail Baker up the road?”.   Legend has it that this was generally followed with a suitably interesting comment designed to provoke conversation and avoid the inevitable.   The most frequently repeated phrase has to be “well she’s got three pimples on her nose”.     Poor Gail Baker.    I wonder if she is aware that for the last half of a century her name has been mentioned on a weekly basis in various households around the country.

I believe it was our father who initiated these rituals.  Certainly it was he who had a stock set of comments that covered every single occasion.    One only had to clear the throat to be advised “It ain’t the cough that carries you off it’s the coffin they carry you off in” and impending rain was invariably greeted with “It’s looking black over the back of Bill’s mothers”.    For many years I assumed that somewhere in direct line of sight of our front window lived Bill’s mum and the weather always came in from that direction.

Packing for a trip required (and still does require) a breathy little monologue of “VestsPantsShirtsShoesSocksTowelSoap”, just to ensure that nothing was forgotten.   I have considered modifying this to take into account the myriad electrical items that accompany us on our journey these days but it just doesn’t sound right.

By the age of 5 it was almost law that we could recite (without reference) The Green Eye of the Little Yellow God, mostly thanks to grandfather reeling it off at every possible opportunity.    I have met a couple of people in the intervening years with the surname of Carew and I always gaze at them with sadness and wonder if they would be willing to risk everything to pilfer the eye of the god for the love of the Colonel’s daughter.

The strangest one though, the most curious ongoing bit of speech requires at least two people.    I have searched in vain for where it comes from.  It may be from a play or a book, I don’t know.  If you can enlighten me then I and the rest of the family will be in your debt.    In alternate voices it goes like this…

“Have you head the news?”

“What news?”

“The Squire’s daughter has been foully murdered!”

“Murdered?  And who has been accused of the crime.”

“The Squire”

The Squire?”

And on it went (and on and on and on).    I’m pleased to report that these oral traditions are all alive and well and under no threat of extinction in the near future.   I recently heard my son say “I doubt it”, followed by “said the lady as she peed on the fire” and within the last week mother’s facebook status was “You’ll never guess who I saw up the road” to which several people (not all family) replied “Was it Gail Baker?”.

We do carry one non-verbal tradition with us.  It is called “The Day After Boxing Day”.   On this day family and friends gather at the ancestral home and just after lunch the conversation drops and the menfolk start removing shoes, wallets, belts and anything else that can be discarded whilst keeping dignity intact.   A set of ancient scales are produced and every male present is weighed.   Weights are carefully recorded in a black ledger that goes back around 35 years and the heaviest person present is awarded the Pink Pig of Fatness and a Nil by Mouth sign to hang around their neck.    It’s a curious thing to do and it causes disruption from about September onwards as one starts to think “Oh crikey, I don’t want the pig, I better start dieting”.

Traditions.  Don’t you love them.    Clicking on the link at the top of the post will take you to other tales of tradition far more interesting than mine.



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16 responses to “You know Gail Baker down the road?

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