With just a couple of days before my poetry collection “I threw a stone” is released, I know I should be revving up to full poet angst and beauty mode. I should have bought a poet’s cloak or at least a silly hat. I should be displaying my love of Seamus Heaney and William Wordsworth. Then you would all know that I was in the poet’s club. Then I would be sleek and sweet in clique elite. OK – you get the message. I’ve found tears on my cheeks at seeing a swirl of starlings against the cold winter sun. Odds are that I was thinking of a woman and driving a 40 ton truck when it happened. Poetry happens with 3,000 gallons of excrement in a tanker trailer a few feet behind your head on a highway to the sewage farm.
I adore Wordsworth and admire Heaney. I revere and respect that laureate of the milk float – Benny Hill. I guess you guys don’t know what was the Number One song at Christmas 40 years ago. Yes, it was “Ernie” who drove the fastest milk float in the West. Anyone too young to have known the poetic magic of this Bard of the Bristols dressed in a buffoon’s doublet of entendres can see it here. I am not going to claim that this is great poetry, all the same it is part of a tradition of narrative ribaldry that dates back to Chaucer. A few lines such as “ghostly gold tops” and “all alone at Linley Lane” would not have disgraced the pages of the Greats. If you wish to study the lyrics as a poem see them here. Just be grateful that I have not exposed my tomes of Narrative Verse to posh up my assertions.
I was a taxi driver working the pubs and ranks of this humble terraced town. The humour of Benny Hill is hard to analyse. It hovers between the naughty and the creepy, the voyeur and the connoisseur, the naif and the perv. At it’s core it is the genius of a guy who knew the contradictions and inconsistencies of the human condition.It was a genius informed by the experience of life.
When they built a new housing estate on the edge of town, the Council named a road after him.The supermarkets have long since killed the milkies who would have served Benny Hill Close. The Market Street into which Ernie galloped, his badge upon his chest is still there. Not many folk would rank Benny Hill with the giants of poetry and he would never have done so himself. As for me – I’d be happy to come up to his chest.
Was Benny a true poet? Tell me your unlikely bards.