FlandersSwann logo
  1. Home
  2. Interests
  3. Flanders & Swann
  4. At the Drop of a Hat

Gnu Introduction

Flanders: We've had a lot of luck with records. Some of the songs that have made our names a household word... like "slop bucket"... are the little series of animal songs we've been writing mostly for Ian Wallace - an artist we very much admire... we have several of his paintings at home.
  We've often asked how we write these songs... often asked why, come to think of it. It's not always easy to say exactly how the idea for a song first comes, but I can happen to tell you how I first got the idea for this next song.
   
  I live in Kensington... naturally!
  (Pointing to Swann) Battersea! He calls it "South Chelsey".
   
  It's very much snobby for me... turn left by Ponting's dustbins. Scarsdale Villa, it's all a decayed gentility, very nice there, you know - open, trees, very happy there. The road itself is a bit of a snag. That road has got the steepest cambre on it - you know, the old slope - of any road in London. It's about one in three. If you park your car by the pavement, as people do from time to time, the car's tilted, like that.
  Well now, that means you can only get this nearside door open a little bit, then the pavement stops it. If you want to use this door you've got to jump for it. Bad enough all up and down the road, but just outside where I happen to live, 1A, of course it would be, it's just like the great North face of Everest. Thing's right over on its side. You can't get this door open at all, you've got to keep it full of petrol or it shows "Empty". I can't use this door, I've got to get out and get into this thing, you see, on the pavement.
  Well, I wrote to the local council about this. Very nice about it, you know, elections coming up and so on. But then, we have got a jolly decent lot of old burghers on our council. Wouldn't get them sticking up flags on the town hall, I'll tell you that much. But then, our council is, of course, strictly non-political. They're all Conservatives.
  They took a bite out of the pavement. They didn't do it themselves, of course, they sent a chap round, you see. A chap with a chain around his neck. And there is just one spot now where I can drive up, in a comparatively ordinary fashion, and get out very nicely, thank you. Thanks to the borough engineers.
  At least, I could. But d'you know, every day when I get back from my daytime work with the submerged log company, I find another car has parked in that spot. Would you credit it? Always the same one, day after day, a great big horrible flashy thing with teeth. It's got an engine at both ends.
  Never seen the owner, just the car. I have done everything to shift it. You see me?
Swann: Oooh!
Flanders: I have put little notes until the windscreen wipers saying, "DO NOT PARK HERE! YOU SHALL SMART FOR THIS!". I keep putting orange boxes out there, as you have to, you know - I'm fed up with oranges!
  I stick pins into wax models of his big end. There it is, next day, large as life, twice the size. It's not one of the neighbours - this chap, whoever he is, he comes for miles to park his car in that spot! I'll never get hold of him, it might be anyone in London, it might even be one of you.
   
  (Pause)
   
  (Slowly) If anybody here tonight is in the habit of parking their car in Scarsdale Villas, might I ask you - would you leave it up the far end? Up by the Pembrook Arms, give it a treat? Not always bang outside 1A, thank you very much.
  Oh, the number of this car, I'll never forget this number as long as I live, I've sat gazing at it for hours on end sometimes, thinking of nothing else.
   
  The number is 346-GNU.