The White Cliffs of Dover

white cliffs blog

Writer’s blog: Stardate: 01.11.2013

As anyone who has ever been interfered with by the Scouts knows, ‘Be Prepared’ is the motto of the movement founded by the late great Baden-Powell. (Incidentally, has anyone else seen that Internet rumour that BP was the great, great, grandfather of Jimmy Savile? I wonder if there is any truth in it.) ‘Be Prepared’ is a motto that has stood me in good stead throughout my life. Like the time it looked like gran was going to come and live with us – and share my room. Being prepared put a stop to that.

Being prepared is all about forward thinking. I like to look forward with my writing. (My wife calls it day-dreaming. Her faith in my purpose is so painfully underwhelming.) This week I have been looking forward, preparing for the day I am playing ennie, meenie, mynie, mo with the offers of television companies for the rights to serialise the Romney and Marsh Files on the haunted fish tank.

All TV detective series need a good theme tune – something instantly recognisable, suggestive, evocative. The theme tune to ‘Morse’ springs to mind as one of the most memorable. Quite inspired.

(Give yourself a pat on the back if you know what’s coming.)

Not a lot of people know that as well as fancying myself as a bit of an author I also harbour delusions about my musical ability. I write songs and I play guitar. Before my son learnt to cry to indicate his displeasure I would play and sing to him. These days, my crooning and strumming episodes have become useful for clearing the flat of all those who are able-bodied enough to do so. My two year old only has to hear the metallic catch released on my guitar case two rooms away to start howling for the park in a sort of – and oddly appropriate – Pavlov’s dogs reaction. (Mostly, when they leave I don’t play anyway. It’s just nice to have the place to myself.)

This week I’ve put my song-writing ‘skills’ to what I believe is excellent use. I’ve written the theme tune to the forthcoming television series of the Romney and Marsh Files. It will be a contractual obligation of any production company interested in televising the books that my song is used. I am being prepared.

I had to think long and hard to find something that would provide an immediate association for listeners, something that would very quickly suggest images, ideas and links with Dover – the setting for the books – and the particular representation of it that I have chosen to present.

The result is something of a ‘pasty’ – a new term of my own devising (I am indeed truly creative) that I am gifting to the English language (add altruistic to my plus column for this week). ‘Pasty’ suggests a creative offering somewhere between a pastiche and a parody.

I am confident that readers across generations with the necessary cultural background will find the basis for the lyrics instantly recognisable and that they will then be unable to resist forming those crucial images and associations I was on about. (A word to the wise: the tune that accompanies my lyrics is not the one you’re going to want to fit the lyrics to. I believe that would be copyright infringement and therefore actionable in law.)

Romney and Marsh Song

There’ll be no bluebirds over
The grey cliffs of Dover
Not today, nor tomorrow
They took fright and flew.

So forget what you heard
From that hopeful old bird
And resign yourself to
A bluebirdless view.

The love and the laughter
And peace ever after
That was forecast to last
In a world that was freed

Didn’t wash on these shores
Where we’re fighting old wars
Against hate, crime and prejudice
Anger and greed.

So the next time you’re over
In dark, dirty Dover
Spare a thought for the police
At crime’s chalk face.

Think of Romney and Marsh
Mostly fair sometimes harsh
They’re a crime fighting duo
Not a flat windswept place.

Of course, the lyrics are only half the deal. The tune that goes with them is in the key of A minor and goes like this:

dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah,
Dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah,
Dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah,
Dah, dah, dah, dah, dah.
(Rpt. X 3)

For those who will feel moved to trawl the Internet looking for the original lyrics to ‘The White Cliffs of Dover’ I have copied and pasted them below. And I have to say what sentimental rubbish I find them to be. I think it’s safe to say it was the accompanying melody that made this ditty the success it was – that and a world war, of course.

(There’ll be bluebirds over) The White Cliffs of Dover

There’ll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of Dover
Tomorrow
Just you wait and see
I’ll never forget the people I met
Braving those angry skies
I remember well as the shadows fell
The light of hope in their eyes
And though I’m far away
I still can hear them say
Bombs up…
But when the dawn comes up
There’ll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of Dover
Tomorrow
Just you wait and see
There’ll be love and laughter
And peace ever after
Tomorrow
When the world is free
The shepherd will tend his sheep
The valley will bloom again
And Jimmy will go to sleep
In his own little room again
(After reading the previous
four lines I had to check
that I hadn’t been duped
into reading a piss-take)
There’ll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of Dover
Tomorrow
Just you wait and see
There’ll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of Dover
Tomorrow
Just you wait and see… 

We’re still waiting, Gracie.

7 thoughts on “The White Cliffs of Dover

  1. I could drink to that tune. I can drink to anything, except rap, pop, techno, or anything that has been more than mildly popular in the last fifteen years. That stuff just sucks.

  2. When I am procrastinating when I should be writing I fritter away hours designing garish book covers – but I guess everyone’s different! :-{D> Reckon the harpsichord intro to ‘Clover over Dover’ by Blur would add a bit of whimsy to the R&M opening credits but of course you’d have to pay them royalties which sort of defeats the object.

    • Bugger! When I’m teaching and some snotty nosed nine year old spots a mistake I’ve made – I’m human – I respond along the lines of, ‘Well done! I was wondering if any of you would spot my deliberate error.’ I don’t think that’s going to work on here is it?

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