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      Song of the Year   12/01/18

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Rob Barratt

Bertie Batt

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Hello everybody. When I was a very small boy I couldn't say my name,"Robert Barratt" so it came out as "Bertie Batt". My older cousins carried on calling me this and still do, although it started about 55 years ago. It's a sort of family running joke. I was playing about with this name and I imagined a child who had a childhood very unlike my own, which was very happy and secure. So Bertie Batt is the very opposite of what I was lucky enough to be. But I've met many Bertie Batts in my teaching career. There are a few British English words which may not travel well. A conker is the hard nut of the horse chestnut tree which children have traditionally played with every autumn in the UK by threading a conker on a string and hitting an opponent's conker.A stonker means an excellent one/a big one - nothing sexual! OAP's are old age pensioners. EBD means emotional and behavioural difficulties. ADHD is Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder.A spiffing wheeze is Billy Bunter/posh private school-speak for a super idea or trick. To piddle is to urinate.

Bertie Batt by Rob Barratt

This is the tale of Bertie Batt

A bolshy boisterous little brat

Who teased the dogs and shaved the cat

Naughty, naughty Bertie Batt

Bertie Batt one day went bonkers

In his search for decent conkers

He climbed a tree and found some stonkers

But down fell Bertie Batt, (kerplonkers!)

Bertie Batt got bored one day

In the six weeks holiday

He found a can of insect spray

He took it and went out to play

He sprayed the ants, he sprayed the bees

He thought it was a spiffing wheeze

He sprayed the wasps, he sprayed the fleas

He sprayed his next-door-neighbour’s knees

Bertie Batt had no real mates

Just a gang of reprobates

Who hung around and learnt to hate

Scared OAP’s who stayed out late

Bertie Batt did not like school

Yes sir, no sir, three bags full

He bullied kids, broke every rule

He piddled in the swimming pool.

Not picked for the academy

He was in the bottom set, you see?

It was special needs for Bertie B


The truth was Bertie felt alone

His best friend was his mobile ‘phone

His mom and dad took mephadrone

And home was never really home

How many Batts? How many Berties?

Who cares if his shirt he dirties?

But Bertie Batt knows where the hurt is

His hurting head is where the hurt is

His hurting heart is where the hurt is

That’s how it is for little Berties

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I realise that this is a subconscious update of "Timothy Winters" by Charles Causley, who funnily enough lived in Cornwall not far from me. Not that I'm comparing myself with him. Just thought I'd better own up before someone spotted it.

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That is such a cute and catchy name and the way the poem started I was thinking that it could even be a kids story book thing, complete with illustrations.

But then it would have to conclude with some kind of moral story - not with the more adult reflective ending that you have.

Or is that along the lines of Timothy Winters?

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Thanks Desert Rose. Here is the poem I was referring to. Charles Causley said that it was based on a real boy he knew. You're right, I started writing "Bertie Batt" as a children's poem but it just changed into an adult one as I wrote it. Causley was a primary school teacher in Launceston, about 20 miles from me here in Bodmin but the poem is a British favourite and I remember it from my own school days in the Midlands. It was written in the 1950s so "blitz" was a relatively new word then, I guess.

'Timothy Winters'by Charles Causley (1917 - 2003)

Timothy Winters comes to school

With eyes as wide as a football-pool,

Ears like bombs and teeth like splinters:

A blitz of a boy is Timothy Winters.

His belly is white, his neck is dark,

And his hair is an exclamation-mark.

His clothes are enough to scare a crow

And through his britches the blue winds blow.

When teacher talks he won't hear a word

And he shoots down dead the arithmetic-bird,

He licks the pattern off his plate

And he's not even heard of the Welfare State.

Timothy Winters has bloody feet

And he lives in a house on Suez Street,

He sleeps in a sack on the kithen floor

And they say there aren't boys like him anymore.

Old Man Winters likes his beer

And his missus ran off with a bombardier,

Grandma sits in the grate with a gin

And Timothy's dosed with an aspirin.

The welfare Worker lies awake

But the law's as tricky as a ten-foot snake,

So Timothy Winters drinks his cup

And slowly goes on growing up.

At Morning Prayers the Master helves

for children less fortunate than ourselves,

And the loudest response in the room is when

Timothy Winters roars "Amen!"

So come one angel, come on ten

Timothy Winters says "Amen

Amen amen amen amen."

Timothy Winters, Lord. Amen

Charles Causley Charles Causley (1917-2003) was born and brought up in Launceston, Cornwall and lived there for most of his life. When he was only seven his father died from wounds sustained during the First World War. This early loss and his own experience of service in the Second World War affected Causley deeply. His work fell outside the main poetic trends of the 20th century, drawing instead on native sources of inspiration: folk songs, hymns, and above all, ballads. His poetry was recognised by the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry in 1967 and a Cholmondeley Award in 1971. In addition to these public honours, the clarity and formality of his poetry has won Causley a popular readership, making him, in the words of Ted Hughes, one of the "best loved and most needed" poets of the last fifty years.

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Great poem with some amazingly clever descriptive lines. Thanks for sharing that one also.

Yeah, I think we can all recall a "Timothy Winters".

My kids knew one a few years ago, his name was Ben. I never knew a kid so grateful to be given a bowl of two minute noodles for lunch.

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