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Kevin Collier

Let us step back in time for a moment
To the year nineteen-hundred and five,
Before videos and tvs and cassetttes and CDs
When all entertainment was live.

They were halcyon days for the business,
All the music halls packed to the door
As they stood twenty deep, crushed together like sheep,
With a few lying down on the floor.

There were Elen and Chaplin and Leno
Right up there at the top of the bill,
But beneath all the hype (and in miniscule type)
Appeared 'Gertram Garnoldswick' and Phil.

'Gertram G' was the last of the troupers,
A ventriloquist famed near and far:
With his dummy in tow he would open the show
While the punters were still in the bar.

In a technical sense 'Gert' was lacking,
He was rubbish, as a matter of fact,
And a geezer called Geoff, who was three-quarters deaf,
Used to lip-read the whole of his act.

His personna was less than appealing
And he'd nicked every joke in his set;
He might just have got through playing Radio Two
But they hadn't invented it yet.

It was Phil kept the partnership going,
For though thick as a plank he was keen:
He boasted when drunk he'd been born in a trunk
(It was an oak tree in the Forest of Dean)

It was rumoured our Gertram was smitten -
A magician's assistant from Crewe -
Until Marvo saw red when he found them in bed
And the next day sawed her in two.

"Don't despair", Gertram's friends reassured him,
"Every frog has a princess to suit",
But he knew he would never get kissed as a frog
So he went and got kissed as a newt.

In the bar of The Quivering Juggler
He would drink till he made himself ill
At the end of the pier, supping gottles of geer
With a linseed-oil shandy for Phil.

The Great War came and went and the Twenties
Disappeared in an aura of gloom
While the Years of Depression made little impression
(He'd been miserable all through the boom).

Well, our Gertram expired at Frinton,
Second house, with the terminal gout
But he'd died there before, back in 1904,
So it took 'em a while to find out.

People say every ship needs a rudder
People say every boy needs his mum
But it all pales to naught alongside the sad thought
Of a doll with no hand up its bum.

Phil tried swallowing swords for a living
As 'The Great Arthur King and Excalibur'
And he got himself sacked from a cannonball act
'Cos they said he was not the right calibre.

He was riddled with doubt (and with woodworm),
He believed he'd be better off dead
Than a seasoned performer whose glories were former,
So he threw himself off Beachy Head.

As he bobbed up and down in the water
He reflected on ultimate failure:
He'd be floating there now, but was spied from the prow
Of a timber boat bound for Australia.

Just a sad lump of wood with no talent:
But it's true, every log has its day
And with the luck of the devil Phil found his own level:
Now he's starring in 'Home And Away".

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