Constance and the Elephant. (May 12, 2006)

It's a long way from Nott'n'm to London.
It were further in Nineteen-nineteen:
There were no motorway, so it took half a day,
And young Connie had never yet been.

Constance Lilian Priestley
Worked in the textile trade.
She were eighteen years old, rather timid than bold,
But a pretty and lively wee maid.

So when t'mill owner told 'em that summer,
They were off for a trip to the zoo,
Our lass were delighted and very excited
And probably proper chuffed too.

Remember TV weren't invented
And Attenborough (Dave) not known yet.
For a working-class child to see animals, wild:
Well, a picture book's closest you'd get.

Lions and tigers and monkeys!
(They may not mean that much to us)
But the creature that she most wanted to see
Were an elephant, big as a bus!

She just couldn't wait for the day of the trip
And her mind, I need hardly remark,
While she worked on her seams, and at night in her dreams,
Were as crowded as old Noah's Ark.

At last came the day of their outing
She were wearin' her best summer dress
It were pretty and light (but not showy or tight)
And it cost 2 days' wages, no less.

We'd better say nowt of the coach trip:
Just like any school outing today;
Crackin' rather crude jokes, makin' eyes at stray blokes
And singin' daft songs all the way.

II

At last they arrived, down at Regents Park Zoo
And to start they piled into the caff
For something to eat: "Is this kangaroo meat?"
Connie asked, which made everyone laugh.

Lions and tigers and monkeys,
And hundreds of others besides!
Back then, at the Zoo, you could feed 'em all too
And climb up on t'big uns for rides.

But young Connie were getting impatient;
She said nowt, not to make any fuss;
Till her eyes, they grew wide, when at last she espied
An elephant, big as a bus!

"Are t'a goin' to feed 'im, our Connie?"
And though Connie were timid and shy,
She said that she would, 'cos she'd bought 'im some food
(Even though he seemed thirty foot high).
So Connie stared up at the creature:
At first it were all rather fun:
She curtseyed with charm and she 'eld out 'er arm
And showed him a large currant bun.

The elephant stared down at Connie
The elephant reached out 'is trunk
But when it came near, she got taken wi' fear
And she pulled 'er 'and back in a funk.

"Give 'im the bun, you great cissie!"
Her colleagues were having a ball.
"'E just want's 'is cake, and yon's 'ardly a snake ~
"It's only 'is nose, after all!"

Well, strangely, that weren't reassurin' ~
To be touched by a nose seemed all wrong:
A nose wrinkly and grey, that could snatch things away ~
And a nose that were near four foot long!

III

But our Connie were not to be beaten;
She'd hate to be seen as a wuss.
So, proudly, she sniffed and re-offered 'er gift
To the elephant, big as a bus.

The elephant stared down at Connie
Quite content to forgive (not forget)
And to feed 'im she tried, ee, so 'ard she near cried,
But she still couldn't do it, not yet.

As the elephant reached for the bun in 'er 'and
Connie pulled it away wi' a squeal
And 'e groaned wi' despair, as 'is trunk grabbed thin air;
All this fuss over such a small meal!

"Give 'im the bun, you great cissie!"
'Er chums all repeated wi' laughter
"'E' won't do you no harm and it isn't yer arm ~
"It's only the bun what 'e's after!"

"Give 'im the bun, you great cissie!"
And so she resolved, there and then
To make one last attempt to dispel their contempt
And she 'eld out 'er 'and once again.

The elephant stared at the bun in 'er 'and
You could tell that the fellow weren't sure.
'E felt 'e'd been teased and were mighty displeased,
When young Connnie withdrew it once more.

The elephant stared down at Connie.
'E seemed to be tremblin' wi' rage
But 'e calmed 'isself down and turned slowly around
And retired to the back of 'is cage.

"Now look what tha's done: tha's upset 'im!"
'Er mates said, as she stared at the floor.
"We didn't just come to tease animals, dumb ~
"That's what our kid brothers are for!"

IV

They weren't takin' much notice o' t'creature
'Cos they thought it were such a good game
To poke lots of fun at young Con and her bun
As t'poor lass 'ung 'er 'ead down, in shame.

They weren't takin' much notice o' t'creature
And if they were, what would they think?
That 'e'd just wandered off, stuck 'is trunk in 'is trough ~
'E were obviously 'avin' a drink.

So when t'elephant walked back to t'front o' 'is cage
They thought it were really good fun
To say, "Look, it's yer friend; 'e don't want it to end:
"'E must 'ave come back for 'is bun!"

The elephant stared down at Connie
And Connie looked up at his nose ~
Which pointed straight at her and sprayed her wi' watter
And soaked her from t'noggin to t'toes!

Poor Connie just stood there all drippin'.
She cried, "Look at me best summer dress!
"It's all soaking wi' grot ~ and elephant snot
"I must look a complete ruddy mess!"

Her friends they were quite sympathetic
Though they couldn't 'elp laughin' a lot
And they did what they could to make 'er look good ~
When they'd cleaned off the elephant snot

And Connie 'erself saw the 'umorous side:
You can't keep a young girl's spirits down.
And they say that she sang on the old charabanc
All the way back to Nottingham town

But when she got home, all bedraggled
'Er mum and dad made a right fuss
"Ee, what 'appened today? Did it rain?" She said, "Nay:
"'Twere an elephant, big as a bus!"



(2006 - with apologies to Marriott Edgar)