Monday 23 December 2013

Talking of Half Man, Half Biscuit...

... as we were - and, indeed, of Ted Hughes - I was delighted to find that Sylia Plath gets a mention in a song by the splendidly named band Half Man Half Biscuit. She is mentioned, what's more, in the unlikely context of Matlock Bath, creating a typically resourceful HMHB rhyme. The song is The Light at the End of the Tunnel (tunnel nicely rhymed with runnel), and the line is 'And when you're in Matlock Bath you don't need Sylvia Plath'. True enough. Matlock Bath, I should explain for those unfamiliar with the Peak District's attractions, occupies a beautiful location in the Derwent valley, but today more closely resembles a downmarket seaside resort than the genteel spa town - and magnet to romantically inclined artists and writers - that it once was. It is extremely popular with motorcyclists, reeks of petrol fumes and chip fat, boasts a theme park called Gulliver's Kingdom and is generally noisy and crowded, while the pubs and cafes seem to be permanently full of very large people eating prodigious quantities of food. It's a good thing Ruskin - who used to rhapsodise about the place - isn't alive to see it now. (Also mentioned in the song is Eyam, the famous Derbyshire 'plague village', which heroically isolated itself during an outbreak of plague.)
  Half Man Half Biscuit (strangers to commercial success) have been described as 'England's greatest folk band' and a 'national treasure'. Their song titles are certainly cherishable - Joy Division Oven Gloves, Hedley Verityesque, The Bastard Son of Dean Friedman, I Hate Nerys Hughes, Rod Hull Is Alive - Why?, I Love You Because (You Look Like Jim Reeves), On Passing Lilac Urine... Yes, not exactly the stuff of hit-parade glory.
  Should you care to, you can listen to The Light at the End of the Tunnel here. Enjoy...


  1. Not forgetting the 'companion piece' to Hedley Verityesque "F*** Me Its Fred Titmus! "

  2. Indeed yes - an even better title!
    I might have been a bit hard on Matlock Bath there - the beauty of the place is that you can escape all that in no time, simply by climbing any of the roads or paths away from the main drag. Suddenly it's all rather wonderful. I remember a sunny autumn morning above Matlock Bath. Dozens upon dozens of Tortoiseshells on the buddleia bushes...

  3. Matlock Bath: a downmarket seaside resort during daylight hours - yes indeed. But come September night hours, the resort is transformed by its famous Venetian Night Illuminations. Tourists flock from far and wide to view the parade of lit-up boats that oarsmen row up and down the Derwent. Twinkling representations of gondolas, steam ships, paddle boats and so forth enthrall the crowds, as do the delightful international folk dancing groups. The spectacle has the feel of what a good night out for the comrades might have been like in Stalin's day. One year, disaster befell the Illuminations when the lit-up Titanic rowing boat hit a rock and sank.

  4. Ah that's brilliant Mary - sorry I missed that! I do have vague childhood memories of the illuminations - and of a totally mystifying son et lumiere in Buxton. Mind you, as a child I found most things mystifying - still do, come to think...