|The flowers of ramsons (Allium ursinum)|
"What was unusual about Henry the Eighth?" she asked the class, and nine year old Billy's hand shot up.
"Please miss, 'e was unusual 'cos 'e 'adn't got a willy", he said, a serious look on his face.
There was a frozen silence which eventually gave way to suppressed sniggers from the rest of the class. Billy looked round indignantly. It wasn't often he came up with the right answer but he knew he was on the ball with this one. Unfortunately he was known to be disruptive in class - a bit of a joker - but this was one step beyond, even for him.
"I beg your pardon".
"'E 'adn't got a wi.....".
"That is very rude Billy Jones. Before I send to to the head's office, why did you say that?"
Anthony looked mystified. "Well, 'cos it sez it in the song".
To those of you who missed the more intellectual musical entertainments of the 'sixties, a group called Joe Brown and the Bruvvers recorded a song about a bloke called Henery who married the widow next door who had been married seven times before. At one point in the chorus, she firmly proclaims that she 'wouldn't have a Willy or a Sam' (because she preferred an 'enery), and it was this, hearing it on his dad's 'Hits of the Sixties' CD, that Billy had unfortunately misinterpreted. Although Billy had got it wrong, the incident made me think of the potential for teaching through rhyme and music. For example:
Henry stepped down from his throne
To marry Anne Boleyn, it is known
Broke the rules of the church
And left the Pope in the lurch
By making a church of his own.
O.k. Maybe Wordsworth it isn't and as a full history of Henry it's a bit constricted, but I bet Billy'd go for it.
And believe it or not, there's a plant called Good King Henry (Chenopodium bonus-henricus). Actually, it's a weed - often one of the first to appear on newly cultivated ground. In the past it was used as a vegetable and was widely grown in Lincolnshire, where it was known as Lincolnshire Spinach. However the Asian spinach then arrived on the scene and Good King Henry abdicated. It is useful as a green manure, its deep roots absorbing valuable nutrients which can then be made available for shallower rooting crops by being cultivated into the soil. The common name comes from German meaning 'good Henry' and is supposed to refer to an elf. Somewhere along the line the English stuck 'king' into the name and it has stuck. It has absolutely nothing to do with Henry the Eighth, but is the perfect bridge into gardening from the above anecdote.
|A healthy bank of ramsons|
Eat leaks in Lide (March) and ramsins in May
And all the year after physicians may play
Probably one of the biggest deterrents to walking in Scotland is the merciless attention of midges and a couple of leaves of ramsons, crushed and waved round your head, will keep them away. Don't wave too vigorously though as this may be misinterpreted as a cry for help and, before you know what's happening, you've been mountain rescued.
|White deadnettle (Lamium album)|