Deborah, the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire,
Doesn’t dwell, and never did, in Devon
But Derbyshire, while the Duke of Gloucester lives
In Kensington and seldom sees the Severn.
Edinburgh, as we know, was based in Buckingham
Palace, and, from my limited line of knowledge, there
The Duke of Norfolk has lived for several centuries
In Arundel, West Sussex, rather than Norwich.
Which probably goes to show a lot of things
About the nature of the English toff,
But mainly, when you think you’ve got them placed,
You’re actually a very long way off.

The London Pigeon

I am the London Pigeon
And I know what to do.
I catch the train at Richmond
But then get out at Kew.

Sometimes there’s a cuckoo,
Sometimes there’s a crow,
Sometimes shifty-lookers
Whom I cannot claim to know.

The air of the south-west quarters
Is commendably sweet and mild,
With suburban parks and water
To keep it undefiled

Unlike the wan commuter
Who soils his freshness daily
With going so greyly suited
To boardroom, Bank or Bailey.

Why labour in such a fashion
As visibly depletes them
When I have free admission
To the world’s top arboretum
With its realm of bright exotica,
Botanically topical,
Its glass palatial hothouses
Both temperate and tropical?

Pity the preening pouter
Who throngs to Trafalgar Square
And feeds false thought about us
By playing the scrounger there.

I am the London Pigeon
And what I’m saying is true;
I board the train at Richmond
And then get off at Kew.
‘I am the London pigeon and I know what to do…’

Not Alone in this World


Isabella Pappas is the singer on Not Alone in This World, now on iTunes and Spotify. Find all of Alan’s songs via his profile page on iTunes and Spotify.

One of the compensations of lockdown is that it gives you the chance of doing things you really wanted to but lacked the time. No excuses any more for not disentangling still-useful cookbooks from the travel shelf.

For a long time I’ve been meaning to put loads of songs that I wrote, or co-wrote, onto Spotify, iTunes and Soundcloud, and have at last got round to doing so. There are six albums’ worth of them, mostly sung by the wonderful Patty Vetta, with whom I played and toured for many years, and produced by her husband Tony Harris. We played them at festivals and clubs all over the country, and were regularly joined by the talented West End actor and singer Charlotte Moore, who also features on many of the recordings.

Doing such a rounding-up operation represents a challenge as much as a chance. You come face to face, in an aural sense, with stuff that you forgot you wrote, but which now sounds faintly familiar. There are nearly a hundred of these songs online now, and a few more still to come. 

As is often the way with songs, a couple have had fresh relevance thrust on them by the ‘coronacrisis’. One such is Take Good Care of Your Memories, which was played early in the lockdown on Spanish radio. It was written as a sort of tribute to the wartime music of my parents’ generation – my father having been a paratrooper and my mother a nurse from Brazil who worked at the hospital where he was recovering from his wounds.

Another is Not Alone In This World, superbly sung by the emerging star Isabella Pappas, with me doing my best as a backing vocalist. You can also hear Izzy on three other songs on the same album: the title track Wherever You Go, the haunting melody Losing It and the toe-tapping jazzy Already in Love.

These songs would not have seen the light of day without the performances of such fine players and singers as Patty, Charlotte and Isabella, and terrific session musicians of the calibre of Graham Preskett, Wes McGhee and Chris Leslie (fiddler with the renowned Fairport Convention band.)

Without my eighteen-year-old musician son Arthur (Arfa) and his familiarity with digital platforms, I would have been stuck, and I can’t thank him enough, even though I continue to try.