Kage Baker was as fond as anyone else of Last Day pranks. As long as they were in character and period and did not mess up anyone’s gig, she was all for a bit of last day mania. She pulled several herself over the years.
However, she’d have thought my attending Dickens this weekend to be a particularly puerile and self-indulgent kind of prank. I’d have placed more burdens on my splendid and over-worked folk, ruined their fun with worry, and basically given them one more big lumpy prop to pack out at the end of the day. Bad form, that.
It would have been fantastically dramatic to go to Fezziwig’s tonight and drop dead on the dance floor during the Last Waltz, or at the culmination of the Allelujah Chorus. But I’d have ruined the mood, the ambiance, the blow-off – and probably a few backs picking me up again; I weigh 20 stone.
Instead, I’m sending a love note: a song. Kage loved this song. So do I. It’s a carnie song about breaking down the show – if you’ve ever heard the great tent poles coming down, ringing like bells in the dark as the sets are struck, you know what it’s about.
It is The Last Day Song, a hymn to our cyclic passion, to the city of London/Chipping-Under-Oakwood/Brigadoon we build over and over and over. When we couldn’t coax anyone else into singing it, Kage and I would sing it ourselves. Once. We sang this song just once, on the last day, at the end of the day, and we did not repeat it – it is The Last Song.
In my head, though, I always hear it in Steve Aultman’s voice. I learned it from him in the salad days of Cyderman’s Fancy, and it was one of the few Last Day rituals that made me weep. It still does: not for sorrow or loss, but for beauty. For the rolling wheel of a living cycle. For the certainty that we’ll be back next year.
So here it is for the folks now just starting the last day of Dickens Fair. No one will be singing this there – it was our ritual, Kage and I, these last several years; we’d sit in a corner of the Parlour and sing it once, late on Sunday. Then we’d go off and watch the last few dances at Fezziwig’s, and sing the Alleluia Chorus.
Haul down, lads.
Haul down lads, pass the bevvy round lads,
“Ta’ra” to Sylvie, “Ta’ra” to Jean, we’ll soon be on the road,
Don’t think on what you’re leaving, don’t think on what you’ve found,
Just tear off the tilt, pull out the chat, we’ll find another ground.
Pull down lads, it wasn’t a bad ground lads,
We’ve made some brass, you’ve had a lass, it’s perhaps as well we’re going,
I know how it can hurt, lads, to leave her standing here,
For there’s often fears and there’s always tears, but you’ll be back next year.
Pull down lads, the sets are coming down lads,
The ox all packed and the dodgems stacked, a bite of scran then go,
We’ll leave it as we found it, they’ll soon forget we’ve been,
For we trade in fun and we go and come, we’re often scorned but seldom mourned,
I hope you know what I mean.
Dedicated with profound love and gratitude to Cyderman’s Fancy and all the sweet voices who sang Faires to bed over the many, many years.
Bless you, Kathleen, you’ve brought tears of nostalgia, memories, comfort and joy. Yes, the wheel is a’turning and times are a’going, and for every down, there is an equal, upright movement. Haul away, lads. The wheel will come round again.
A fine song for a fine day and, yes, it will come again. You must teach this song to the young ones. They’ll need it, in time.
Just the right note to send me to bed…having blown out Sal’s, with our lovely Scum on Whore’s Walk side stage, a full marching “Henry the Eighth” through the audience, the magnificent Molly doing “Head Tucked Underneath Her Arm,” and a “Twelve Days of Christmas” so bawdy and beautiful that Mad Sal waxed maudlin. And it was left to the chorus to tall the audience to “Bugger Off!” I left old pals and new friends with the reminder, “same time, next year…Gods willing.”
“Welcome back my friends, to the show that never ends…”
Mark: yep, that’s us.
Thank you for the reminder of Cyderman’s Fancy. I found that Jon has posted some of their songs on his website here and here.