The Crotchety clan is going back in time again. Mrs Crotchety and her daughter are going way back to the Jurassic era of pre-history (as portrayed in the film sets of Jurassic World). And, while they’re at the cinema, Crotchety Man is visiting Tudor England.
Henry VIII has been dead for more than 40 years, Elizabeth I is on the throne and Shakespeare is writing his first plays. We can hear the sound of a minstrel plucking the strings of his lute and singing a lament for the Lady Greensleeves, who has spurned his advances. But, soft, that is like no lute that I have ever seen. “Pray, sir, what instrument is it that you play so melodiously?”, I enquire. “It is named after Emmett Chapman, gentleman and renowned luthier”, replies the minstrel, doffing his hat. “It is called a Chapman Stick, but it will not be invented for another 380 years”.
His remark seems not to have been noticed by the bystanders but it shakes me to the core. Obviously, I am not the only time traveller here. “Why, sir, you look suddenly pale”, says the musician. “Let us buy some ale and we will sup together for a while.” He steers me through the London streets to an inn by the river, calls for a jug of the landlord’s finest and bids me drink while I recover my composure.
I ask him his name and how he came to be here. He tells me he is Bob Culbertson and he came here by chance, carried on a train of thought. Quite satisfied by this explanation, I ask about the song he was singing. The Stick player knows little more than I. He learnt the tune from a passing band of entertainers too drunk to be serious. According to them Greensleeves was composed by Henry VIII but it was only known in these parts long after that king’s death. It is usually played using a melodic minor scale I am told, but other versions are heard from time to time, too.
An hourglass catches my eye. The sands are running out. It is time I was going. “Play it again for us, Bob”, I entreat. A few groats are tossed onto a table, the minstrel takes up his instrument again and a small crowd gathers round. As a weariness descends upon me I close my eyes and listen in rapt admiration for the skill of the player and the beauty of the arrangement.
When the strains of the Stick fade away and I open my eyes again I am back in the present. A YouTube video has just ended and the girls are back from the cinema. They are full of praise for the Jurassic world but I think I much prefer the Tudor period and the soothing tune of Greensleeves. Dinosaurs are just so passé, don’t you think?