Boo Boo Bird

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“It is up to you 
whether you read this…
my advice is just 
to ignore it.”

    Ivor Cutler

Ivor Cutler was the Scottish equivalent of Spike Milligan. He was an eccentric poet, songwriter and humourist. His fans included The Beatles, John Peel, KT Tunstall, John Lydon, Neil Innes and Robert Wyatt. He was the driver of the Magical Mystery Tour bus. He doesn’t need a ticket to ride on the Crotchety Man blog.

Ivor Cutler’s life and work were distinctly (and quite deliberately) bonkers. Matthew Lenton, director of the play The Beautiful Cosmos of Ivor Cutler, put it like this: “he didn’t live by the same rules as everybody else”. As my tribute to Ivor Cutler I give you one of his longer and more tuneful songs, Boo Boo Bird. In the video the song is introduced by Ivor himself; no further commentary is required here.

While constructing this post it occurred to me that the Boo Boo bird is rather like the creature described in the half-nonsense poem, What a Queer Bird the Frog Are, and curiosity took me to this delightful round on YouTube.

I’m sure Ivor Cutler would have appreciated both the poem and the music there. Oh, and if you’re wondering, you can tell the difference between a Boo Boo bird and a frog by their calls. The Boo Boo bird goes “boo, boo”; the frog goes “ribba, ribba”.


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.

GreensleevesHenry 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.
Acoustick closephoto
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?