As some of you may know, I support my jazz habit by working days at a splendid old law library called The Great Library. Among other things, this makes it easier for people who’ve heard me play bass to say “Don’t quit your day job.” The library dates back to the 1840s, when people actually used words like “great” to mean “big” – we’ve tried to get the name changed to “The Awesome Library”, but no luck.
One of the more impressive rooms in the library is The American Room, so-called because for years it housed a huge collection of American law reports, before most of them were replaced by digitized on-line versions. (After all, who needs books in a library?) Now it holds a mixture of the American reports we’ve kept and all of the British law reports. It’s an odd combination that gets me to thinking the room would be great for staging re-enactments of American Revolutionary War battles – “hurry lads, man the catwalk, Washington’s crossing University Avenue!” – but so far my employers have resisted this idea. The room is sometimes used for movie and photo shoots, as it just screams “big old law library room from the last century”. It has a sixty-foot-high ceiling with a massive stained-glass skylight, plaster mouldings, carved wooden arches and eight hanging bronze chandeliers, each with five lights. There’s a wrought iron spiral staircase leading to the catwalk and the second tier of bookshelves. The ground floor has carved, recessed wooden bookshelves all around the walls and there are six immense, free-standing oak bookshelves lined up in the middle of the room.
In short, it’s magnificent. But recently there have been alarming signs of trouble in the room. We noticed that some of the wall bookshelves were starting to buckle and bow, seemed to be warping. A company that specializes in such things was called in and the culprit seems to be some sort of leak in the roof, causing dampness and water damage. The leaks were sealed, the warping bookshelves were cleared and dried out using huge (but oddly quiet) industrial fans and there are clear plastic tarps draped over the standing bookshelves.
I’m on very good terms with all three of the law librarians who work here and one in particular I’ve become good friends with in the past couple of years, as we share a lot of common interests. Music, food (mostly of the meat variety), movies, books, HBO series, birds. But above all, she and I both love word-play humour – puns, spoonerisms, cartoons and so on. She recently staged a wild and elaborate visual pun regarding the American Room leak. To protect the guilty, I won’t use her name.
I was on duty at the centre desk one morning when she came out to see me, saying with some seriousness, “Steve, there’s something in The American Room I have to show you.” Agog, I replied “I thought you’d never ask”. So in we went and marched along to one of the tall standing bookshelves. She pointed to the top of it, on which there was a big green onion standing upright on a plate. “Look, I found the leek in The American Room.”
It was some time before I stopped giggling and groaning at the sight of this, all weak and doubled over trying to catch my breath. My admiration for her, already considerable, grew by leaps and bounds. Not only had she thought of the pun, but she’d actually procured a leek, put it in her satchel and carried it all the way to work (from Hamilton no less), then set the whole thing up without anyone noticing. I’m telling you, this is the kind of mind that law librarianship needs, never mind searching for the legislative history of a Bill.
Someone else on the library staff took a picture of the leek on the shelf using their smart phone and emailed it around. I replied that these photos couldn’t “be beet”. Another colleague replied that this was “corny”. I replied that I was sorry, asking how I could “ap-peas him”. He answered back with “pear-ish the thought”.
Well, that did it, I started dreaming up a number of awful fruit/vegetable puns, emailing them to the leek lady (now dubbed Ra-pun-zel) as a sort of payback for the laughs, to demonstrate that no good deed goes un-pun-ished:
Two pears met on the street and one asked “How are you today?” and the other replied “Fine. Anjou?”
A lady pear forgot her keys and was locked out of her house one night. She knocked on the door and asked her husband, “Bartlett me in.”
A vegetarian travelling by train complained that her tiny sleeper compartment lacked legume.
Mrs. Rutabaga suspected that Mr. Rutabaga was cheating on her, so she hired a private detective. He said he’d see what he could turnip.
A Chinese pianist really enjoyed playing “The Well-Tempered Clavier”. It brought him a lot of bok choy.
An eggplant named Eugene went to dinner with his girlfriend, who proceeded to break up with him, saying “It’s all aubergine.”
Two melons fell in love and one day the fella asked “Honey, dew you wanna run away and get married?” She replied, “I cantaloupe.”
And those were the good ones…..
So this fruit and vegetable business fermented in my brain for about a week like a germinating seed of putrefaction, and today my mind turned to what it usually does, songs. I started to think of songs about fruit and veg, of which there are quite a few straight-up ones:
“Yes, We Have No Bananas”. “Blueberry Hill”. “Stealin’ Apples”. “Green Onions”. “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”. “Strawberry Fields Forever”. “Limehouse Blues”. “Tangerine”. “Lemon Drop”. “Watermelon Man”. “Jumpin’ Punkins”. “Potato Head Blues”. Etc., etc.
There are a couple of old tunes that can be converted to fruit/veg territory without changing anything, just using the double-meaning of the words “date” and “Savoy”, as in “My Monday Date” and “Stompin’ At the Savoy”.
Not much fun in that though, we need some punsmanship to really “open up the sluices at both ends”. Here then is a kind of fruit, vegetable and herb songbook, maybe we’ll call it “The V-8 Hit Parade”:
“My Meloncholy Baby”.
“Orange You Glad You’re You?”.
“Sprout of Nowhere”.
“Lettuce Do It”.
“Peach Me Tonight”.
“The Berry Thought Of You”.
“The Last Time I Saw Carrots” (or “I Love Carrots in the Springtime” if you like.)
“My Cherry Amour”.
“I Yam In Love”.
“So Beets My Heart For You”.
“A Cabbage For Sale”.
“Sweet-pea Time Down South”.
“Corn To Be Blue”.
“Be Cos of You”.
“She’s Plummy That Way”.
“A Nightingale Sang In Broccoli Square”.
“It’s Bean A Long, Long Time”.
“I Guess I’ll Hang My Pears Out To Dry”. (OK, OK, this one is strictly visual, stop kvetching).
“God Bless the Chilli”. (Another visual one, so sue me).
“A Whiter Shade of Kale” (or for you standards purists, “Love for Kale”).
“Olive Me”. (Or have it your way, “Olive You”).
“Thyme After Thyme”.
“Peas Are the Things I Love”.
“You’re Driving Me Craisin”.
“Too Close For Kumquat”.
“Two to Mango”.
“This Could Be the Start of Something Fig”.
“You Pepper Go Now”.
“If You Could Seed Me Now”.
“In A Little Spinach Town”. (Lester Young was fond of playing an obscure old tune called “In A Little Spanish Town”).
“I Guess I’ll Have To Change My Plantains”.
“Sage It, Over and Over Again”.
“Too Young To Grow Celery”.
“If the Prune Turns Green”. (You can have a “field day” substituting “prune” for “soon” or “moon”. “I Wished on the Prune” would make a great constipation song. Or maybe just “Prune” – “Prune, maybe not tomorrow, but soon…”).
“A Cauliflower Is a Lovesome Thing”. (Sorry, Billy Strayhorn.)
“Odds Against Tomato”. (Sorry, John Lewis.)
“For All Vino”.
And of course, “Chive at Five”.
Clover and out.
© 2014 – 2016, Steve Wallace. All rights reserved.