You Might As Well Shit In Your Hat

No photograph would do justice to that phrase, so I will do without for fear of scandalising the congregation.

It was a statement in frequent use by my grandmother’s neighbour… a lady of firm opinions, baldly stated. I would dearly like to have her resurrected in this era of trigger warnings, PCism and all that…Saul might have slain his thousands, but she would have slain her ten thousands, snowflakes melting to left and right of her. Suffice it to say that she enjoyed the Black and White Minstrel Show on the television, went to church on Sundays and regarded all foreigners with suspicion. Rumour had it that in her younger days during the Great War she had denounced a Belgian for espionage on the grounds that he wore a wig, proving that he was a master of disguise.

She was also involved in the forced resignation of my grandfather from his post as an ARP warden in the Second World War when he crept up on her gossiping and waved his gas rattle at her. The fact that he was supposed to be a messenger during an exercise which supposed a German bombing raid in the area which resulted in, hypothetically, the gasworks being blown up together with the trolley bus depot and the hospital because he had dallied in the Rose and Crown might also have had something to do with it…but as far as he was concerned, it was the neighbour wot done it.

As children, my grandmother used to usher us indoors when an encounter with her neighbour was likely to sully our ears, but she had a carrying voice and we, straining our ears for more, were agog.

The problem was, one could not seek enlightenment….one would be accused of eavesdropping…so to this day the phrase, ‘There she stood, tits akimbo’ remains an enigma.

I can remember receiving a horrified dressing down by my mother when I saw a woman walking down the road outside and asked whom that tart might be, as she had been so apostrophised by the neighbour. I had been puzzled as to me, in the age of innocence, a tart was something to eat, made of pastry and fruit, so I vaguely thought the woman must be involved in the bakery business. I was enjoined never to use the phrase of any woman but retained an idea that women who ate fruit tarts were of ill repute but that attention should not be drawn to that fact.

Which sounds very like the respect accorded to the current generation of politicians. We know they are venal lowlife, but attention should not be drawn to that fact…because if you do you are either wearing a tinfoil hat, are a domestic terrorist or a pathetic lunatic…so, as she so often said, you can kick up all you want, but you might as well shit in your hat.


26 thoughts on “You Might As Well Shit In Your Hat”

  1. Few things illustrate the great divide twixt rich and poor than shitting in one’s hat. The anything-but-simple logistics of shitting in an Edinburgh Woollen Mill tweed flat cap versus the molly-coddled ease of doing so in a Lock & Co topper speaks volumes. Don’t even get me started on a foldable Goretex Air-Flow with chin-strap.

    1. That chin strap might prove a problem….probably the topper might be best, offering, as it does, a long drop.and the fond hope that Jacob Rees Mogg might absent mindedly don it before a minion had had time to empty it.

  2. Ahh! The joys of resurrected childhood memories that you have exhumed . . the curtain twitching ‘forrin woman’ (Dutch) across the road; that ‘trollop’ Mrs. Akehurst always ‘tra-la-la-laing’ at the top of her voice ‘and no ‘usban’ to be seen’; and on, and on! Mother had a bad opinion about just about everyone and the nasty words to illustrate those opinions. She held them to the end of her (miserable?) life as she shrank in height and weight due to progressive amputations of both lower limbs caused by ‘them bleedin’ forrin doctors’ who who gave her the wrong prescriptions for her peripheral arterial disease (known causes; diabetes and smoking) that a life time of fags, ‘me only pleasure in life’, had nothing to do with! Her home help was a delightful and incredibly patient lady who had escaped from the DDR and had arrived in ‘Ingland’ as a political refugee. The war having been over for thirty odd years made no difference to mother’s invective – ‘Bleedin’ square ‘ed takin’ honest folk’s jobs. We fought a war to stop them!’ When I challenged her attitude and language she responded with her triumphal, winning argument closer – ‘Oh, arse’oles, ‘ave apple!’ In truth she knew what we all knew, that she really didn’t have a leg to stand on!

  3. My parents never criticised neighbours. Not even the drunk downstairs.
    Instead, we were warned to ‘be careful’ and speak canny.
    They may have had similar opinions but kids were not encouraged to know them.
    The folks on the top floor were good folks, but they were a Leith couple.
    As such she swore a lot (Bloody was the common word) which no other woman then used unless under real stress. That stress was the kids!
    Now kids swear all the time, we at least waited until secondary school.

    1. Like most kids, our ears were flapping but we knew better than to seek information! I put my question about the ‘tart’ in pure innocence – and learned never to ask anything else again!

  4. She was loud, to say the least. The Lord help the milkman if he was
    A late or
    B too early
    Staying with grandparents offered a rare chance to see her husband – a small quiet man whose voice was never heard. If you rose betimes you had the treat of watching his pyjama clad figure shuffle down the garden bearing a gozunder full of urine to his green house in which he raised tomatoes.
    His wife made a lethal elderberry wine, whose manufacture was rumoured to involve the same gozunder…and I was once summoned by my grandfather to watch the fate of the insurance collector who had rashly accepted a glass of her hell brew. He made it on foot to the gate, had one hell of a job getting on his bicycle, and collided with a privet hedge a few yards down the road.
    ‘Never learns.’ said grandfather.
    Needless to say she was a true blue Tory which gave rise to problems as my grandparents’ house was the Labour Party H.Q. for that ward at election times….and her husband’s car was the first to be disabled by having a potato shoved up its exhaust to prevent it being used to ferry ‘Tory supporters to the polling station.

  5. Colorful phrases of the olden day were so much more effective than the mild cuss words of today. Hey…we still are astounded when little Johnny says the F-word…. why? Everyone including his grandma probably says sit. I used to tattle on my brother for using words that were so bad I couldn’t even spell them. bah humbug…

    good post 🙂

  6. My husband’s horrible younger brother used to ask father what ‘blankety blank’ meant and when asked where he heard it indicated his older brother who didn’t know what it meant and had never used it.
    However, having learnt the meaning he knew how to apply it to the little pest.

  7. “akimbo”! What a mental picture. Akimbo! I can’t stop laughing. I must remember that. Consider the possibilities.

  8. My Irish grandmother was known to tell people with whom she disageed, “Go shit in your hat and pull it down over your ears.” She also had an astonishing knowledge of songs that would today be considered horrendously racist and would sing them at volume as she pounded the piano well into her 90s. I can’t even list the song titles; they were so bad. But she had not a racist bone in her body. Things were different for someone whose birthday was in the 1890s.

    1. Your comment sent me down a rabbit hole of Googling. Maybe a rathole would be more precise. I was looking for information to add more context to my Grandmother’s racist song repertoire. Much info came to light but one entry, in Wikipedia of all things, was particularly enlightening not the least because it included a number of the songs that I recall Nana singing to the collective horror of the family and neighbors.

      Should you want to check it out, here’s the link– Even the title of the article, “Coon Songs,” is enough to start social justice riots these days.

      I did especially like this one tidbit in the Wiki entry: “In 1905, Bob Cole, an African-American composer who had gained fame largely by writing coon songs, made somewhat unprecedented remarks about the genre. When asked in an interview about the name of his earlier comedy A Trip to Coontown, he replied, “That day has passed with the softly flowing tide of revelations.” Nice turn of phrase and so true.

  9. I don’t think my grandmother was too impressed by her neighbour…especially as when she and her husband moved there there were no neighbours…and then a building boom started and what had been a house in the country became a house on the edge of town.

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