Wednesday, August 25, 2004

english monkeys, french monkeys
Rolling down the street at the weekend, kebabs in hand, my friend Tim who was over from the UK and I were apparently called "English Monkeys" by some happy native residents.

Now I admit to being a bit hairy, and sometimes I can be seen walking about town eating a banana, but I don't think either me or Tim could manage to fool any ape experts that we were simian.

Tim was quite troubled by this mistake. He didn't really manage to calm down until he came across a story about the same misidentification being made by the English.

Going back to the time of the Napoleonic Wars, the British understandably had a great fear of a French invasion. The people could be found talking to each other over pork pies and beer, bristling with concern about the possibility of French infiltrators and spies.

Doing their bit for their country, the fishermen of Hartlepool kept a close watch over the English Channel for signs of any suspicious vessels lurking about, trying to invade and steal our fine sliced bread.

One tempestuous day, a French vessel was blown close to the English coast, struggling against a storm. The foul English weather proved too much for the French crew and eventually the battered vessel sunk. It was at this point that the onlooking fishermen turned their attention to the raggedy wreckage that had been tossed ashore amongst the froth and the surf.

The fishermen thought that none had survived the storm, until clinging to a sodden and splintered beam, one wet and sorrowful looking survivor was found. The ship's pet monkey been lucky, despite being dressed in an amusing military uniform.

The fishermen decided to question the monkey and set to work holding a trial right there on the beach. None of them had ever met a Frenchman, and since the creature said nothing in his own defense the fishermen came to the conclusion that the monkey was a French spy.

The punishment for this dastardly deed was death by hanging, and so the little chimp was left swinging in the rain, high on the mast of a fishing boat.

To commemerate this crazy tale, the people of Hartlepool turned to song. Here are the words of their cheery ditty...

In former times, when war and strife
The French invasion threaten'd life
An' all was armed to the knife
The Fisherman hung the monkey O !
The Fishermen with courage high,
Siezed on the monkey for a French spy;
"Hang him !" says one; "he's to die"
They did and they hung the monkey Oh!
They tried every means to make him speak
And tortured the monkey till loud he did speak;
Says yen "thats french" says another "its Greek"
For the fishermen had got druncky oh!

People singing, getting drunk, and demanding executions... Read The Sun down any pub and you might think nothing has changed much in 250 years ;o)

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