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The Recumbent Posture

by Marriott Edgar (1939)
Illustrations by John Hassall

The doctor calls on Albert
The doctor calls on Albert

Years ago, having bought their stick with an 'orses 'ead 'andle, cheeky schoolboys (and girls) might have tried to confuse Woolworth's shop assistants by asking for a Recumbent Posture, but it was usually a waste of time; everyone in my Yorkshire town was familiar with this poem.

But hours of fun could be enjoyed by getting them to rummage through the stockroom for a 'sky-hook'.

Today, a sky-hooks actually exist (various equipment such as surface-to-air lifting gear used on helicopters) but I'm sure they've been replaced by another leg-pull.

The day after Christmas, young Albert
Were what's called, confined to his bed,
With a tight kind of pain in his stummick
And a light feeling up in his head.

His parents were all in a fluster
When they saw little lad were so sick,
They said, "Put out your tongue!" When they'd seen it
They said, "Put it back again - quick!"

Ma made him a basin of gruel,
But that were a move for the worse;
Though the little lad tried hard to eat it,
At the finish he did the reverse.

The pain showed no signs of abating,
So at last they got Doctor to call.
He said it were in the ab-domain
And not in the stummick at all.

He sent up a bottle of physick,
With instructions on t' label to say,
"To be taken in a recumbent posture,
One teaspoon, three times a day."

As Ma stood there reading the label
Pa started to fidget about.
He said "Get a teaspoon and dose him,
Before he gets better without."

"I can manage the teaspoon" said Mother
A look of distress on her face.
"It's this 'ere recumbent posture...
I haven't got one in the place."

Said Pa, "What about Mrs Lupton?...
Next door 'ere - you'd better ask her;
A woman who's buried three husbands
Is sure to have one of them there."

So they went round and asked Mrs Lupton,
"Aye, I know what you mean," she replied,
"I 'ad one on order for 'Orace,
But poor dear got impatient and died."

They try the Co-op shop
They try the Co-op shop

She said, "You'd best try the Co-Op shop,
They'll have one in stock I dare say;
'Fact I think I saw one in the winder
Last time I was passing that way."

So round they went to the Co-Op shop,
And at the counter for household supplies;
Pa asked for a recumbent posture
And the shopman said "Yes sir... what size?"

Said Ma, "It's for our little Albert,
I don't know what size he would use,
I know he takes thirteen in collars,
And sixes, four fittings, in shoes."

"If it's little lads size as you're wanting,"
Said the shopman, "I'm sorry to say,
We nobbut had one in the building,
And that one were sold yesterday."

He sent them across to a tin-smith,
Who said, "I know what you've in mind;
If you'll draw me a pattern, I'll make one."
But Pa'd left his pencil behind.

They tried every shop they could think of,
They walked for two hours by the clock,
And though most places reckoned to keep them,
They'd none of them got one in stock.

The last place they tried was the chemist,
He looked at them both with a frown.
And told them a recumbent posture
Were Latin, and meant lying down.

It means "Lying down" - put in Latin
Said Father, "That's just what I thowt."
Then he picked up a side-glance from Mother,
And pretended he hadn't said nowt.

"They're not dosing my lad with Latin."
Said Mother, her face looking grim,
"Just plain Castor Oil's all he's getting
And I'm leaving the posture to him."

At last they visit the chemist
At last they visit the chemist

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