Ian Dury reprised

A friend shared a meme that said being the age that he was meant he visited three shops, the optician, the pharmacist and Gregg’s bakery: specs and drugs and sausage rolls.

It was the English band Ian Dury and the Blockheads who in 1977 sang Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll. Dury was a memorable, distinctive character who had overcome childhood polio to establish his music career. His lyrics were strong, his style individual, there was no mistaking his music for the schmaltz of pop bands or the cacophony of much of rock music.

More lyrical than Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll was the 1979 record Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3. Ian Dury made a lengthy list of things that created a sense of well-being, running to sixteen stanzas and a refrain, his reasons to be cheerful combined the global and the domestic, the sublime and the lewd. The first two stanzas captured the mood of the song:

Some of Buddy Holly, the working folly
Good Golly Miss Molly and boats
Hammersmith Palais, the Bolshoi Ballet
Jump back in the alley, add nanny goats.

Eighteen-wheeler Scammels, Domineker camels
All other mammals plus equal votes
Seeing Piccadilly, Fanny Smith and Willy
Being rather silly and porridge oats.

When Ian Dury released the song in 1979, it seemed odd to an eighteen year old who listened to it on BBC Radio 1. Why would anyone be cheerful about such a random collection of things? Whose likes would include porridge, NHS glasses and carrot juice, as well as Salvador Dali, Dmitri Shostakovich and Gaetano Donizetti? If nothing, it was a list that eclectic.

With each passing year, there seems more cause to embrace the spirit of Ian Dury’s song. At the start of lockdown last year, the list included the opportunity to travel and to work and to be able to teach in a school where education came before business models.

A year after those early days of lockdown, I wondered what I would now add to my Ian Dury list. If I were to be writing a personal version of Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3 for 2021, what might make the list?

  • The National Health Service: as George Osborne once declared, quoting Nigel Lawson, “the NHS is the closest thing the British people have to a national religion.” Without the NHS, it is hard to imagine what the past twelve months would have been like.
  • Oxford University: when the government announced last year that Oxford would receive funding for Covid-19 vaccine research there was a sense that if the world’s leading university could not find a vaccine, then no-one could.
  • Sainsbury’s Oatmeal and Raisin Cookies: doing the shopping each Wednesday evening, bags of cookies are bought to sustain the humanities teachers through Thursdays.
  • Robert: the long-suffering mechanic who has succeeded Eric and Richard in keeping my cars on the road.
  • Chris Hawkins: the BBC Radio 6 presenter who cheers me on the way to school between 6.15 and 7.00 each morning.

Reasons to be cheerful? Indeed, they are.

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