This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Saturday Rave: not to mention Captain Flack.

It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing...

So, are we in the dazzling, exciting, unpredictable world of jazz?


Just the opposite.

We're in a place where everyone plods. Even the fire and rescue service plod. Even when there's an emergency.

Plod. Plod. Plod.

Captain Flack is the chief fireman, and before his men plod dutifully to their fire engine to sort out the next emergency they make a point of wasting even more valuable time having a roll-call.

That's Captain Flack on the right. The other firemen are called:

Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble, Grubb!

So, where are we? We're in Gordon Murray's 1960s stop-frame animation for pre-school children, Trumpton. Alison Prince wrote the script, which was chiefly about the firemen being marvellous. The only slight constraint on her was that she couldn't involve any fire, smoke or water in the stories because that would be too hard to animate.

The very excellent music was by Freddie Phillips, and the very excellent lyrics to the very excellent songs were written jointly by Phillips and Prince.

Phillips also claimed credit for introducing the first Pugh in the roll call, to fit in better with the swing of his six-eight music.

So that now, if you say Pugh, Pugh, Barney someone, more or less anyone, in Britain, they will respond with huge enthusiasm: Cuthbert, Dibble, Grubb!

In fact, you'll be lucky if you get past the second Pugh without everyone in the room joining in.

What makes this string of names so irresistibly satisfying? Is it the six-eight rhythm? Is it the sheer infectious pleasure of the SHOUTING? Is it the random silliness of the names?

In a way it doesn't matter. These small firemen have given millions of people much joy for many years, and will continue to do so for many more.

What more could we possibly want?

Word To Use Today: Cuthbert. Hints for use:
St Cuthbert's beads are the fossils of the stalky bit of a sea lily:

(you can put on string to help you count your prayers) and St Cuthbert's duck:

is the eider, which St Cuthbert protected on the Farne Island.


  1. Well, growing up in NZ, I missed out on Captain Flack.
    Dang it all, cos Dibble looks like, well tall! :)

    1. I have a horrible feeling you may have just invented an entirely new genre, Jingles. Prepare to take your place in literary history.

  2. Don't hate me for this, Sally, but being an 80s / 90s child, my first contact with Trumpton was Urban Hype's ridiculously naff "A Trip to Trumpton". Having just watched it again, I am shocked and appalled that this ever sounded good to my ears, and I would like to proffer a heartfelt apology to Pugh, Pugh, Barney, McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble and Grub and all that loved them.

    1. Thanks, Eddie, that's good fun and actually makes my point very well.
      However, if you really want to apologise perhaps you should consider growing some Barney McGrew whiskers as a penance. And then, please, decide against it.


All comments are very welcome, but please make them suitable for The Word Den's family audience.