I am writing in something of a self-defence mode today (how ironic to have to defend oneself in a supposedly free country only purged of the Nazi threat by brave soldiers cheered on by yours truly!), after reading an article in your usually-praiseworthy journal as recently as recently. This was a humorous 'squib' or 'skit' I fancy, about my famous songs 'We'll Meet Again' and 'White Cliffs of Dover'.
I am getting sick and tired of these hackneyed jokes about me and my music. Lewd remarks about my soubriquet 'The Forces Sweetheart' are another source of grief, but I will not discuss that today. It is the musical skits that I have had enough of.
You see, it's the likes of the cartoon of the eskimos outside the igloo sitting down to eat and complaining 'Whale Meet Again!' that really gets my goat. I mean, we did have to eat whale meat during the war, and that was far from funny.
Furthermore, it's well-known in eskimo circles that hardly any eskimos use igloos any more. And why would they be sitting outside the igloo, apart from their location being a mere device to enable the cartoonist to avoid having to accomplish the technically arduous feat of depicting the inside of the house of snow.
And this is not all.
The offending article made much of the fact that I sing about bluebirds being over the white cliffs of Dover, whereas the bluebird is a native of the Americas. Well! Has no-one heard of the felicity of metaphor, or the techniques of magic realism as favoured by authors like Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Salman Rushdie.
My song is not a documentary by David Attenborough. It is meant to inspire and cheer by the use of dreamlike images and a nice tune. As fellow magic realist poor Mr Rushdie found out a few years ago, the philistines and destroyers are always waiting to pounce on an artist.
Dame Vera Lynn
I wish to express my displeasure at the manner of portrayal of my character in popular TV shows. Now I am no stranger to jollity. Jollification is my middle name (it's not really, it is actually Graeme, but never mind that). Fun and games are my stock in trade (again not really, I am an unemployed jigsaw-cutter, but I am prepared to let that go if you are). I like a laugh as much as the next man (and when he comes, I'll have a laugh with him, I can assure you of that). Nay. But there is a limit to everything (there isn't, if you think about it, but not to worry, we're not here to discuss metaphysics).
What it is, is, I have never appreciated the way I have been portrayed on TV. In Coronation Street, I was basically played as a younger version of obese layabout Stan Ogden. Let's not beat about the bush. I was a fat Scouse ne'er do well who was allergic to work and a complete loser. Nothing could be further from the actuality, as they say in Montmartre (my 'Corrie' version wouldn't have used an illustration of that class, now, would he?). I keep myself trim, in the daily hope that the jigsaw-cutting fairy may smile upon me and jigsaw-cutting work might one day be mine again. I speak seven languages, most of them English, and mix in what can only be described as 'musical' circles, being a member of the Gravesend Gilbert & Sullivan 'Ruddigoreans'. My collection of apostle spoons knows no bounds (see above - this is a telling example that limits do not apply to everything!), and I appreciate the finer examples of 19th century daguerrotype portraitures. I don't even speak with a 'scouse' accent, preferring to adopt the 'Queen's English' of 'received pronunciation'. I have been compared to 'cut glass' before now.
Imagine my ire, then, when, to add insult to injury, I find that the obnoxious Coronation Street character began to enjoy a sort of afterlife in the comedy series 'Keeping Up Appearences', in the hideous shape of overweight deadleg 'Onslow' who, wait for it, was fat, scouse, wore a grubby string vest and never worked.
I really am at my tether's end, and am considering moving to the Isle of Wight, where I feel more sedate pastures might afford more pleasant grazing, away from the 'Yahoo' herds infesting the mainland.
why does everybody think I am such a miserable get? All I see and hear in the media is stuff about 'Hardy The Pessimist' and 'Hardy's Bleak Vision', and stories about how me and Emma never spoke in the latter years of my first marriage and I was carrying on with my secretary Florence for some of that time. I mean - a lifetime of creative labour, producing some of the greatest novels, stories and poems in the world, and they basically call you a miserable womanising old bastard! That's the media for you.
But it's just not true! I was always having a laugh. My favourite jape was leaving a bucket of water balanced on top of my study door, so that, when Emma my first wife came in, she'd get the lot on the bonce! I also used to love putting creepy crawlies in her knicker drawer. No wonder she stopped speaking to me, I hear you retort, but even in those long dark days when she lived in the attic and I was having Flo on the rug, Emma and I often exchanged archly ironic notes. I'd send up little squibs such as 'a busy morning - Flo took down my particulars' and the like.
If you'd seen me struggling to get Tess of the D'Urbevilles going - it took me 6 months to get the first sentence right - but still being able to have a laugh with the postman by leaving concealed mantraps in the garden, well, you'd have known the real Tommy 'Laugh a Minute' Hardy!
PS My poem 'The Darkling Thrush' actually began as a limerick about old Mrs Beswetherick's canary.
PPS And 'A Pair of Blue Eyes' was 'A Pair of Big Ones' until my publisher persuaded me that it wouldn't sell, and I changed tack. I often wonder how history might have judged me, had I gone for raucous comedy. Ah, but it's too late now. As Lear says: As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods; they kill us for their sport. But personally, I never get Shakespeare's jokes.