Books Magazine

Red Letter Day

By Ashleylister @ashleylister
Do you remember the quip: "I used to be indecisive - but now I'm not so sure!"?
I have to admit that Red Letter Day is my fourth (and final) variation on this week's topic. I settled on it because today, 4th February, I have attained that uncertain age! It's uncertain because 64 doesn't really signify anything, does it? It's not 60 or 65 and it would pass as not even worthy of note had it not been for The Beatles...

Red Letter Day

Special red vinyl US-only single version of "When I'm Sixty Four" (for juke-box use)

More on which later. To begin with I was going to tackle palindromes, words or phrases in which the letters read the same backwards as forwards - kayak being a perfect example, or Aoxomoxoa (which fans of the Grateful Dead will recognize as an album title). I was working on a poem that read the same backwards as forwards but I couldn't wrestle it into a meaningful form in time. So I ditched that idea, though I will just share with you my favorite palindrome which reads: A man, a plan, a canal, Panama.
I moved on to the notion of satirising the 45th president of the USA - clearly not a Man of Letters, albeit someone suffering from Acute Executive Disorder - but that idea wore thin rather quickly. It ended up as a Fake News post on Facebook about Donald Trump being given an arsehole transplant in an attempt to surgically cure his Executive Disorder... only for the new arsehole to reject him!
Plan C was French Letters. I did quite a bit of research into the written correspondence between Napoleon Bonaparte and Josephine de Beauharnais. The former is said to have written over 75,000 letters in his lifetime, many of them to his lover and Empress. Hundreds of his passionate epistles are extant and make for interesting reading. Josephine (real name Marie Rose) occasionally wrote back. She was unable to give Napoleon an heir (although she had offspring by a previous liaison) and eventually agreed to his demand/request for a divorce. Her acquiescence is contained in the letter below.
Red Letter Day

Even that didn't quite gel and so eventually I settled on this fourth variation (with fleeting reference to the other three) on account of it being my birthday. Here we are then, your Saturday Blogger's red letter day. Red letter days are so called because they were highlighted on calendars in red as opposed to black to make them stand out as special or significant dates. The practice can be traced back to the Roman Empire and then through medieval times (where rubrics, significant letters, were drawn in red in manuscripts) and on into ecclesiastical and legislative calendars. I claim this one as my own (though I used to share the privilege with the author Russell Hoban until he died).
I must say I never liked the song When I'm Sixty-Four. It was the low point on Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. I'm with John Lennon who declared it wasn't anything he would have written. In fact, McCartney composed it (and the Beatles performed it occasionally) in the very early days of the band in 1958 or 1959. Paul wrote it when he was about 16 and still at school and it shows both in style and sentiment. I suspect the Beatles only put it on Sgt Pepper as filler (having been told to release Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields Forever as a double A sided single rather than include them on the album). The kindest verdict one can pass is that it may have been a jolly tongue-in-cheek homage to McCartney's father Jim who had recently attained that uncertain age. In the absence of anything more appropriate this week, here it is, doing what it does best, acting as filler...
When I'm Sixty-Four
When I get older losing my hair,
Many years from now,
Will you still be sending me a Valentine,
Birthday greetings, bottle of wine?
If I'd been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four?
You'll be older too,
And if you say the word,
I could stay with you.
I could be handy, mending a fuse
When your lights have gone.
You can knit a sweater by the fireside,
Sunday morning go for a ride.
Doing the garden, digging the weeds,
Who could ask for more?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I'm sixty-four?
Every summer we can rent a cottage
In the Isle of Wight, if it's not too dear.
We shall scrimp and save.
Grandchildren on your knee,
Vera, Chuck & Dave.
Send me a postcard, drop me a line,
Stating point of view,
Indicate precisely what you mean to say,
Yours sincerely, wasting away.
Give me your answer, fill in a form,
Mine for evermore.
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four?
Thanks for reading, yours faithfully. Dig those weeds, S :-) Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to Facebook

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