Sunday 27 July 2014

July 27th: Belloc Night, and the tale of Jim.

Tonight is 'Belloc Night' (a more comprehensible version of 'Burns Night' for fastidious Sussex folk, and all others who speak The Queen's English).

On this night (27th July) we eat Bread, Cheese, and Pickle, and read verses of Belloc; in my case from his most famous tome 'Cautionary Tales for Children'.

If, like me, you intend to celebrate the life and work of Hilaire Belloc tonight (as I'm sure you will), may I suggest that you read 'Jim' to your assembled party; kids love it too!


    There was a Boy whose name was Jim;
    His Friends were very good to him.
    They gave him Tea, and Cakes, and Jam,
    And slices of delicious Ham,
    And Chocolate with pink inside
    And little Tricycles to ride,
    And read him Stories through and through,
    And even took him to the Zoo--
    But there it was the dreadful Fate
    Befell him, which I now relate.
    You know--or at least you ought to know,
    For I have often told you so--
    That Children never are allowed
    To leave their Nurses in a Crowd;
    Now this was Jim's especial Foible,
    He ran away when he was able,
    And on this inauspicious day
    He slipped his hand and ran away!
    He hadn't gone a yard when--Bang!
    With open Jaws, a lion sprang,
    And hungrily began to eat
    The Boy: beginning at his feet.
    Now, just imagine how it feels
    When first your toes and then your heels,
    And then by gradual degrees,
    Your shins and ankles, calves and knees,
    Are slowly eaten, bit by bit.
    No wonder Jim detested it!
    No wonder that he shouted ``Hi!''
    The Honest Keeper heard his cry,
    Though very fat he almost ran
    To help the little gentleman.
    ``Ponto!'' he ordered as he came
    (For Ponto was the Lion's name),
    ``Ponto!'' he cried, with angry Frown,
    ``Let go, Sir! Down, Sir! Put it down!''
    The Lion made a sudden stop,
    He let the Dainty Morsel drop,
    And slunk reluctant to his Cage,
    Snarling with Disappointed Rage.
    But when he bent him over Jim,
    The Honest Keeper's Eyes were dim.
    The Lion having reached his Head,
    The Miserable Boy was dead!
    When Nurse informed his Parents, they
    Were more Concerned than I can say:--
    His Mother, as She dried her eyes,
    Said, ``Well--it gives me no surprise,
    He would not do as he was told!''
    His Father, who was self-controlled,
    Bade all the children round attend
    To James's miserable end,
    And always keep a-hold of Nurse
    For fear of finding something worse.

    As you settle down to your bread cheese and pickles, it is worth noting that in Belloc's book 'The Four Men', he reminds us that in Sussex, cheese is not given silly fancy pompous names (such as 'Bishop's armpit', or 'Nun's nasty'), but is simply known as CHEESE.

'In Sussex, let me tell you, we have but one cheese, the name of which is CHEESE.  It is One, and undivided, though divided into a thousand fragments, and unchanging, though changing in place and consumption.  There is in Sussex no Cheese but Cheese, and it is the same cheese from the head of the Eastern Rother to Harting Hill, and from the sea-beach to that part of Surrey which we gat from the Marches with sword and bow.  In colour it is yellow. It is neither young nor old.  Its taste is that of Cheese and nothing more'. 

p.s. I am privileged to own a couple of drawings by BTB (Basil Temple Blackwood) who illustrated Belloc's Cautionary Tales (see Jim and the Lion, above). Poor old Blackers was killed in action at Ypres, aged 46. 


  1. Happy Belloc Night! I'd never heard of it before, because I am sheltered and a dolt, but to help you celebrate I read the poem out loud to my family, who stared at me like I was daft and returned to the television.

    Also to celebrate, I think I will eat some pickles with my popcorn.

    1. Read it to them again; it's worth a second go!

  2. Never heard of this, Cro. But I love the poem, and bread, cheese, and pickles are among my favorite foods!

  3. Surely any night is Belloc night if you chose it to be so.

  4. Love Belloc Cro - and do agree with him that naming cheese has gone a bit over the top. Still, I for one could not live without it, whatever it is called. Every night is definitely Belloc night in this household.

    1. Not many days go by when I don't eat cheese.

  5. I always get Jim and Albert mixed up. Britain now has more regional cheeses than France, so to hear that Sussex cheese is in a league of its own is, er, surprising.

    1. Jim and Albert both got eaten by the lion, different lion though.

    2. Now why am I thinking of Alge and the bear?

    3. Alge saw the bear
      The bear saw Alge
      The bear was bulgey
      The bulge was Alge

  6. I'll have some soy cheese, dill pickles and hearty multi-grain bread in honour of the day.

  7. After the Belloc poem night tonight you could have a Blackers drawing day tomorrow.

  8. Just read it aloud at the breakfast table; it was a big hit. :). Well have to pick up a tome of Belloc. The kids love Shel Silverstein and they clearly have things in common....

  9. I'll have to make sure to have bread, cheese, and pickles today!

  10. OK, it's now after supper, and everything went according to plan. I think Belloc has become a firm favourite.

  11. I've linked to this post on twitter for the cheese quote! You might be interested in:


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