He thought he saw…


As the fishermen who were mending their nets at the end of the wharf kept on looking at him, Algy came to the conclusion that his presence must be making them a wee bit nervous. He certainly didn’t want to distract them from their work, or cause them any alarm, so he turned away and moved to the further side of a large bollard near the edge of the quayside, to make it clear that he was no longer watching them. The hard surfaces of these man-made structures were not at all congenial to perch upon or lean against, but Algy was so fascinated by the strange new environment he had discovered that he resolved to put up with the discomfort a little longer. As he tried to make sense of the confusing jumble of objects on the pier, and reflected upon the odd activities of the humans he had seen, he was reminded of some well-known verses by Lewis Carroll. So Algy started to sing quietly to himself:

He thought he saw an Elephant,
That practised on a fife:
He looked again, and found it was
A letter from his wife.
“At length I realise,” he said,
“The bitterness of Life!”

He thought he saw a Buffalo
Upon the chimney-piece:
He looked again, and found it was
His Sister’s Husband’s Niece.
“Unless you leave this house,” he said,
“I’ll send for the Police!”

He thought he saw a Rattlesnake
That questioned him in Greek:
He looked again, and found it was
The Middle of Next Week.
“The one thing I regret,” he said,
“Is that it cannot speak!”

He thought he saw a Banker’s Clerk
Descending from the bus:
He looked again, and found it was
A Hippopotamus
“If this should stay to dine,” he said,
“There won’t be much for us!”

[Algy is quoting some of the verses from The Mad Gardener’s Song, which appear scattered at intervals in chapters of Syvie and Bruno by the 19th century English writer and logician, Lewis Carroll.]


The storm had passed over, and in its wake the wind had swung round to the north-east, bringing a sky full of colour for a change. It had been a long, long time since Algy last saw a sunset, so he perched on the low wall of the wee jetty on the Sound, and watched the coloured light playing across the water. He was thinking of all his friends who were facing the challenges of old age: those friends who were themselves elderly, and those who were caring for their elderly parents or other relatives or friends. Algy sends you all a very special fluffy hug, and offers you this famous piece of verse by Lewis Carrol to make you smile:

          “You are old, father William,” the young man said,
           “And your hair has become very white;
            And yet you incessantly stand on your head —
            Do you think, at your age, it is right?”

          “In my youth,” father William replied to his son,
          “I feared it would injure the brain;
           But now that I’m perfectly sure I have none,
           Why, I do it again and again.”

[Algy is quoting – from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – the opening verses of Lewis Carroll’s Father William, which parodies an earlier poem by Robert Southey.]