» T'Lancastrian's Gui...
T 'LANCASTRIAN'S GUIDE TO T' SECRETS OF ECKY THUMP
by Kay Dickinson
(from C&G #62 February 2001)
(fer Southern Jessies an' funny forrin-types)
As a Lancastrian (ah were born i'Bury - where t'black puddings come from, just up t'road from Rochdale) I'm often being asked to explain the 'Ecky Thump/Kung Fu Kapers Goodies episode. Do the sayings actually *mean* something? Do Lancastrians dress like that? And the most prevalent of all the questions - do they *really* talk like that? The answer, of course, is No. No, no, no! Well, yes.... but only a bit. Honestly. Allow me to elucidate.... (You do and you clean it up yourself! - ED)
The first point to make is that the "t" instead of "the" is wildly overpronounced - in fact, it's hardly pronounced at all in reality, just a slight glottal stop, and in front of words beginning with vowels, it's a "th". Apart from that, though, the accent is pretty much as it still is in deepest, darkest Lancashire.
As for the meanings of the sayings - they all do actually mean something (which is more than can be said of "pull up a jumbuck and take the weight off your billabongs!"), and quite a few of them are in general use - although I've yet to hear anyone talking about "tripe on t'pikelets" or "mitherin' clutterbucks" - but more of these later.
The best way to explain the whole episode is to go through it and tackle each bit as it comes along - this is now your excuse to dig out the video and watch it again.
To begin with, 'Ecky thump, by 'eck, eeh bah gum/goom - are general expressions of surprise or amazement. Would be used pretty much as an Aussie might use "strewth!" or an American, "Gee!" - and in reality, about as often!
The Lancastrian parts of the episode begin with Bill's trip across sand dunes, to the sound of mysterious Eastern music - which mutates into "Oh I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside". The door of the "School of Ecky Thump" is opened by a stereotypical Lancastrian woman - the apron (or "pinny"), headscarf and rollers are what the fashion-conscious Northern woman is invariably to be found in, whilst if you find a bloke without his flat hat, baggy trousers almost up to his chest, held up with his braces and his clogs - well, he must be some funny foreigner from down South.
The tin bath and the outside loo are another Northernism. The north of England is hugely industrial and historically poor area of the country – the main employment areas were the cotton mills, the coal mines and the shipyards and northerners have always been viewed (especially by the posh lot in the south) as poor, common and rather thick. It actually wasn't that long ago that your weekly (if you were lucky) bath was taken in a tin bath in front of the fire - dad got the water first, then mum and the kids got dunked in lukewarm mud! Toilets were outside in the yard and often shared with the neighbours and the nightsoilman would call every so often to empty the cess pit. Traditionally, the loo was the only place a man could find any peace and quiet, so invariably, of a Sunday, he'd retire to "t'meditation room" to read the Sunday paper and get away from the kids.
The first (and to my mind, the best) of the Lancastrian quotes is uttered by T'Grand Master. Brett made a very commendable (and brave) stab at it in his episode guide, but the actual quote should be:
"There's nowt wrong wi' owt what mitherin' clutterbucks don't barley grummit!" An explanation of this is more difficult than actually saying it, but here goes....
Nowt = nothing; wi = with; 'owt = something or anything; clutterbucks = idiots; barley = barely; grummit = understand/know about.
Mitherin' requires a bit more explanation. Pronounced my-ther, it's a word that doesn't have an exact equal in any other language I know of! Essentially, it means to harass or bother someone to the point of exasperation or can be used as a noun to mean "trouble". It's an extremely good word to use of what children do all the time - after little Johnny has pestered for sweets for the 20th time, you'd hear his beleaguered mother snap, "will you stop your bloody mithering!" or you might find someone at the pub, having had a few too many, "looking for a bit of mither".
Anyway, this therefore means that the phrase is "There's nothing wrong with anything that pestering idiots barely understand." Doesn't have the same ring to it, does it? Having said that, I can quite honestly say that I've never heard anyone actually say it!
Another point from that section of the episode is that the music being played in the background is the original tune of "Ilkla Moor Bah't at" – for anyone with a copy of "Distinctly Oddie" you'll know that another version is in existence! Ilkla Moor Bah't at is a traditional (and very strange) Yorkshire song (so what it's doing in a Lancastrian context is beyond me) which asks "Where hast been since ah saw thee? On Ilkla Moor Bah't at" - Where have you been since I saw you? On Ilkley Moor without a hat. Told you it was strange! Mind you, Rochdale isn't too far from the border with Yorkshire (where men are men and sheep are scared) so I'll let that one go. Lancastrians and Yorkshiremen enjoy a renowned hate-hate relationship which dates back to the "Wars of the Roses" and is still continued today with the cricket. The highest form of insult you can give a Lancastrian is to call him a Yorkie - and presumably vice-versa.
On to the Lancastrian food served up. Presumably due to the extreme poverty of many people in the past, northerners were well known for eating everything of the animal save for the squeak/moo. Strangely, many people acquired a taste for it and still pay good money to eat things you'd balk at giving to a starving dog!
Take away meals have always been wrapped up in newspaper - I don't know why, presumably it's cheap, gives you something to read whilst you're eating, and more importantly, gives you something to chuck up into after you've finished. Black pudding is a delicacy traditionally made in the Lancastrian town of Bury and made up of congealed pigs' blood and large lumps of pig fat. The conventional shape of a black pud isn't the long stick shown in the episode but a horseshoe shape, sliced in half lengthways and smothered in mustard (see www.blackpudding.co.uk for examples if you can stomach it) - of course, this is absolutely no good for hitting people with. Ironically, you can nowadays buy a "healthy, low-fat" alternative, which somehow defeats the whole object of eating the things - can't wait for the vegetarian version!
Tripe is the revolting, white, rubbery lining of a cow's stomach – and because a cow has four stomachs, you can tuck into a variety of four different kinds of tripe, one of which is honeycombed and you're supposed to drench it in vinegar so that it gets caught in the honeycombed bits.
Chip butties are a little easier to stomach - though only just! I did once send a chip butty recipe round the Goodies-l mailing list, which has been reproduced at the end of this article - so get frying and try them out for yourselves!
"A piece o' parkin for afters" - parkin is a sweet and sickly, but rather dry, cake made of treacle (black molasses).
A couple of things to notice here, too - this is the only time we see Bill in the Grand Master's hat - he wears t'at of a Master later on, and t'at of a novice on the march. The mats laid out for t'disciples to be thrown onto look suspiciously similar to those that Tim and Graeme were doing kung-fu on at the beginning, too!
As an aside to the Lancastrian theme here, we never see Tim's Uncle Taffy, the master of the Welsh martial art of "Yach-y-daa". Yach-y-daa, or rather "Iechyd da" is Welsh for "good health" or "cheers", so Uncle Taffy was probably practising down the pub - either that, or it was a mispronunciation of "iechydfa", which is a Welsh funny farm!
On the Nationwide piece, Rochdale is far from being any sort of beauty spot, though Bill may have been able to find some interesting birds on the rubbish tips and sewage farms! A point to note about the psychologist - the bash on the head from the black pudding obviously puts paid to his promising career, as he appears in series 6 as the weatherman in Hype Pressure!
The Lancashire front room is another stereotypical northern parlour – the room where visitors were received as opposed to the sitting room to the rear of the house. T'Grand Master Ee Bah Goom plays the theme tune to the Lancashire/Manchester soap, Coronation Street on his tin whistle whilst "Flippin' eck" uses the wash tub as a gong. The wash tub doubled as a tub to wash your clothes in and a bath for exceptionally mucky children to be washed in outside of their weekly bath.
This is where several Lancastrianisms that are in general use come into the episode. "Was tha born in a barn? Shove wood i'th'ole - it's reet parky!" Or something along those lines was often yelled at me as a child, although the phrase, "was born in a barn?" usually sufficed. "Reet parky", by the way, means "right cold".
"Grand" is a word used to describe something good, or great - "gradely" is another word that means pretty much the same. "Sup up" and "daft beggars" are also often used and fairly self explanatory, whilst "reet chuffed" means "really pleased".
"Not fer all th'ot pot in Oswaldtwistle!" Hot Pot is another traditional Lancashire dish - and far more palatable than most of the fare that's been mentioned so far. It's something between a stew and a casserole and made up of cubes of beef and potato and eaten with picked red cabbage or beetroot. Local pubs have now ponsified it and given it either a pastry crust or a sautéed potato topping served in an individual pie dish. I'm not sure if it was originally from Oswaldtwistle or whether it was just an excuse to get a silly place name into the dialogue - Oswaldtwistle is a small town near to Blackburn and comes a close second to Ramsbottom in the silly name league.
"Whilst there's tripe on t'pikelets, there's nowt wrong wi' owt" – why anyone would want to put tripe on their pikelets, or pyclets as the old spelling seems to have been, is as much a mystery as why anyone would want to eat cows innards in the first place. Pikelets were traditionally a thin crumpet-like circular thing with little holes where the butter would melt through and drip all over your clothes, though you don't seem to be able to get old style pikelets any more. Using your now expert knowledge of Lancastrian, you can translate the rest for yourselves!
"I'll tell yer summat else..." - summat is another word often used instead of "something" - and I'll tell yer summat else - Tim's rendition of a Lancastrian accent in "Peckinpah's Perfect Puddings - None Blacker" wasn't bad at all. So spread that on yer parkin and munch it!
Lancastrian Recipe for Chip Butties
Firstly, have we established that by "chips" we mean big thick slices of fried potato, rather than the things we (in the UK) call "crisps"? Good. Then I shall elucidate....
Take your gibbon.... no, wrong recipe....
First, peel two shepherd... nope...
Aha! Chip butties..... chop your peeled spuds into huge thick slices and deep fry in t'chip pan til either your house sets on fire or the chips are golden brown (with mysterious burnt bits of god-knows-what stuck to them), whichever comes first.
Slice your barm cakes (soft bread rolls) and slap butter (or marg if you're a cheapskate - soft marg is always best, but be careful when opening your fridge to get it) onto both sides until it's thick enough to write your name in it. If you can't write your name, an X will do...
Take t'chips out of t'chip pan but DON'T drain them or put them onto kitchen roll - this will spoil the flavour and you will lose the health benefits of the fat. Whilst t'chips are still dripping (if they've stopped, dunk 'em back into t'chip pan) slap 'em into your butty and vigorously squash the two halves together until the butter/marg melts and both it and the grease seeps through to your fingers. Open the butty again and soak with salt and vinegar. Don't do this pre-squashing, as it doesn't soak through the same. If you MUST, you can use tomato or brown sauce, but this tends to sully the texture and flavour of the butty.
Also, resist the temptation to remove the burnt bits from the chips – this wastes time and precious fat will be lost. They also add extra crunch and give you something to pick out of your teeth for hours afterwards. Soft southerners will, at this stage, produce a knife and slice their butty in half for ease of eating. The proper Northern way is to grab your butty in both hands and lunge at it, thus covering your entire face in a coating of buttery grease. Very good for the skin. This will usually result in the butter dribbling down your chin and dripping onto your shirt. The benefit here is threefold - firstly, you will be able to smell the alluring odour of congealed greasy chips for hours, thus reminding you of your fabulous meal and making everyone else you meet hungry, secondly, if need be, you have a handy stash of grease to use in future culinary delights and lastly, you can use it to test the claims of your local friendly Fairy Puff Man later (and batter hell out of him when it doesn't get the stains out!)
Don't worry if any of your chips fall from your butty in the process of eating it - you can either pick 'em back up (they'll now have extra flavour) or you can spend endless hours watching old grannies slipping and falling over on them! (this is where the amount of grease you've used can come in very useful - it increases both the slipperiness and how long they stay slippery - have bets with your mates on how many grans you can knobble!)