Monday, 13 July 2020

Be my guest #1: John Medd and his Worm Top 5!

Brilliant!  Today Sun Dried Sparrows welcomes its first guest contribution and what a fine one it is.  I'm delighted to be able to publish this fascinating, entertaining (and educational!) post by our talented fellow blogger John Medd, whose own place of residence can be found here:

(You're far too kind in your introduction below, John, but I'm dead chuffed that you felt inspired.  Also very touched by your choice of subject matter.)

I'm really grateful to John for this lovely piece and for stepping in to help me out; more contributions are always welcome.  Enjoy,

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

When C recently announced to the world that her writing mojo appeared to have temporarily deserted her and was asking for cover in the shop I thought OK, I could put a shift in on a midweek afternoon if it means she won't have to pull the shutters down; I can smile politely at the customers if they ask me any tricky questions - I'll just say, "that's a very interesting question, I'll get back to you on that if I may..." So these are big shoes to fill, let me tell you, I've been reading C's captivating musings for nigh on a decade now and I can't even begin to get near the fine detail that she puts into her subject matter; whether it be drawing & illustration, Triumph Heralds, rambling, '70s punk bands (her love of Generation X's guitar player is unrivalled) or Bippity Boppity hats, I can only watch from the sidelines in wonderment.

And that is precisely why I shan't be exploring any of the above material - even if I feel some of them are pulling me in (Generation X, definitely). No, today I'm going to scribble a few words about - wait for it - worms; a topic I know is very near to C's heart.  Her passion for and knowledge of worms and wormeries is something that she has touched upon in her writing often and, as with most people who are passionate about things, their affection for their subject matter just oozes off the page.

However, my ramblings today on these amazing invertebrates is going to concentrate on one or two of my favourites - a Worm Top 5 if you will, and no, it won't include the Alien chestburster that exploded out of John Hurt's chest cavity, nor will it have among its ranks Jeff the 600 foot subway worm in Men In Black 2.  Hilarious though they both are.  Ditto the talking worm in Jim Henson's Labyrinth.

It will come as no surprise that worms feature heavily in mythology and legends.  They are often associated with snakes, serpents and dragons and the worm's symbolic meaning is divided between death and renewal.  Compost Corner, anyone?

The legend of the Cockburn Worm has its roots in the North East of England - a part of the world raided by the Vikings for centuries during the Dark Ages.  The Viking longboats often had worms carved into their bows.  One particular raider, personified as a monstrous Viking worm dragon, plundered the village of Cockburn in the Tees Valley but was finally slain by John Conyers.  Even the fact that Lewis Carroll would later borrow the story as the basis for his nonsense poem Jabberwocky still didn't guarantee it a place in my Top 5.

That position is occupied by Walter the Worm.  He's the brainchild of Roger Hargreaves, creator of the Mr Men series.  Walter had many cameo appearances in various Mr Men adventures, but was given his own book later on in the run.  A big shout out to the early bird too.

The Number 4 slot is a strange choice.  I'll tell you for why.  I'm no Whovian - my love of Dr Who began and ended with Troughton and Baker with Pertwee in the middle - but here's a cracking little worm related tale.  It stars Matt 'Boxhead' Smith, an oft used science fiction trope - memory wiping.  Long story short, if you touch the Memory Worm it takes the last hour of your memory away; get bitten by it and you lose decades.  Watch this three and a bit minute knockabout clip and all will become clear.  Will you remember to do that?

In at Number 3 is the Mongolian Death Worm.  A cryptozoological creature reported to exist in the Gobi Desert.  Like Big Foot, sightings are rare.  But it's bright red in colour and two foot long.  Allegedly.  Oh, and it will kill you just by touching it.  If you're looking for excuses not to go to the Gobi Desert for your holiday this year, I think this may well be it.

I love this next one.  Number 2 in my worm countdown is The Lowly Worm.  He pops up from time to time in Richard Scarry's delightful children's books.  And just in case you confuse him for any of the other worms I've mentioned here, he'll be the one wearing the Tyrollean hat.

Toppermost of the Poppermost is my favouritest worm ever.  It's Danny Kaye's Inch Worm - and is taken from the 1952 movie Hans Christian Anderson. (And yes, something of an ear worm!)

The song, written by Loesser Frank, has many fans, not least David Bowie.  This is what the artist formerly known as David Jones had to say about it:

"I loved it as a kid and it's stayed with me forever.  I keep going back to it.  You wouldn't believe the amount of my songs that have sort of spun off from that one song.  Not that you'd really recognise it.  Something like 'Ashes To Ashes' wouldn't have happened if it hadn't been for 'Inchworm'.  There's a child's nursery rhyme element in it, and there's something so sad and mournful and poignant about it.  It kept bringing me back to the feeligns of those pure thoughts of sadness that you have as a child, and how they're so identifiable even when you're an adult.  There's a connection that can be made between being a somewhat lost five-year-old and feeling a little abandoned and having the same feeling when you're in your twenties.  And it was that song that did that for me."

And here he is singing it:


  1. Great post, John... although Walter would have been top for me.

    Special mentions for The Worm That Turned starring The Two Ronnies and my favourite worm song, Solomon Bites The Worm by The Bluetones.

    1. Thanks Rol. You can never have too many special mentions when it comes to worms.

    2. Ah happy memories of The Worm That Turned. Might be before your time but they also had The Phantom Raspberry Blower of Old London Town. Saturday night light entertainment at its best.

  2. All you ever needed to know about worms

    Nobody love me
    Everybody hates me
    Think I'll go eat worms

  3. I learned many things from this John and had no idea about any of your Top 5 here. Think I might have to call one of my own worms Walter. Then again, perhaps I should just call them all that. I have about 2000...!
    Many thanks again for injecting some life back into these pages x

    1. You're welcome! I think you can tell I thoroughly enjoyed doing it.
      Yes, a mass naming ceremony would be wonderful. I'm guessing lay people can do it, though bringing in a member of the cloth would give it more gravitas.

  4. What a lovely post and just perfect for C's "shop" as you call it.

    A bit of mutual admiration for each other's writing at the start but can I just add my admiration too - Love John's style and this longer post packs more in, but of course we all love how C can find something of interest in the most unexpected places and she writes about it all beautifully - How perfect to have picked up on her affection for worms.

    No new worms to add but I did love the Matt Smith era of Dr Who so remember that one well. Inch Worm will no doubt become an earworm now this week but probably the Danny Kaye version and not Mr Bowie's. Respect that he recorded it though, and what a great set of images in that clip - He certainly was the master of reinvention.

    1. Box Head passed me by, I must admit. I caught a couple of Eccleston eps. and everyone said Tennant gave it a good go, but after the 70s (like most things) it all went a bit sh*t.

      Writing for other people is always fun; I heartily recommend it.

    2. I'd recommend it too - doing a Top Ten for Rol's blog this week provided some structure (and discipline, even) and just taking a different approach too was great fun.

    3. Really impressed by everyone's guest posts but as I said over at Rol's place, the bar has been set high, so the pressure is now on to deliver something as entertaining. Will have a ponder...

    4. A guest post will always be most welcome but please don't put yourself under any extra pressure!

    5. If I know Alyson she'll be working on something even as we speak...

  5. A lovely piece John. I'm very pleased (and not at all surprised) to note that your Dr Who timeline runs absolutely parallel with my own.
    As a fellow admirer of the form, may I cast a vote for the 21st century prog stylings of Regal Worm? Check 'em out
    By the way, that Stevie Riks is a talented geezer isn't he?

    1. Thank you, TS. I'll be checking Regal Worm out tout suite.

      Yes, he is!


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