The Year of Words: Day 354 - A day of (practically) perfect pairings.


It isn't every day during the year of words that two examples from the top draw of the wouid-be wordsmith land on your plate. However, today is in my view one of them.

The merry dancers have been referenced in literature and poetry from the 17th century and earlier in Scots and Northumbrian dialect. As someone who is currently listening to Philip Pulman's His Dark Materials this is particularly timely as the aurora plays a key part in that trilogy.

The modern offering is one of those portmanteau constructs that have become increasingly popular in recent years. Many examples are sub-standard but grannexe has a funny simplicity that works well - at least for my taste in portmanteau words. Between the two of them a practically perfect pairing.

Sally Ann Howes as Truly Scrumptious

Speaking of practically perfect pairings, I wonder who springs to mind if I mention a British soprano who made her name in a classic children's film starring opposite Dick van Dyke?

If like the majority of people you jumped to Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins, close but today, no cigar.

It's not that you're wrong. but she wasn't the only name that would be a correct answer to that question.

Today I read of the death of Sally Ann Howes who in many ways shadowed Julie Andrews in stage musicals - usually in the same role. However, she only had one film role in her pomp as Truly Scrumptious in Ian Fleming's 1968 film of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

The only thing you may be missing from this picture is a rather large, ostentatious white hat with ribbons.

Indeed Laura Ashley no less cited Sally Ann Howes wardrobe in that film as sparking the renewed interest in Edwardian style claiming the 80's fashion house couldn't have emerged without her.

I remember seeing the film first in St. Ives, Cornwall when I can have been no more than four or five. Much of that viewing I don't remember, but the fear of the child catcher and the magic of a music box did stay with me clearly.

In this clip, her voice is every bit as good as her contemporaries and the attention to detail and control is just amazing. Watch her right heel which remains elegantly placed throughout. A touch I understand she suggested to give it more grace - it certainly worked.

The blessing and curse of film is that it captures someone and keeps them forever at the age they were when it was made. It's hard to credit that Sally Ann Howes died at just short of 92 years of age. How lucky we are to live in an age where we can capture performances such as this which I love as much now as when I first saw it.

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