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Charlotte Bleh’s Collection of Favourite  Nursery  Rhymes, Poems and Prose Book
Tasks and Toils


  Times and Rhymes for Tasks and Toils

Rich man, Poor man,
Beggar-man, a thief,
Doctor, Lawyer,
Or Indian Chief.

(We would count the buttons on our coats, sweaters, dresses, etc., to see what the last one would be – and that would determine who we would marry; when we became a little more “liberated” we used it to tell what our jobs would be!)


Cobbler, Cobbler,
Mend my shoe,
Have it ready
By half past-two!

(I would sing this to Johnny and Tina when we
would come home to our little house above Ingrid Evers’
and the Stieglitz family shoe shop and the cobbler’s workshop
in Lutjenburg, Germany – I had a fake leather dress at that time
and had the cobbler hem it shorter on his repairing equipment!)


Rub-a-dub, dub
Three men in a tub –
And who do you think they be?
The butcher, the baker,
The candlestick maker;
They all jumped out of a rotten potato -
Turn them out, Knaves all three!


Do you know the Muffin Man,
The Muffin Man, The Muffin Man?
Do you know the Muffin Man
Who lives down Drury Lane?


See Saw, Marjery Daw.
Jack shall have a new master.
Jack will earn but a penny a day
Because he can’t work any faster.


They that wash on Monday
Have all the week to dry;
They that wash on Tuesday
Are not so much awry;
They that wash on Wednesday
Are not so much to blame;
They that wash on Thursday
Wash for shame;
They that wash on Friday
Wash in need;
And they that wash on Saturday,
Oh! They are lazy indeed!

(My grandmother in Dundee, always washed on Mondays –
we had the possession of the washhouse then
because our family had lived in our little tenement the longest.
She hung the laundry out on the lines in our “drying green”,
as well as on the pulley line that rang from our “plettie”
to the tenement at the edge of our back green, or yard.
And what didn’t quite dry was hung up on the “horse” in our kitchen.
Ask me tales about the big clothes boiling tub in the washhouse some day.)


One fine day
In the middle of the night,
Two dead men
Got up to fight.
Back to back
They faced each other,
Drew their swords
And shot each other.

A deaf policeman
Heard the noise,
He came and shot
Those two dead boys.
If you don’t believe
This lie is true,
Ask the blind man –
He saw it too!

(My brother taught me this rhyme.)


London Bridge is falling down, falling down,
London Bridge is falling down,
My fair lady.

Build it up with wood and clay, wood and clay,
Build it up with wood and clay,
My fair lady.

Wood and clay will wash away, wash away,
Wood and clay will wash away,
My fair lady.

Build it up with mortar and stone, mortar and stone,
Build it up with mortar and stone,
My fair lady.

Mortar and stone will not stay, will not stay,
Mortar and stone will not stay,
My fair lady.

Build it up with iron and steel, iron and steel,
Build it up with iron and steel,
My fair lady.

Iron and steel will bend and bow, bend and bow,
Iron and steel will bend and bow,
My fair lady.

Build it up with silver and gold, silver and gold,
Build it up with silver and gold,
My fair lady.

Silver and gold will be stolen away, stolen away,
Silver and gold will be stolen away,
My fair lady.

Set a man to watch all night, watch all night,
Set a man to watch all night,
My fair lady.

(We played this game as a circle dance, under two leaders arches.  The point was to catch the other children by surprise as they danced under the arches.  When they were caught the leaders took them away from the other children and whispered the secret choices – something gold or something silver – because the children making the arch had chosen to be either silver or gold.  The silver choices lined up behind the silver child and the gold behind the gold.  When all the children were cut, we held on to each other’s waists and had a tug of war between the silver and the gold.)


Old Mother Shuttle
Lived in a coal-scuttle,
Along with her dog and her cat;
What they ate I can’t tell
But ‘tis known very well,
That not one of the party was fat.

Old Mother Shuttle
Scoured out her coal-scuttle,
And washed both her dog and her cat;
They cat scratched her nose,
So they came to hard blows,
And who was the gainer by that?


There was a farmer had a dog,
And Bingo was his name, Oh.
B – I -  N – G – O!  B – I -  N – G – O!
B – I -  N – G – O!
And Bingo was his name, Oh!


Someday I’m going to have a store
With a tinkly bell hung over the door,
With real glass cases and counters wide
And drawers all spilly with things inside.
There’ll be a little of everything:
Bolts of calico; balls of string;
Jars of peppermint; tins of tea;
Pots and kettles and crockery;
Seeds in packets; scissors bright;
Bags of sugar, brown and white;
Biscuits and cheese for picnic lunches,
Bananas and rubber boots in bunches.
I’ll fix the window and dust each shelf,
And take the money in all myself,
It will be my store and I will say;
”What can I do for you today?”

(When I was a little girl at Hill Street Primary School in Dundee, my favourite time was when we went to the classroom that was a little shop – complete with tinkly bell and counters and shelves and empty packets of food and other wonderful things.  The till – or cash register – had real looking pounds, shillings, and pence in it and our teacher would select children to be customers or shopkeepers.  The customers were given money and we thought we were playing “shoppies” but I now understand we were learning through drama to communicate, to be mannerly, to count and to imagine.  I loved playing this so much my mother helped me collect items for my own little shop at home, over my Granny’s big green “kist” (or chest) as my counter.  My mother taught me how to roll up old newspaper pages into “cone” bags that I could pour imaginery “sweeties” or candies into, as my equally imaginary customers purchased them.)


He never checked her household books,
He never criticized her looks.
He left about his petty cash,
He seemed to thrive on mutton hash.
He never took to drink or play,
Unless her mother came to stay.
He carried home the hats and veils
She purchased at the summer sales.
When smarting from a ruthless snub,
He never bolted to the club.
He paid her modiste in advance,
He sent her to the South of France.
In spring the scrubbing and the cleaning
Provoked no word of doubtful meaning.
He meekly took the largest clout,
And helped to turn his study out.
Performed each trivial task she set him –
And no-one yet has ever met him

Adrian Porter


God put me on earth
To accomplish a
Certain number of things –
Right now I am so far behind
I will never die!

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