16th September 2005 at 01:00
If the author of that great quote "Nostalgia ain't what it used to be" was still alive, I'd advise him to look at a thread that started in the TES Personal forum on September 7. He might have had second thoughts.

Hermione2001ie's new topic had a direct and irresistible appeal, especially to those of us who had been bound up for days in the sad, anguished and sometimes downright vacuous discussions on the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. The title, "Retro Assembly - Come and Praise" struck a major chord, even with those of us who had forgotten that Come and Praise was the title of an enduringly popular hymn book.

Here's hermione's opener: "It was my first music assembly today at my new job and I couldn't believe it. They're still using the Come and Praise song book that was used in the primary school I went to in the early Eighties."

No further cue was needed: within minutes, scores of forum habitues, young and not so young, were queueing up to post fragments of favourite and least favourite hymns. Whole songs were remembered in astonishing fullness, others mischievously misremembered. All I will do now is quote, shamelessly. First up was Phasmid:

"All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small... Come on, sing up at the back!"

And now, let's hear it for *Cokey*:

"DAAAAAAAAANCE then wherever he may beeeeeeeee I am the lord of the dance said heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee..."

And also for badgermonkey: "'SING Hosannah, SING Hosannah, SING Hosannah to the king of kings.' And there are always some kids on the front row who chirp 'OF KINGS!' on the last line when everyone else has stopped singing."

A little later, lfb arrived with a hymn that began convincingly, then went all surreal in line three:

"Autumn days when the grass is jewelled, And the silk inside a chestnut shell, Jet planes meeting in the air to be refuelled, All these things I love so well..."

I was beginning to doubt the veracity of this thread, when hermione re-entered with some corroborative evidence: "Lfb, one of my colleagues quoted that one to me today too! That's probably the best one in the book!"

I have to take lfb and hermione at their word. But what about this one from rebeccacooke:

"'From the tiny ant (echo: from the tiny ant) To the elephant (to the elephant) From the snake to the kangaroo (from the snake to the kangaroo)'... and i can't remember any more of the song."

But then polo2 did remember some more:

"From the small minnow (from the small minnow) To the white rhino (to the white rhino) Care for them it's up to you (care for them it's up to you)..."

And then complained that it's hard to remember as it was a whole 16 years since he or she was at primary school. Suddenly feeling very, very old, I was inordinately grateful to smoothnewt for bringing us back to the classics of my era: "We used to file into the hall at primary school with Jerusalem or Land of Hope and Glory booming out of the record player. Then we'd sing such stalwarts as Hills of the North Rejoice... that's still one of my favourites."

We were all, for whatever time we spent in this thread, transported back to our own first days at primary school, the polished floors of assembly halls, the thumping introductory chords on the school piano, and even the smells of that day's lunch being prepared. Thanks, hermione2001ie. Proust - who needs him?

Bill Hicks is editor of the TES website. www.tes.co.ukstaffroom

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