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A lovely bunch of coconuts and all that

Started by thaiga, July 19, 2020, 12:45:42 PM

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an amusing article and well worth a read from Roger Crutchley a long time popular Bangkok Post columnist. about the humble coconut and the sittuations he has been in, Billy cottons band show ... here have a read

A lovely bunch of coconuts and all that
The humble coconut (ma prow) has been in the news lately following allegations of abuse of Thai monkeys used in harvesting the fruit. I admit to not being familiar enough with the training of the monkeys to know if they are maltreated as alleged and certainly would not endorse any cruelty. But if they are treated well it shouldn't be a problem. On sporadic visits to the South I've seen the monkeys at work and play, and they appeared to be quite happy scampering up the coconut palms. They certainly have more fun than those used in medical research.

I can vouch from bitter experience that it is not easy to extract a coconut from its tree. In my first week in Thailand in 1969, I hitched from Bangkok to Hat Yai with a fellow traveller. On the third day we were stuck on a remote jungle-lined roadside between Chumphon and Ranong. There was hardly any passing traffic and we faced a long wait for a lift.

We were hungry and thirsty and looking up saw a bunch of coconuts sitting seductively in a tree above us. The problem was how to get the fruit down. We didn't have any helpful monkeys handy, so all we could think of was to throw stones, hoping to dislodge the fruit. Quite pathetic really and of course it didn't work. If there were any monkeys in the vicinity they would have enjoyed a good laugh watching two naive Englishmen totally out of their depth, defeated by a bunch of coconuts.

Even if we had succeeded we probably wouldn't have been capable of cracking the coconut open. Thai vendors can do it in seconds. I wouldn't last a day in one of those desert island TV reality shows with a coconut tree as the only means of survival.

We were put out of our misery by a lovely Thai gentlemen who gave us a lift in his old limousine. Alas, as we entered Ranong's main street he collided with a motorcyclist and had to go off to the cop shop, while we had to look for a new lift.

A penny a pitch

When I was a kid the coconut was, like the banana, regarded in England as fairly exotic, but was available in the town market. However, unlike bananas, I never saw a coconut in our house. I suspect my mum wouldn't have known what to do with it if she had bought it.

The song I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts could be regularly heard on BBC Radio in the 1950s, especially in the Billy Cotton Band Show. It included the splendid lyrics, "There they are standing in a row; big ones, small ones, some as big as your head". Fellow British wrinklies may recall the jaunty chorus, "Roll a bowl a ball a penny a pitch".

The song was a reference to the popular coconut shies at fairgrounds and even church fetes. It was my favourite sideshow, but I don't recall ever knocking a coconut off its perch, no matter how hard I hit it. I didn't realise that many of the coconuts were actually nailed down.

Winning tune

You don't hear that Coconuts song very often these days as it sounds rather old fashioned, but it can still be heard in the unlikeliest of settings -- Cambridge United Football Club. It is played after the final whistle every time the team wins at home, which fans admit is not often enough. Apparently in 1955, the club's public announcer decided to play a celebratory tune after an unexpected victory. There was a small pile of records on his desk and he picked out the Coconuts song by Billy Cotton. Little did he know that it would still be playing at the Abbey Stadium 60 years later.

The life saver

The versatile coconut played a major role in keeping the crews of ships alive in the old days in the South Pacific, the fruit's tasty water and fleshy white meat ideal for quenching thirst and hunger. The infamous Mutiny on the Bounty in 1789 was believed to be initially sparked by Fletcher Christian and Captain Bligh having a major argument about missing coconuts, which left Christian in tears. He famously told his captain, "Sir, your abuse is so bad ... I have been in hell for weeks with you". A few days later Bligh called Christian a "cowardly rascal" and the mutiny was on.

After being put aboard a 23-foot boat, Bligh and 18 loyal crew experienced a tortuous 6,400km, seven-week voyage to Timor. That they survived the ordeal was primarily thanks to the considerable supply of coconuts on board.

Pretty amazing

The coconut is highly regarded in Thailand and in less PC times there used to be Miss Coconut beauty pageants in the South. There was considerable prestige attached to being crowned Miss Coconut and any monkeys in attendance were particularly impressed. Admittedly just about every fruit in Thailand has become a beauty pageant at some time with the regulars being Miss Pineapple and Miss Watermelon. There was even a Miss Sticky Rice. I know it's not a fruit, but a friend claims there used to be a Miss Toad beauty contest in the Northeast, although I am not totally convinced. But there certainly was a Miss Grasshopper.

Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.

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