The hen-pecked and snaggle-toothed Mr Smudd.
If it hadn’t been for Flanders and Swann and a treacle-voiced bass-baritone called Ian Wallace, I wouldn’t have given it a second thought. I’d have said ‘yes’ in a flash.
But back in the mists of time Messrs Flanders and Swann penned a neat little ditty about a pair of romantically-inclined artiodactyl ungulates and Mr Wallace sang the song at every opportunity. The song became ridiculously popular. Everyone knew the chorus. And I knew, the moment I learned my suitor’s surname, that I’d be faced with a difficult choice if ever he felt the urge to go down on one knee.
So when the time came, I almost didn’t say ‘yes’, despite his entreaties and his pitiful pleas for my pudgy hand; I almost didn’t say ‘yes’ because I didn’t want to be saddled with what can only be described as a comedy moniker.
I almost didn’t say ‘yes’ because of this:
The Hippopotamus Song
A bold hippopotamus was standing one day
On the banks of the cool Shalimar
He gazed at the bottom as he peacefully lay
By the light of the evening star.
Away on the hilltop sat combing her hair
His fair hippopotami maid
The hippopotamus was no ignoramus
And sang her this sweet serenade
Mud, mud, glorious mud
Nothing quite like it for cooling the blood
So follow me follow, down to the hollow
And there let me wallow in glorious mud
The fair hippopotama he aimed to entice
From her seat on that hilltop above
As she hadn’t got a ma to give her advice
Came tiptoeing down to her love
Like thunder the forest re-echoed the sound
Of the song that they sang when they met
His inamorata adjusted her garter
And lifted her voice in duet
Now more hippopotami began to convene
On the banks of that river so wide
I wonder now what am I to say of the scene
That ensued by the Shalimar side
They dived all at once with an ear-splitting sposh
Then rose to the surface again
A regular army of hippopotami
All singing this haunting refrain
This morning I was sad to learn that Mr Ian Wallace, described by the BBC as The Hippopotamus Song Man, has died aged 90. Described as an “all-rounder”, Mr Wallace was a trained lawyer who never practised, instead making his operatic debut with the New London Opera Company after the end of World War II. A regular at Glyndebourne, he was awarded an OBE for his charity work and wrote two autobiographical volumes entitled ‘Promise Me You’ll Sing Mud’ and ‘Nothing Quite Like It’.
In the end, I decided I couldn’t resist Mr Smudd’s snaggle-toothed grin and agreed to be his wife. I decided to go with the flow and embrace the chance to have a ridiculous name.
And so it was that I lumbered up the aisle to a rather strident organ rendition of The Hippopotamus to declare that “I, Gloria Stitz, take thee …”