All text copyright Stephen Coates 2006 - 2015


Who killed Cock Robin?

I, said the Sparrow,
with my bow and arrow,
I killed Cock Robin.

Who saw him die?
I, said the Fly,
with my little eye,
I saw him die.

Who caught his blood?
I, said the Fish,
with my little dish,
I caught his blood.

Who'll make the shroud?
I, said the Beetle,
with my thread and needle,
I'll make the shroud.

Who'll dig his grave?
I, said the Owl,
with my pick and shovel,
I'll dig his grave.

Who'll be the parson?
I, said the Rook,
with my little book,
I'll be the parson.

Who'll be the clerk?
I, said the Lark,
if it's not in the dark,
I'll be the clerk.

Who'll carry the link?
I, said the Linnet,
I'll fetch it in a minute,
I'll carry the link.

Who'll be chief mourner?
I, said the Dove,
I mourn for my love,
I'll be chief mourner.

Who'll carry the coffin?
I, said the Kite,
if it's not through the night,
I'll carry the coffin.

Who'll bear the pall?
We, said the Wren,
both the cock and the hen,
We'll bear the pall.

Who'll sing a psalm?
I, said the Thrush,
as she sat on a bush,
I'll sing a psalm.

Who'll toll the bell?
I said the bull,
because I can pull,
I'll toll the bell.


All the birds of the air
fell a-sighing and a-sobbing,
when they heard the bell toll
for poor Cock Robin



One of the themes that link Clerkenwell EC1 and Borough SE1 is suffering. Both areas were historically home to London's terrifying prisons - Newgate, Bridewell, The Fleet, The House of Correction in Clerkenwell and The Marshallsea, The Clink, and The King's bench in Southwark. There are bits of these left: the gate of the Bridewell on New Bridge Street; the wall of Newgate at the end of Adam Court; the cellars of the House of Correction below Hugh Myddleton School and a fragment of the Marshallsea in St George's graveyard. (This where Dicken's father and Mr Dorrit the character he inspired were imprisoned for debt).

Even a brief time spent detained at His or Her Majesty's pleasure in any of these establishments was quite likely to lead to the much longer punishment of a chronic illness and coincidentally both districts housed (and still house) many of those other arenas of suffering: the city's hospitals. The oldest of these, St Bartholomew's is in Clerkenwell and Kings, Guys and St Thomas's are in Southwark.

I've spent a fair bit of time around hospitals myself over the last year so the other day, after a visit to the vaults beneath London Bridge, I went to see what has to be one of the most curious museums in London. It is certainly the nicest smelling. The Old Operating Theatre is in an ancient attic reached by a skinny old spiral stair on St Thomas street. Once part of Guy's hospital, it houses a herb garret (hence the aroma) and a collection of medical curiosities. The various surgical instruments on display are beautifully made but gruesome in purpose - two handed amputation saws, long handled devices for removing kidney stones, pliers for taking out organs and so on. One of the oddest is the operating theatre itself - literally a tiny theatre where the patient / victim / entertainment would be held prone on the stage-bed whilst the learned professors and surgeons would go about their business in front of an admiring and presumably strong-stomached audience.

I recommend it - particularly to anyone inclined to complain about the current state of the National Health Service.


I occasionally get asked about illegal downloading. It's a complex area and I never quite know what to say so I'm always interested to hear other people's opinions. I do feel rather sympathetic to this piece by Jack of the White Stripes.

But it is a good time for the listener - and we're all listeners. And the same technology and changes that have made all the file sharing possible has made so many wonderful things happen too - especially being able to connect and interact with people all over the world. People can give so much back. For instance, we've played several times in the Russian Federation and whilst I don't believe I have ever had any royalties from there, it has been wonderful to see a crowded venue enthusiastically singing along to the words of a song - especially as I often have difficulty recalling them correctly myself..

And that brings me to Maria Delice from St Petersburg who sent us this:

Lovely stuff and much appreciated Maria.

Maybe I should get an autocue.


The other week, I spent a day with friends at a beautiful house in Topango Canyon - a kind of wonderful wilderness area within the city of Los Angeles.  The girl who owns it is inexplicably never there but we made good use of her trampoline.  Now I defy anybody - even the most down-hearted or cynical -  to start bouncing on such a trampoline and to not feel happy or at least to not grin broadly. It becomes absolutely impossible to take oneself seriously anymore -  and trust me, I've had a lot of practice.  If things don't work out, I am considering starting a bounce-yourself-better therapy business or political reconciliation service.  I am sure if you had put Bin Laden and Bush together on a trampoline they would have worked something out.

Last week I visited Lambeth Palace gardens - another beautiful oasis in a busy city - on one of the very rare days it was open to anyone but the Archbishop of Canterbury and the chosen few.  There are twelve acres of gorgeous, secret, mediaeval gardens said to be home to amongst other creatures a tall blue fairy who has been in residence longer than any christian (I will tell you the story of her counterpart The Lambeth troll one day).  As I wandered amongst the topiary and beehives, I rounded a leafy corner to find ... ah! .. a trampoline.  I couldn't resist having a bounce.  I realised it was possible, given enough vigorous and well-timed rythmic oscillation, if not to reach Heaven, then to at least see over the old boundary wall and catch a glimpse of a nurse in St Thomas's Hospital opposite.  Now I don't know how the Archbishop spends his time off from what must have been a very trying job of late, but this seemed a possibility - especially given the exhilarating updraft one would experience under one's robes.

This corner of central London is interesting for many reasons - it has for instance: the bus stop with the most beautiful view of the city; a strange monument to William Blake (a local) and the museum of garden history which is without doubt the most peaceful place to lunch before renewing an assault on Westminster and the West end.  The gardens won't be open to pagans again 'til next year unfortunately but there is a new and very good exhibition in the palace itself.  

If you see the archbishop while you are there, do bounce gently up and down to see if he responds with any recognition.