Competitions nos. 182A and 182B: results

R. Ellis Roberts makes his second appearance as a judge. He wants a ballade with the title ‘Any Wife To Any Husband’ or ‘Any Husband To Any Wife’, and the refrain ‘And that was his (her) idea of tact’. (Not a great refrain, I’d say.)

Roberts is not impressed with the results – should have been done in the voice of a third person, rhymes too far fetched etc. He mentions Rose Fitzpatrick as having contributed a good last stanza – unusual to see her name. She is in fact always to be found hiding behind the pseudonym ‘Chauve-Souris’. He plumps for Black Gnat before L.V. Upward (now on a serious roll), despite the former’s rather desperate -ay rhymes (there is no easier syllable, so ‘popinjay’ seems especially pointless).

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It’s a purely personal thing, but I am underwhelmed by the ballade: goes on too long, stretches repetition to breaking point, is rarely able to sustain humour. Ah well.

 

The B competition – only eleven entrants, which is a very bad sign, and suggests to me that the circulation has started to fall – is a more interesting proposition. Which six ‘legal restrictions on personal liberty’ should be abolished? Apart from admiring a couple of facetious entries, which are discounted, Roberts is anxious to point out that some of what was assumed to be illegal is not illegal at all. Bathing in the sea naked, he points out, is not illegal – there are simply some local bye-laws and an act against indecent exposure. It is not illegal to get married after three in the afternoon (just expensive). Women are not legally obliged to take their husbands’ names. In fact, and perhaps this is a better argument as to why only eleven have entered, perhaps it’s quite hard to think of six obstacles to personal liberty. Roberts says he hasn’t discriminated by using his own views, but is pleased that a law forbidding the destitute from sleeping out comes in for such a bashing. (Divorce laws are also mentioned.)

The business of not being allowed to sleep rough can be traced back to the 1824 Vagrancy Act in particular, but to a series of eighteenth century laws as well. In fact the 1824 Vagrancy Act is still in force, although it has been amended, as it was just two years after this competition, in 1935, at which point you could not be called a rogue or a vagabond if you had been offered but turned down a place of refuge. It is a little chilling to realise that the word ‘vagabond’ has legal force.

The winners are N.B. and (suddenly appearing almost weekly), Redling. Roberts is not sure about the ‘legitimacy’ of Redling’s points 3 and 5. I’m not quite sure what he means by this. It is interesting that ‘compulsory retirement’ is raised as an issue so long ago, since it is only a few years since it was officially banned.

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vagrancy-act 1824

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