'Inchworm' - a song from the 1952 Hans Christian Andersen musical, starring Danny Kaye - was just on Radio 4 as the music for some programme or other...I used to love that film - glorious technicolour, gloriously unrealistic but bright, lively, optimistic. 'Inchworm' recalls my grandparents' house and the shaggy, leonine texture of their living room carpet, where I sat to watch TV (so I could get as close as possible). We also sang 'Inchworm' at Primary School - Mr Adler on the piano (big glasses, booming voice, violent temper) and Mrs Broderick as choir mistress. She had hair like the (1970s) Queen and a similarly authoritarian outlook. But though she was strict, she was also kind and encouraged creativity. I remember cosy afternoons after Beta Maths sitting cross-legged on the carpet in the reading corner, as the rain thudded on the windows, listening enthralled as she read 'White Fang' and 'The Silver Sword'. She always made me feel like there were possibilities, opportunities - she made me feel safe. Lily of the Valley perfume, matching cardigan and skirt. Pearls, always.
'Inchworm' is such a strange, hypnotic song - the melody spans a times-table refrain- 'two and two ARE four, four and four ARE eight...' It so perfectly mimics the movement of a caterpillar hunching and elongating its way across a stem. It is otherworldly, but beautifully complete and I love the allusion to marigolds (which my grandfather grew) and arithmetic (which sounds like a much nobler pursuit than mathematics:
Measuring the marigolds
You and your arithmetic
Will probably go far..
Seems to me you'll stop and see
How beautiful they are.'
It's cinematic gold - in the film the students are dully intoning their times-table and Danny Kaye's attention is brought to an inchworm on some flowers. And I love that multiplication, measurement, marigolds and what is essentially a garden pest all make it into the same song.