OU blog

Personal Blogs

This be the worst

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Michelle Payne, Wednesday, 5 Jan 2011, 21:11

I've been planning to write posts about why I love Sylvia Plath's poetry so much, and how Philip Larkin really seems too much of his time for me to strongly relate to ... but that's just going to have to wait. This is much more amusing.

You need to know Larkin's This Be the Verse. It's the one that starts 'They fuck you up, your mum and dad'. If you don't know it, you should. Look it up. Anyway, Adrian Mitchell wrote this poem, apparently after hearing that some pure spirit thought Larkin had written 'They tuck you up, your mum and dad'.


This Be the Worst

They tuck you up, your mum and dad,

They read you Peter Rabbit, too.

They give you all the treats they had

And add some extra, just for you.


They were tucked up when they were small,

(Pink perfume, blue tobacco-smoke),

By those whose kiss healed any fall,

Whose laughter doubled any joke.


Man hands on happiness to man,

It deepens like a coastal shelf.

So love your parents all you can

And have some cheerful kids yourself.

Share post


Design Museum

New comment

You're not talking to yourself. I read everyone and everything, rolling back and forth brushing up all the people put down - except the maths which had might as well be Martian.

I've followed so much of some course or other here that I could just about sit an exam.

In relation to Parent's fucking you up I'm afraid a chortle became a fat slap.

Just about able in my 42nd year to have some dignity and speak my mind in front of my late father when he went on and on about some fellow patient's grand-daughter making too much noise (he was in hospital. Nothing much he convinced me). I remarked that 'You never did like children.' To which he responded, 'I liked the idea of children.' He had four of us.

On the day he announced to us that he would be leaving his 6, 8, 10 and 12 year old children gathered in the sitting room we naturally became somewhat upset when we were given the news. (I'm the 8 year old).

'I can't stand this.' He said and walked out.

I think it was another six years before I began to learn that he hadn't walked out because he couldn't stand kids (though he couldn't), but he'd been caught with someone's wife, or his secretary or some other female who wasn't our mother for the nth time.

So yes, your parents do F*** you up.

Being packed off to boarding prep school at this exact same time on reflection, something I've been encouraged to do through the OU, made things far, far, far worse.

Larkin. Yes. Tucking up the kids? We do. Indeed, I'm just about to.

Decades ago I did a career guidance thing called 'What Color's your Parachute?' To contemplate your life you had to imagine something written on your grave stone. Mine? 'A loving father.'

New comment

Thanks for commenting and sharing that Jonathan. I like the epithet you’d like on your gravestone. A great aim for life.

I do wonder how common the sentiment ‘I liked the idea of children’ actually is. It strikes me as the kind of things that’s much more commonly felt by people than admitted, even to themselves.

My mum was kind of the opposite – she very obviously and abundantly loved us as small children but found it more difficult to demonstrate that or indeed relate to us at all once we started to grow up. With my father it was the opposite, he was distant when we were small and much better as when we were in our teens.

I can see very clearly the ways in which my mum strove to bring us up quite differently to the way she was brought up, and now the conflict between how she raised us and how my sister chooses to raise her own children. But I would not say this is ‘misery deepening like a coastal shelf’, to quote Larkin. Quite the opposite, in fact. Each generation seems to be learning from and improving on the one before, in this respect.