Wednesday, November 11, 2015

London fog, Skinnay Ennis and my old man.

It's foggy out this morning, and every time this happens, I think of an old song.

I grew up listening to this tune and hundreds more from the same period via my father's swing era compilation albums. These were absolute staples of Sunday morning relaxation, because he didn't go to church. Whatever his religious beliefs, preachers simply didn't fit into them; the great outdoors, tinkering and memories of youth did.

Music like this was in his head when he joined the Marines at 17 in 1942, and it remained there through three years in the Pacific and afterward, until he died. He honored his past each Sunday morning. As rituals go, it's one I respect quite a lot, and it's worth remembering on Veterans Day.

When I was a kid, London fog was a cliche, and something to be regarded a as atmospheric in a figurative sense. A new book examines the literal aspects of London's former fogginess: "London Fog: A Biography," by Christine Corton.

Grey and dreichy: How London so often used to be (The Economist)

 ... London, in its river basin ringed by hills, has always had what the Scots call “dreich”; cold, wet winter mists that in early November led to flights being cancelled at Heathrow. Pea-soup fogs were quite different; they were so polluted with soot from domestic and industrial coal fires that people coughed up black mucus. As the Times put it in 1853, London’s fogs converted “the human larynx into an ill-swept chimney”. In 1921 a sample cubic inch of air contained 340,000 sooty particles. One of the last great fogs, in 1952, was so thick that a performance of “La Traviata” at Sadler’s Wells was cancelled after fog seeped into the theatre. No one could see the stage.

Now, back to the "Foggy Day in London," as performed by Hal Kemp and His Orchestra, with Edgar Clyde "Skinnay" Ennis, Jr., on vocals.

For all I know about the big bands, one thing I didn't know until today is that Ennis died from choking on a bone while dining.

With that, it's off for a foggy walk.

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