This song was originally inspired by a very extroverted old lady I met in the late 70s, but somehow as the song developed, the backstory got darker. Which is fine by me: I’ve certainly known old people who were far more miserable than this, and one or two of them crept into the background of the story. The tune is a heavily adapted mash-up of two traditional melodies. When I was singing it quite often, I used the well-known Dives and Lazarus tune, and when I was working with fiddler Pete Wilkes we used to follow it with a guitar/fiddle version of the tune and the slip jig The Butterfly.
I stopped singing it for a while after a couple of very unpleasant people told me I shouldn’t be singing such a miserable song, but it so happens that I don’t believe all songs should be happy-clappy. Which won’t surprise you if you’ve listened to many of my songs… So I really don’t need anyone else to tell me what a drag it is, thanks all the same. But if you actually like it or even have constructive suggestions, I’d be very happy to hear from you.
The Weekends [are the worst] (Harley)
The world has changed since I was born in 1902.
Two World Wars have swept away the world that we once knew:
Two brothers and three sisters , long dead and gone to earth
Our lives were often hard, but now the weekends are the worst.
My old man died just 20 years past.
His health was never good since the Kaiser had him gassed,
But in the end it was cancer that carried him off so fast
I miss him all the time, and the weekends are the worst.
You might say I was lucky, though we never had much cash,
But we had 50-odd good years, more than I’d dare to ask.
I brought up three lovely kids, though another died at birth:
I miss them all a lot, and the weekends are the worst.
I’ve a son in Melbourne, he’s been there since ’62:
I’ve never seen his wife or kids, just a snapshot or two.
My eldest died in the last lot, on a convoy to Murmansk:
It still brings tears to my eyes, and the weekends are the worst.
I’ve a daughter in Glasgow: she writes when she has time,
But that’s a long way off, and I’ve not seen her for a while.
She’s got a son in the army, just been posted to Belfast:
We worry all the time, and the weekends are the worst.
My friends are mostly dead, or else they’ve moved like me
When the street I was brought up in was pulled down in ’63.
Sixty years I’d lived there, child, girl and wife:
Sheltered housing’s not so bad but it can be a lonely life.
Especially since Jim died: we weren’t too bad at first
But now I’m on my own the weekends are the worst.
There’s the club once a week, though it’s just from seven till nine,
And since my fall they only fetch me down from time to time.
There’s my knitting and the TV, for what that might be worth,
But I miss the company, and the weekends are the worst.