The Sludge-Banks

Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work we go. We work at the sludge-banks. We monitor and count and then extract from the sludge the flies and gnats and bluebottles and other insects which have flown thwack! straight into the sludge, and become stuck, and died. There is something about the winds hereabouts, in their sweep and turbulence, that impels the tiny creatures towards the sludge. And once they are near, they are attracted by the pong rising from the sludge, the stink of corruption and rot and death. The sludge-banks lie at the edge of a vast lake bordering the estuary.

We do not actually sing the song of the seven dwarves when we go to work. First, we are none of us little folk, and second, we know only too well the ruthless and ruinous energy of the Disney Corporation’s legal fiends. We witnessed the suicide, by bleach, blade and plunge, of a colleague who was pursued through the courts relentlessly for having named his duck D—-d. So when we go off to work at the sludge-banks we do not risk singing that jaunty song, much as we would like to, and much as it would suit us to do so, despite our not being of the diminutive persuasion.

Instead we sing the sludge-banks song. What it lacks in dwarvish jauntiness it gains in intellectual heft. The tune we borrowed from Charles Ives, a startling passage from the third movement of the Piano Trio. For the words, we collaborated, during a weekend workshop in a wigwam in the woods. We smoked pipes and drank copious draughts of undistilled nettlewater, and as soon as we had finished a verse we danced around a bonfire before resuming our lyrical labours. Or, rather say, we hopped and flailed around a bonfire. There are twenty-six verses in the sludge-banks song.

I shall not tell you a single word of any of them, for we have taken a leaf out of the Disney Corporation’s book, and we shall wreak a terrible vengeance on any who pirate or copy or duplicate or cause to be babbled or you-know-what the words of our work song. Hi ho, hi ho.

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