PC 265 A Bucket

You may or may not recognise these lines?

“Wenn der Beltz em Loch hat

Stop es zu meine liebe Liese …..


They are from a German song about a hole in a bucket, which dates from about 1700. I remember a much later English version by Harry Belafonte and Odette which reached number 32 in the UK Singles chart in September 1961 – ‘There’s a Hole in My Bucket’. (Note 1)

My last postcard, ‘Bits & Pieces’, engendered some comments about such a bucket, in this case a vehicle used to demonstrate that identifying the crucial aspects of your life must be the top priority. Ted suggested I shouldn’t kick it while Carol still uses one to remove the ashes from her log burner. On the way  back from Rahmi’s last Saturday morning, head down into the latest torrential rain, I thought the humble bucket could be the subject of my next PC, rather like PC 203 on A Milk Bottle (November 2020).

If you were hoping for more erudite comments about China and Covid, Novak Djokovic versus The Australian Government (Advantage Canberra?) or an update on the UK Post Office Scandal or The Cladding Crisis (See PC 235 Generosity in Government June 2021), I hope you won’t be disappointed with what follows?

A bucket is typically a watertight, vertical cylinder or truncated cone or square, with an open top and a flat bottom, with a semi-circular carrying handle called the bail. While a bucket is usually open-topped, a pail (Note 2) can have a top or lid. Milkmaids traditionally carried two pails suspended from a beam across their shoulders.

I am glad Ted suggested I shouldn’t ‘kick the bucket’ as this phrase derives from either the suicide’s kicking away the bucket on which they were standing in order to hang themselves, or from the ‘bucket beam’ on which pigs were hung after being slaughtered. Writing ‘pigs’ reminds me of the bucket used to collect kitchen refuse that was then used to feed pigs. Known as Pigs Swill, pig farmers arranged collection of the swill which was processed into pig food. Although banned in 2001 as a possible key link in a foot-and-mouth outbreak, recent research suggests no such link and the practice may return.

Our little kitchen container for waste

Using a bucket for pig swill brings me nicely to the use of a bucket for slopping out! Prison inmates without a flushing toilet in their cell had to use one for their personal waste. ‘Slopping Out’ was the term given to their manual emptying in the morning. In theory abolished in the UK in 1996, in practice one or two prisons still continue to use it.

By the way, I haven’t mentioned either Susie or Josh so far and that’s because the Hope Café is closed this week. A customer who was resisting vaccination had tested positive for Covid and the manager Duncan had no option but to shut for 5 days. So one person ruins it for the others: bit selfish in my view!

And here’s a Limerick about a bucket:

“There was an old man from Nantucket,

Who kept all his cash in a bucket,

But his daughter, named Nan,

Ran away with a man,

And as for the bucket, Nantucket.” (Note 3)

A bucket seat is cosy and sort-of wrap-around, with a rounded high back, whereas the bucket of a water wheel is anything but!

Writing about buckets reminds me of The Slump Test. Some of you will know that I studied Civil Engineering at university, way back when, and inter alia we spent an enormous proportion of those three years studying concrete! Yes, I know, you might think a little like watching paint dry, but it is a fascinating material and worthy of that attention. It’s obvious that concrete needs to be of the correct consistency, too dry and you can’t compact it well, too wet and it loses its strength. For the Slump Test the mixed concrete is poured into an upside down cone, a little like a bucket with no bottom (!), in three distinct layers and tamped. The cone is removed and the decrease in height at the centre is measured to nearest 5mm: the ‘slump’ needs to be within certain limits. Fascinating!

A bucket you may not have heard about is the canvas one kept on a yacht, called a drogue when used in extremely windy conditions. The bucket is attached to a rope which is payed out behind the yacht to slow it down and to prevent the hull becoming side-on to the waves. Without one, the yacht might speed down one wave and crash into the next, with catastrophic results! Fortunately I have never had to use one.

You will, I suspect, remember the 2007 film The Bucket List? Two terminally ill men, played by Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, escape from a cancer ward and attempt to do things they’ve always wanted to but ……. before ‘they kick the bucket’. During my coaching years one of my questions asked of clients was to list 30 things they wanted to have, wanted to be and wanted to accomplish. (Note 4)

Samuel Wordsworth (1784 – 1842) wrote a poem – The Old Oaken Bucket:  “The old oaken bucket, the iron-bound bucket, the moss-covered bucket, which hung in the well.

And how can I get to the end of these scribbles without mentioning the plastic bucket & spade, so beloved of children and adults alike.

On the beach, in the warmth of the sun, building castles with wet sand – and no requirement for a Slump Test!

Richard 14th January 2022


Note 1 “There’s a hole in my bucket dear Lisa dear Lisa.” “Then mend it dear Henry, dear Henry, mend it.” “With what shall I mend it …..”

Note 2 Not to be confused with pale. These words are homophones, pronounced the same but are spelled differently and have a different meaning (See PC 256 – towards the end)

Note 3 I guess this should be pronounced ‘Nan took it’

Note 4 Gordon Roddick, husband of Anita, had on his bucket list:  ‘To ride a horse from Buenos Aires to New York’. To keep busy while he was away, she opened a little ‘lotions & potions’ shop in Brighton. It did quite well ……. and grew into The Body Shop!

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