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Marbles I-IV

Introduction: From an out-take from the Marbles on the Road DVD on YouTube, h said, "I wrote this poem. I had this rhythm like an Irish drinking song. It started like that, a goofy little poem about going nuts, but at the same time as that, it was about innocence and harking back to a time when everything was real, when I was a kid and I used to play marbles and how magical they were and the fact that to me they almost represented little spirits frozen in glass. Like a way of capturing ghosts almost, as a kid.

"We used to play me and my mate, John Liddell - John Liddell from up the street - we would play every day in the summer and if you won, of course, then you'd end up with more marbles than you started up with, so the more marbles you had the greater became your general standing on the estate. And I ended up with hundreds of them, I had this great big bag of marbles. So, I was very proud of the fact that I'd got so many and it meant that you've got plenty to lose as well. If you lost a few it wasn't such a disaster but then you'd always have the special ones that you wouldn't play with because you couldn't cope with the idea of losing ‘em, because they were the ones that you'd decided for whatever reason were more beautiful or more precious in some way than the others.

"I used to have those inside a bag within the bag so as not to get mixed up and then, one sunny afternoon, John and I was sitting in in our back garden and we discovered that… We’d been playing tennis and we discovered that if you hit marbles in the tennis racket they do something else entirely - they just zing away into the sky like bullets. So high that they vanish and so we spent most of the afternoon just taking them walloping these things in in the air not really thinking about where they were coming down, of course. You're not even really thinking that they'd come down at all and, of course, they were coming down all over this housing estate and they were going through people's glass houses, you know, the greenhouses where they grow their crops tomatoes and stuff.

"Working class people like growing tomatoes for some reason I've never quite got my head round, but I think it's just a way of blokes getting away from a missus, you know? 'I'll just gonna have a look at the tomatoes here'; so everybody used to have a greenhouse and everyone had tomatoes.

"I was on the go and of course these marbles were going down through all the greenhouses on the estate like bullets and smashing all the glass and going down through people's roof tiles and killing their cats and whatnot. So this caused a lot of trouble and before I knew it there was a queue of people at the front door, you know, waving fists angrily and demanding payment for new glazing from my father and we weren't really very terribly well off so this represented quite a substantial debt that I'd suddenly plunged my dad into.

"And in order to punish me, he gave all my marbles away to this other kid who lived up the street I didn't really like, which was a massive, massive blow and I was utterly devastated because I didn't really feel that I'd done anything bad, you know? I mean it was naïve but there's a difference between naivety and wilful evildoing but, you know, it was in a bit of a temper because it had cost a lot of money. Anyway, he gave my marbles away and I never forgave him until I was about 40.

"It became a standing joke between us, you know. I hadn't forgotten him giving him my marbles away. He actually bought me some marbles one Christmas, not that long ago, to make amends. A little token gesture, and, of course, I lost him a couple of years ago - he died a couple years back - and so I suppose that whole episode took on a slightly more, you know, a deeper and more poignant sort of beauty when remembered, really. And so, it's not surprising that that song came out, really, at this point.

"At that time I was writing, as well the Iraq war was all going off, which was so wrong, you know? How one country one fact in one part the world can decide to drop fire on another country when that country doesn't pose any threat to it, just because it decides it should seemed terrible to me. It was like the world had gone completely nuts, so I was beginning to wonder if the world had gone mad or if I had, and so Marbles is a metaphor for innocence and for youth and for a time when everything was real. Kids play with computer games now, they don't play with real things. I guess, it's just a different kind of magic, isn't it, that they have going on now they have that virtual thing they probably project their imagination into that whereas we just had bits of glass."

'Did anyone see my last marble... ...As it rolled out'
'Losing your marbles' is a euphemism for going mad.

'Marbles was always my favourite game'
Marbles is an ancient game, dating back at least as far as the Roman and Greek civilisations, and probably further. There are many variations but commonly the objective is to be the player who manages to get their marble closest to a 'jack' (another, typically standout-coloured marble).
Songs with a link have explanations.

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MSH SfaJT Fugazi MC CaS
SE HiE Brave AoS TSE
R10 dotcom ANP Marbles SWE

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