Tag Archives: singing ringing tree

A Little Knowledge Is A Dangerous Fang

Paul Fitzpatrick: Transylvania, May 1897

I remember the evening like it was 50 years ago…. an evening that would change my life….

My Dad had just brought home a film projector….
A slice of Hollywood was coming to our humble suburban abode and life, surely, would never be the same again.

I had visions of Mum serving up choc ices and Kia-ora as I sat on the family sofa with my chums watching all the new releases… Planet of the Apes, The Graduate, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid…. there would be a blockbuster every week.

Deveron Road was about to turn into Hollywood Boulevard… all we needed was a red carpet and a popcorn machine.

Setting the contraption up, my Dad explained that he’d got it from a friend who had kindly included a couple of reels of film to get us started.

The first reel was a home movie featuring the family who’d previously owned the projector, frolicking in the Clyde at Wemyss Bay where they lived.
Not exactly The Poseiden Adventure but we had to start somewhere and at least it helped us to get all the settings aligned.

We sat in eager anticipation as he set up the next reel and to give us a clue he mentioned that the upcoming feature was a ‘classic black & white movie’.

“Laurel & Hardy?” I suggested…. “It’s a Wonderful Life?” my Mum volunteered….

I’m sure I spotted a wee smirk on his face as he turned the lights off and pressed start.

The room and the screen were in complete darkness before the title appeared, accompanied by the eeriest church organ music known to man……

The opening title

WTF….

I repeat….

WTAF!!

There were to be no kind-hearted Angels earning their wings in this horrendous feature….
Nosferatu, was a terrifying German-Expressionist horror movie, made in 1922….. the first film ever in fact, to be based on Bram Stoker’s Dracula novel.

Nosferatu – Count Orlok

The protagonist, Count Orlok wasn’t your run of the mill, tall-dark & handsome gigolo of a vampire with slicked back hair either…. ala Christopher Lee or Vincent Price… he was the spookiest, creepiest, most chilling looking dude I’d ever laid eyes on in my young life.

I was transfixed with fear…. I didn’t want to watch it, but I wasn’t going upstairs to bed on my own either… lying there in the dark, listening to that horrific organ music, allowing my vivid imagination to run amok!

I always thought of myself as a pretty robust kid….
True, the Singing Ringing Tree (SRT) had given me a few sleepless nights when I was 7 or 8 but this was a whole new ball game…. the SRT was like Andy Pandy compared to this carnage!

I don’t recall getting much sleep that night.

In fact for what seemed like the next couple of years, I had a pathological and (admittedly) illogical fear of vampires.

Vampires were supposed to be a myth, but not to me… and I went to extreme lengths to protect myself from them… I wasn’t taking any chances.

I kept a bible on my bedside table.
I ‘borrowed’ a silver Cross from my Mum’s jewellery box, that I wore at night.
I ‘borrowed’ a little vassal of holy water from an Aunt which I kept under my pillow.
And the piece d’resistance…….
A wooden stake (carved then ‘borrowed’ from the school woodwork lab) kept under my bed, in case I had to go full Van Helsing on the Count’s ass.

I should also add that I tried my best to acquire some garlic but every time I added it to the weekly shopping list, I got the strangest looks.

I know it sounds ridiculous, but I dreaded night time… daybreak just couldn’t come fast enough.

Looking back, I fully related to George Clooney’s character in the excellent From Dusk till Dawn when he said….

And I don’t want to hear anything about not believing in vampires.
Because I don’t f***ing believe in vampires!
But I believe in my own two eyes!
And what I saw is f***ing vampires!

(it’s funnier when he says it, watch clip below)

George Clooney Scene

If there was a Hammer House of Horror movie on, (and there seemed to be one every Friday night) I’d creep downstairs and covertly sit on the bottom step of the landing, to listen to it.
I knew I was tormenting myself, but at least I wasn’t upstairs on my own, thinking the worst.

My Dad, (a non-believer!) thought this was all a big joke so one Friday night when I’d been chased from the bottom step back up to my room, he thought that it would be a jolly jape to throw pebbles up at my bedroom window from the back garden.

Thinking, quite reasonably, that it was a Vampire (in the form of a bat) trying to get into my room I jumped out of bed, ran downstairs quicker than you could say “I have crossed oceans of time to find you“, only to find my Dad pissing himself laughing and my Mum chastising him…
you’ll give the poor lad a heart attack Joe!

Reflecting on my ‘wimpish past’… apart from the Singing Ringing Tree the only other thing that had given me the heebie- jeebies prior to this monstrosity of a movie was an episode of the ‘Alfred Hitchcock Hour’ called Final Escape, about John, a convicted bank robber.

Determined to escape his sentence, John befriends an inmate named Doc, who’s in charge of the prison infirmary.

They hatch a plan to hide John inside the coffin of the next inmate who dies.

The coffin will then be buried and dug up by Doc after the gravediggers and guards leave.

It all goes according to plan, until Doc fails to dig John up.
A terrified John learns why, when the shroud slips off the face of the corpse sharing the coffin with him: It’s Doc, who died of a heart attack the night before….Ahhhh!

I’m not sure when I ‘grew out’ of my Vampire phobia, I think it probably just got ‘trumped’ by The Exorcist which was much scarier and even more realistic.

I remember at the time you couldn’t pick up a newspaper without reading about some poor sod being possessed…. ‘an exorcism being performed in a town near you’…. or some other form of paranormal activity.

Fast forward a couple of years when the movie Jaws was breaking box office records and guess what? From nowhere, shark attacks started to be tabloid front page news with shocking regularity.
Great White seen at Helensburgh pier

Life imitating art or just a way to sell more papers?

Of course Vampires are uber cool now so no one’s stocking up on bibles, or wooden stakes anymore… instead, windows are left wide open and saucer’s of blood are left on the ledge to beckon the undead….

Yesterdays persona non grata has become today’s big poster boy.

Anyway, give me the old-school ghouls any day of the week, at least Count Orlok was a scary looking mo-fo… not like these pretty boys below!

nightmare on spey road

By Paul Fitzpatrick: March 2021

We’re all creatures of habit and I think it starts at an early age.

I remember my after-school routine at Primary School, it consisted of having a snack and watching a bit of tv before attempting to do any homework and waiting for my Dad to get home from work to have my tea.

This was well before my Crossroads days mind, so Miss Diane was just a twinkle in my eye back then.

The after school viewing options were all targeted at primary school children although by this stage (Primary 3) I remember thinking Andy Pandy and The Flowerpot Men were getting a bit stale and hankering for Tom & Jerry which was shown a bit later.

The post-school programmes I remember watching from this era were….

 Watch with Mother – Andy Pandy and The Flowerpot Men, entry level stuff that was starting to get a bit tiresome.

Animal Magic – good old Johnny Morris and his hilarious talking animals

Vision On – Tony Hart and his art, we all thought he was a dull version of Rolf Harris, little did we know!

Crackerjack – on every Friday, my favourite! what you wouldn’t do for a Crackerjack pencil back then

This particular day didn’t seem much different to any other, we were learning our times-tables, I’d gagged on the lukewarm school milk as usual, I’d walked home from school with my pals as normal looking for anything we could use as a football.
On getting home I’d given my Mum a hug as she served my daily aperitif and snack, orange Creamola Foam and a Lyons chocolate cup cake, and I was ready for some well deserved R & R after another hard day at the coal face.

As I settled down to watch my daily helping of kids tv I didn’t recognise the title on our black & white DER television screen – ‘Tales from Europe’…. maybe Johnny Morris had gone to a zoo in Bavaria or perhaps Tony Hart was going to sketch Caravaggio’s gruesome – ‘Salome with the head of John the Baptist’?

Actually, what followed was a lot more traumatising than the Caravaggio masterpiece.

This is my summary of the anguish that followed, so for any of you that forget the actual storyline of this gruesome fairy-tale, here it is, in all its macabre glory….

It all started off well enough with a fanfare and a handsome Prince on a horse.

He was on his way to a big castle to sweep a beautiful Princess off her feet and to ask for her hand in marriage – a classic start, this looked promising.

The Princess wasn’t for sweeping though, and it turned out she was a bit of a brat, cascading the pearls he had gifted her to the floor she demanded a grand gesture, not expensive trinkets – “The Singing Ringing Tree – Bring it to me!”

The Kings court thought this was hilarious, she was sending the poor guy on a wild goose chase, but undeterred and in true fairy-tale fashion the Prince was determined to win her hand and off he went to fairyland to find the novelty tree.

So far so good, but then 10 minutes in, a dwarf appears, scuttling around, stalking the Prince and looking a bit menacing.

Now you have to remember, any experiences of small people in my young life up till now have been pretty positive, the fun-filled dwarves in Snow White, the playful munchkins in The Wizard of Oz, the vertically challenged Tom Thumb and all the fairytale Elves and Pixies.
And not forgetting of course my favourite little fella – Jimmy Clitheroe, a 4ft 2in comic genius.

Charming little guys, the lot of them – so nothing to be scared of here.

But there was something instantly menacing about this little guy, he didn’t appear very friendly, plus he had magical powers which was a bit disconcerting.
Jimmy Clitheroe was cool, but he couldn’t turn a horse into a concrete statue by waving his hands.

The Prince being a bit giddy makes a deal with the dwarf – if the dwarf gives him the tree he will ensure the Princess falls in love with him by sunset, enabling the tree to truly sing and ring.
If he doesn’t achieve this, he will gladly let the dwarf turn him into a bear, yes you read it correctly – A Bear!

And he actually volunteered this forfeit himself!
Not the brightest Prince – too much in-breeding obviously…

Off the Prince trots, back to the castle, tree in hand to present it to his betrothed, only she’s not very impressed, with either the tree (it’s not very special for a magic tree to be fair) or the fact that it’s not singing or ringing.
When Princey says it’s up to her to make the tree perform by showing the love, she goes full-blown Mariah Carey on his ass and kicks him out of the castle for a second time, in a tumultuous diva meltdown.

Being the fickle sort however she decides a few hours later she does want the tree after all and manipulates her father the King to go in search of it. (daughters twisting Dad’s round their little fingers – who’d have thought!)

By this point the handsome Prince has been turned into Yogi Bear and the dwarf is now openly mocking the Prince, suggesting he should try courting the Princess as a bear.

Not best pleased ‘The Bear formerly known as Prince’ confronts the King who’s come to Fairyland to claim the tree for his disgrace of a daughter and makes a deal with him.

The King can take the tree back to the castle as long as the bear takes ownership of the first person the King meets when he gets there (oh I wonder who that will be???).
The King agrees.

The impatient Princess waiting for his return sees her father coming back to the castle in the distance, shoves the footmen down the stairs, trips up her maid, kicks the dog out the way and guess what – is first there to greet her father in order to get her tree.

To say she’s not best pleased to hear the deal Daddy made to get the tree is an understatement and she persuades him to send the Captain of the guard instead of her, to kill the bear.

Great plan except this bear is indeed smarter than the average bear, and now he’s really pissed off, so he kidnaps the princess, avec tree, and takes her back to Fairyland (which if you’re wondering is quite close to Anniesland).

Then for no reason other than to demonstrate Eastern Bloc special effects in 1957 a giant goldfish appears in a lake and the Princess true to form acts all diva-like, enabling the dwarf to change her appearance to match her distasteful personality.
Bizarrely he gives her green hair, and she now looks like Billie Eilish.

Distraught at her appearance the Bear tells her she’ll need to change her ways to regain her beauty, so, stripped of her privileges and looks, she starts to become a nicer, more gracious person – she’s kind to animals, particularly the goldfish and a random giant reindeer who appears in a snowstorm and she’s even nice to Yogi now.

Through being charitable and thoughtful, the Princess magically regains her beauty and comes back looking a bit like Holly Willoughby.

But just when things are looking up, she encounters the dwarf for the first time who’s a bit pissed off that kindness and compassion are alive and well in his kingdom.
He tries to poison her mind against the bear, but to no avail, she professes her love for the bear.

Cue the singing ringing tree which is now singing and ringing to its little hearts content.

The dwarf ain’t having any of this though and duly creates a ring of fire around the tree, (sadly, without the accompanying Johnny Cash soundtrack).
Undeterred the Princess channels her inner Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains and walks through the tinfoil, ahem flames, to embrace the tree, and by doing so, expels the Dwarves powers, which sends him plummeting underground (we’re assuming to the big fire).

All smiley and in love she duly jumps onto the back of the horse with the Prince who’s cast aside his bearish charms and now looks like Phillip Schofield and they ride off into the sunset together to host This Morning (except for Fridays).

Now as crazy as this all sounds, unless Mum sneakily infused some magic mushrooms into my cupcake (and I wouldn’t rule it out, I used to be given whisky for toothache!) then that’s what went down, I know this to be true, because I have YouTube and Google.

It all sounds very silly so why did it traumatise so many of us?

Well like I said we were used to little people being charming and friendly so the fact that this little imp was so nasty, and evil was kind of a game changer.

Also, he had no ulterior motives, he was just f*cking with everyone for the sake of it and the irrationality of this was bemusing to an 8-year-old in a world where everything kind of happened for a reason.

The show lasted for 72 minutes but was serialised in 3 episodes to ensure that children everywhere had three sleepless weeks instead of just the one.

I can vividly remember being freaked out by the little guy, had he really been killed off like the Wicked Witch of the West, who had evaporated into a kale smoothie at the touch of water, or could he come back to torment us?


That’s what kept me awake, that’s what made me continually check my cupboards and under the bed, and up in the loft – that’s what gave me the frickin’ heebie-jeebies!  

Like most of us I’ve watched thousands of hours of tv (the average in a lifetime is 78,000 hours apparently) and there are certain things you never forget –

Bowie’s first appearance on TOTP

The ending in The Sopranos

Basil thrashing the car in Fawlty Towers

Archie Gemmill’s goal v Holland in 1978

And I would have to add this show and the evil dwarf to the list as it’s been burned into my psyche since I saw it. 55 years ago.

As Rita Cruikshank rightly says – “you never forget trauma”