Writing a couple of days ago about cucumber sandwiches, I mentioned that these, typically, would have been offered by the vicar to the two old ladies. I was amazed to receive three requests to explain the reference: I would have thought that virtually everyone in the Anglophone world was familiar with this epic tale, but then these were Americans, whose cultural heritage overlaps but does not coincide with ours.
The tune is very old, and the original words, which are on the theme of Oh, dear, what can the matter be? seem to have a Geordie flavour. Here you will find both sets of words and melodies, the traditional one and the nursery rhyme which came from it. Google provides many versions of more recent words some with dozens of verses.
With varying degrees of indelicacy, they tell the story of the old ladies—numbering anything between two and sixteen—who were locked in the lavatory, and the version I was thinking of in connection with cucumber sandwiches has a verse which goes:
They went one day for tea with the vicar
They went in together because it was quicker
They couldn't get out for the door was a sticker
The vicar had tea by himself.
I was going to add that there is nothing more to be said about cucumber sandwiches but I would have been quite wrong: a future post, lavishly illustrated, will reveal a little-known fact about them which will amaze everyone.