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alt.music.marillion FAQ [1/2]
Section - 3.7 Can anyone explain the lyrics of Garden Party?

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See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
Garden Party seems to raise many questions, therefore I have included
a long -but good- explanation of this song. I have included the full
message that was posted to the (old) Freaks list on March 13, 1991, by
Geoff Parks. Later he made some modifications to the original message:

[=== Start of included message ===]

> Anyway, on with today's song : 'Garden Party' [insert kermit's "yeeee-
> aaah" here].

Having spent 8 years of my life at Cambridge University I am in a good
position to pontificate about this one!

> I won't offend your intelligence by stating what the subject of this
> song is supposed to be :-) .

> invites call the debs to play : this is an idiom I am totally unfami-
> liar with. Anybody ?

`Deb' is short for debutant. By tradition, the daughters of the `ruling
class' in Britain are presented at court (i.e., introduced to the king or
queen) when they reach the age of 18 - they make their debut in social
circles, hence the term `debutant'. Over the summer which following this
these debutants attend all the `essential' social events and each host a
`coming out' party. The object of all this is to find a husband. It is all
a very elaborate mating ritual!

By extrapolation the term deb is applied to any girl from the upper
classes whose main purpose in life seems to be to find a rich (or
potentially rich) husband. There are lots of these at Cambridge!

> edgy eggs ??? Cumbers : in Latin 'cumbere' means 'to lie down'. Is
> this too far-fetched ? It would fit in nicely with the slumber.
> Or does 'cumber' exist in English ? If so, what does it mean ?

`Cumber' is short for cucumber (the salad vegetable). Two of the most
common delicacies at garden parties are cucumber sandwiches and egg
sandwiches. In Britain the construction of a sandwich is much simpler than
here in the US - it is: slice of bread, butter, filling, butter, slice of
bread. At the `best' garden parties such sandwiches will have had the
crusts removed and be cut into little triangles. Many hundreds of these
will be consumed hence `The Great Cucumber Massacre' sub-title.

> The 'Cam' waters. I don't get this one.

The river which flows through Cambridge is the River Cam.

> The first verse clearly pictured the preparations. But you all knew
> that.

> Straafed, eaves : anyone can give the meaning (my guess at straafed is
> that it means 'tortured'. eaves, like in eavesdropping ??)

Straaf is originally a German word I believe. I've always understood it
to mean `to bomb to bits' or something similarly destructive.

During WWII, Stukas were known for their straafing runs.  Think back to
the old WWII movie footage of the fighter swooping down and firing bullets
down a road, across a field, etc.  That is strafing.

Eaves are the part of the roof that hangs over the wall.  The area
underneath the eaves is called the eavesdrop.

> Punting on the Cam : Is Cam a game of sorts ? played in water ?
> Beagling ? Rugger is the tops ?

`Punting' is a leisure pursuit. A punt is long shallow rectangular boat.
This is propelled along the river by standing at one end with a long pole
which one pushes against the river bed. It takes quite a bit of practice
to get the thing to go in a straight line. Usually a bunch of friends go
punting. Each takes a turn doing the `driving'. The others sit in the punt
talking, drinking, trying to catch ducks etc. On a nice day and in the
right company it is actually quite a pleasant way to while away the hours.

`Beagling' is a low budget version of foxhunting. A beagle is a type of
dog similar to a fox hound. To go beagling one assembles a pack of these
dogs and a bunch of hunters (on foot) and sets off across the fields in
search of a hare, rabbit or some similarly inoffensive creature. I knew
someone who used to go beagling at Cambridge and, as far as I know, they
never actually managed to catch anything. They did however get lots of
exercise and large cleaning bills out of it!

Rugger is another name for rugby (the game). The two most important sports
played in Cambridge are rowing and rugby. University sport in Britain has
nowhere near the status it does in the US but the annual rowing and rugby
contests between Oxford and Cambridge (the Boat Race and the Varsity
Match) are televised nationally. `Rugger is the tops' simply means `rugby
is the most enjoyable sport'. Incidentally, the term `rucking' which
appears in the song is a technical term from rugby.

> I guess ye can all see I haven't experienced one of these parties yet.
> Lucky me !

> To chalk another blue ?
> Come on guys, enlighten me !

A `blue' is a sporting honour. To obtain a blue you have to represent
Cambridge University against Oxford in a major sport. You could be in the
team all year but if you miss the Oxford game due to injury you don't get
your blue. The major sports are rowing, rugby, football (aka soccer),
cricket, (field) hockey, boxing + perhaps one or two others.  If you
represent the university in a minor sport (eg.  tennis, squash, badminton,
ice hockey, basketball...) you get a `half-blue'. Receiving a blue
entitles you to numerous privileges, such wearing a hideous light blue
blazer (dark blue at Oxford), and gives you considerable status amongst
those who consider athletics more important than academics.

[=== End of included message ===]

Further comments added later:

Thus `Angie chalks another blue' can on one level be interpreted as
meaning that Angie is a sort of sports groupie, who is perhaps trying to
sleep with all the members of the university rugby team and has just
succeeded in bedding another player - and chalked up (tallied) this
conquest on her personal score sheet.

In addition, this line can also be taken as a reference to snooker (a game
with some basic similarities to pool which is popular among the upper
classes in Britain). One of the balls used in snooker is blue. Also the
chalk rubbed on the tips of the cues used in snooker is blue - so
conceivably this line contains all sorts of phallic imagery!

Furthermore:

[actually, I've heard that it's slang for taking uppers, ie blues.
there are other references to blues in Quadraphenia.--kbibb]

[There is a simpler explanation.  Here in England someone who is somehow
connected with the royal family, or a Lord, Peer, etc., is said to be "blue
blooded".  Hence "blue" from the song.--Paul Irvine]

So, in conclusion, this one line (four words) manages to make allusions to
three different aspects of upper class decadence - a fine example of
Fish's lyrical brilliance.

All lyrics were written by Fish. He says on the subject: "The Garden Party
lyric was actually written in Ettrickbridge in Scotland before I joined the
band.It came from my experiences in Cambridge with Diz Minnitt."

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