BEST WE COULD DO (©Words & Music by Paul F. Cowlan)

A contemporary folk tale. Okay, so the average old people’s home is certainly an improvement on the workhouse; but singalongs, bingo and witless television don’t necessarily become irresitible just because you’re old enough to qualify for a taxable pension .


Call the police and fire-brigade!
There’s someone on a ledge,
and I’m afraid it won’t be long before he’s gone.
Just look at that! I think that you’ll agree
the man must be a fool.
He’ll break his neck before he’s done.

The fire-brigade and police arrive,
glad to find the man is still alive.
An ambulance parks by the wall.
A policeman with a megaphone
glances up and switches on.
“Don’t worry. We won’t let you fall.”

The social worker’s here at last.
He’s leaning from the window,
thinking fast and talking in a friendly tone.
“You’re not in danger any more.
So climb back in, unlock the door.
And maybe I could use your telephone.”

“A chap of your age shouldn’t play the giddy goat.
And anyway it’s freezing,
you could catch your death of cold.
Let’s you and me just have a chat,
a cup of tea, and after that
I bet you’ll feel as good as gold.”

The man says, “Where’s the tragedy?
When you’ve lived as long as me
you might see things in a different way.
Would you rather make the choice your own,
or be banged up in some old folks’ home,
losing your teeth and marbles day by day?”

“No, no!” the social worker cries,
“That’s not the way to talk.
You just don’t realize what life could hold in store.
With outings, quizzes, singalongs,
bingo, T.V. marathons, talk-shows, pantomimes
and so much more.”

“Precisely!” says the man.
“Now don’t take this to heart,
because, for my part, I feel happy, free and proud.
It’s quite a simple step to take,
and it’s time I gave myself a break.
Please explain this to the crowd.”

With that he leans into the air,
performs a swallow-dive,
and there’s a gasp from all the watchers on the ground.
Because, though each one sees him fall,
Suddenly there’s no trace at all,
and he’s nowhere to be found!

“So what happened?” asks a woman from the Press.
“A hopeless case!” the social worker says.
“I just could not get through.
But whatever stunt he’s pulled, I tried.
And it can’t be denied,
we all did the best that we could do.
The best we could do.”