The Liar's bench image

The Liar's Bench

This song came joint second in the Watford Folk Club's annual songwriting competition

in November 2022, for which the subject was 'The Times of our Lives'.

The Liar's bench image

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The Liar's Bench
...the times of our lives....
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On the corner of the cliff path, just five minutes from the town.
Stood a weathered wooden shelter, where the old men settled down.
They watched the harbour traffic as it shuttled to and fro -
And they told their time-worn stories to the folks that come and go.

We five lads all ran together: John, Joe, Specky, Tom and me,
And on Sunday afternoons we would gather after tea.
Sometimes we'd play at footy, or go nesting on the cliff,
Or we'd listen to those old men's tales, wide-eyed with disbelief.

So quickly did our childhood pass, but none could settle down,
And one by one they left to find adventures of their own
Big John he joined the army, Tom and Specky went to sea,
And Joe got his diploma in archaeology.

So I was left alone to drift, odd-jobbing round the place.
Thinking of those old men's tales - and with a dream to chase -
I berthed upon a steamer, sailing eastward to the sun,
And I vowed to make my fortune, with no inkling how that's done.

Some forty years have passed since then as each of us was drawn -
By that invisible and life-worn thread that binds us to our home.
And weary of our travels we returned to settle down.
Except for Joe, who died somehow, in Port St Julian.

Now we gather in that shelter, John, Specky, Tom and me.
That weathered wooden shelter, that overlooks the sea,
And when we've done the weather and the Saturday football
We outdo one another with the exploits we recall.

We tip our hats to folks who pass and wish 'em a good day,
Though few find time to take a breath or have a word to say.
But the young'uns sometime stop a-while when passing up the cliff,
And they listen to our old men's tales, wide-eyed with disbelief.


© Tim Brooks November 2022

Origin of the Song

Our great friends Nanna Kalma and Ankie Van Der Meer told us about the tradition in Friesland of referring to benches in shelters (commonly sited overlooking harbours around the Iselmere, but also in other locations within towns ) as 'Leucheren Bankje' or Liars bench. Indeed in several locations they have actually affixed signs to the shelters labelling them as such!

Most people are familiar with the idea of a group of elderly men trying to outdo one another's stories as the core of the famous 'Four Yorkshiremen sketch'- The sketch was written by Tim Brooke-Taylor, John Cleese, Graham Chapman and Marty Feldman and originally performed in 1967 on their TV series At Last the 1948 Show.

I have had for a while in the back of my head (amongst all the other junk there) the idea of using the liar's bench concept to create a 'circle of life' song, but it wasn't until, early in August 2022, when I saw that the subject of the Watford Folk Song Competition of that year was 'The Times of Our Lives' that I realised that that subject was a perfect match to this idea. The next morning I got up and wrote most of the lyrics, before anyone else had arisen in the house.

It took a few weeks to set a melody and accompaniment to the song, and the polishing process started, adjusting both lyrics and accompaniment (Including adopting a dropped D tuning for the first time - just to make it harder to learn and to play!) I got my submission in on 26th September, 4 days before the competition deadline.

I did a trial live performance (still reading the words) as part of a spotlight singaround at the Chesham Folk Club, on 5th September, when I repeated the last lines of just verses 2 and 7, and was urged afterwards by Clive Carey to repeat the last line of every verse. This suggestion pretty much put the song into its finished state. (Thanks Clive!)

Media files of The Liar's Bench

Audio files

    Here is an mp3 audio recording of The Liar's bench

Printable Song Sheets.

     pdf of the lyrics

Melody notation and suggested chords

     pdf copy of the melody line with suggested chords. Note that I use a dropped D tuning