Whistling, but not in the dark

In the Wall Street Journal (17 Nov 10), Jan Morris lamented the decline of whistling.

One night during World War II, on leave in London, I penetrated the blackout to see a show at the London Hippodrome called The Lisbon Story. I forget what it was about, I forget who was in it, but I still have at the back of my mind its theme tune, which was called "Pedro the Fisherman."

This is because I have always been fond of whistling, and "Pedro the Fisherman" is the quintessential whistling song—jaunty, catchy, with a touch of the sentimental and an un-obliteratable melody. I like to think that it also expresses the generic character of people …

quot;Although I know it can sometimes be intolerable to have a habitual siffleur in the family, forever performing ‘Pedro the Fisherman,’ I still mourn the decline of the whistlers," Morris writes.

It’s not so much the songs Morris misses, but the whistlers themselves. "Something cocky has left society, the whistling errand boy, the whistling postman, the whistling housewife in her flowered apron, Pedro himself, all were expressing in their often discordant music something at once communal and defiant." It’s a practice that seems ready for a comeback. After all, "whistling not only cheers up the whistler, it invites the world at large to cheer up too."

As a whistler myself, I am sad that there are so few places where a cheerful and tuneful whistle seems accepted.