A limerick a week #233

However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light. – Stanley Kubrick

In my previous life as a fishery scientist I was, for a few years, one of a couple of Marine Laboratory staff whose remit included sharks, skates and rays.

One thing that I recall from those days is searching through our old registry files to inform myself of some earlier correspondence on shark fisheries around Scotland. In doing so I chanced upon a letter in which a member of the armed forces had asked for some information on sourcing a particular type of shark skin.

The problem was that he didn’t know which type of shark the skin had come from, so could the Lab help as it was needed to refurbish the handles of his regiment’s 19th century ceremonial swords.

Sword handle with its grip wrapped in shark skin (pic credit – Pooley Sword)

The Lab’s response was given by one of its elders, an old-school naturalist and a gushing fount of arcane knowledge; the sort of scientist that is now deprecated due the focus on quantitative rather than qualitative methods, and the need to posit testable hypotheses rather than to speculate upon observations (necessary, perhaps, but rather charmless).

Anyway, our old-school guru was able to tell the armourer that the species in question was the kitefin shark, Dalatias licha. I don’t recall what resulted from that correspondence, but I do know that Pooley Sword in the south of England is the ‘goto’ company for the UK’s military swords, and its website states that, even today, when refurbished “the grip core is carved from wood, then covered in fish-skin before being bound with gold or silver-plated wire”.

I don’t know if the ‘fish-skin’ to which Pooley Sword refers is from the kitefin shark as the species is currently classed as ‘vulnerable’ by the IUCN and, in Scotland at least, it is not allowed to be landed under the Sharks, Skates and Rays (Prohibition of Fishing, Trans-shipment and Landing) (Scotland) Order 2012.

So why this diversion down memory lane? Well, recent deep water research off New Zealand has shown that the kitefin shark is luminous in deep water. Fancy us not knowing that until now! In fact, it is now the world’s largest known luminous vertebrate and casts its own light into the dark.

Image from Mallefet et al., Front. Mar. Sci., 2021

Here’s the limerick…

A diver once dove to embark
On a trip to the depths cold and stark
But was given a fright
In the absence of light
By a shark that glowed bright in the dark!

Postscript: In writing the musings above, I wanted to check whether I should write “a fount of arcane knowledge” or a font of arcane knowledge”.

I thought it should be the former, but as the latter is widely used I also thought I should check. It seems that I was right and, in that context, ‘font is a ‘mondegreen’ whereby a word or phrase is misheard or misinterpreted in a way that may make sense, but is incorrect. Mondegreens usually arise from misheard song lyrics and the first that I recall was from the Terry Wogan Breakfast Show in the 1970s when a line from the Kenny Rogers song ‘Lucille’ that read “You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille, with four hungry children and a crop in the field” was mischievously misheard by Wogan as “You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille, with four hundred children and a crop in the field”.

Apparently the word ‘mondegreen’ is itself a mondegreen and formed the basis of the term when a line in the song The Bonnie Earl O’Moray was misheard by Sylvia Wright, an American writer who, when a child, instead of hearing:

They hae slain the Earl o’Moray,
And laid him on the green;

later wrote that she heard:

They hae slain the Earl o’ Moray,
And Lady Mondegreen;

My favourite mixing up of words is not strictly a mondegreen, but relates to the  name of George Harrison’s supergroup, The Travelling Wilburys. The Wilbury part of the name came from Jeff Lynne (of ELO fame) who pointed out that when mastering recordings, a minor issue on one track was no reason to re-record it as “we’ll bury it in the mix” and such an imperfection had become known as a Wilbury as in “wilbury it in the mix”. I like that story!

A limerick a week #232

When nature calls…

I was amused to read this week of a woman who got more than she bargained for on a wilderness weekend away in Alaska.

She was staying with friends in a yurt with an outside ‘dump through’ latrine (gross!), but when she answered nature’s call she found that nature answered back, and in an entirely unexpected way.

In fact, she believes that she was bitten en bas a l’arrière by a bear when she parked her bum on the latrine seat!

The bear may have entered the latrine’s ‘humous chamber’ through an unsecured hatch and found it to be a cosy den for the winter (also gross!).

Park rangers believe the bear was not fully hibernating and swiped at the descending fundament rather than biting it, but fancy that, a privy with an automatic bottom wiper!

Here’s the limerick:

A young woman was once overcome
By the need to disburden her tum,
But the lav was outside
And she got a raw hide
When a bear bit her right on the bum.

And, for once, it’s anapestically correct!

Seeking refuge

On welcoming refugees…

My offspring are Scots of an Anglo/Czech and Irish/Italian descent that arises from a blend of political refugees, displaced persons, economic migrants … and Geordies.

Each of their grandparents’ has a story to tell. The one that I know best is of my paternal grandfather and I thought I’d pen something of his story and the rôles played by two largely unheralded women in (i) keeping him (and many others) out of harms way and (ii) supporting him and his family (along with others) as refugees in the UK.

You can find their history here.

A limerick a week #231

Beanz meanz …

… brand awareness.

We once visited friends who had asked in advance which breakfast cereal Firstborn and the Tall Child preferred. Towards the end of our stay they remarked that they’d thought ’48’ was the number of biscuits in a carton of Weetabix and not the number of hours it took for my offspring to finish the lot of them.

So, the product doesn’t need to be marketed on our account, but I suspect that whichever agency supports the current Weetabix advertising campaign will be feeling pretty chuffed by the social media pile-on that arose from its tweet promoting ‘beans on bix’ for your morning brekky. Just google ‘weetabix’ and ‘beans’ to see the PR triumph that it spawned. Here’s the tweet that started it:

And here’s the limerick:

A chef got himself in a fix
When he added some beans to the mix
‘Cos he felt quite morose
When the outcome was gross,
So never put beans on your Weetabix!



A limerick a week #229

Going loco off the rails

Here’s a little something to bring a lockdown smile to the face of anyone that remembers the original TV adaptation of the Reverend Awdry’s ‘Railway Series’ of children’s books.

Thomas the Tank Engine for Seven Cellos (and Percussion) arranged and performed by Samara Ginsberg (@samaracello)…

… and, with apologies for re-gendering her and calling her deranged, here’s the limerick:

There once was a musical fellow
Whose playing was rounded and mellow
But they thought him deranged
When he went and arranged
‘Thomas the Tank’ for the cello!

A limerick a week #228

Your call is important to us…

This is a bit of a Victor Meldrew rant, so please scroll to the bottom if you just want the limerick!

I spent three hours yesterday morning dealing with what younger generations refer to as life admin; bureaucratic chores to you and me.

First up, British Telecom had earlier advised me that my broadband contract was due for renewal and that I could ‘upgrade’ to the same deal that I was on, but for £20 a month less than I was currently paying. So I did.

Consequently, yesterday’s first chore was to contact them to ask why had I subsequently received a letter demanding the return of their hardware, a Smart Hub 2, as it was still needed to fulfil the new contract. It took an hour to wait for a call centre agent to become available and to resolve the issue through an online chat, but eventually they acknowledged it was their mistake and at least I was dealing with a person and not a chatbot. Sadly, I can’t charge them for my time spent wasted correcting their mistake.

Next was a call to Three Mobile. Two years ago I’d got an add-on to a phone upgrade in the form of a Samsung tablet with a SIM and 2Gb of data per month. The full-term cost was significantly less than the outright cost of the tablet alone (cf John Lewis’ price) and it would come in handy, so why not?

Well, the contract is now up and I don’t wish to keep paying for data, so a quick call to Three was in order.

Did I say ‘quick’? After being on hold for an hour I finally got to speak to a call centre worker. It took two minutes to explain that I wanted to terminate the contract and that I wasn’t interested in any inducements to remain.

Did that help? Nope! The guy at the other end had a script to go through and go through it he would. I said “no” to each inducement and reiterated every time that I just wanted to terminate the contract.

Seemingly, no divergence from the script was allowed and, no matter how many times I said “please, just terminate the contract”, the call centre worker kept ‘discovering’ new offers to tempt me to stay on as a customer. It took the best part of an hour before he ran out of inducements so, including being on hold, it took nearly two hours on the phone simply to terminate a contract that had reached its minimum term. Had I wanted to renew it instead, it would have taken one click of a mouse! Grrrr!

Here’s the limerick:

A call centre agent once said
That he was the person you’d dread
To answer your call
Because, above all,
He just wanted to mess with your head!

A limerick a week #227

Let sleeping dogs repose...

On Firstborn getting out of bed in the small hours to re-fill her water bottle, inadvertently allowing @calliebordeaux to escape from the kitchen, climb the stairs, and recline upon a pre-warmed bed…

There once was a man whose young daughter
Got up in the night for some water
To their dog’s immense glee
‘Cos her bed was now free
To climb in, when it shouldn’t have ought ter!

A limerick a week #226

… and a barrel for the shanty man!

It’s a few years now since I travelled to the London Palladium to see the musical behemoth that was Bellowhead on its farewell tour. In among the group’s set list for the evening were a number of shanties played in a big-band, party style and the header for this post is a line taken from one of them, Whiskey is the Life of Man.

Originally, sea shanties were call and response songs from the days of sail-powered ships and usually accompanied some form of synchronised, manual activity, such as working a capstan to raise an anchor or when hoisting a sail. The caller was known as the shanty man.

Other shanties comprised verse and chorus songs with the shanty man leading on the verse and the crew responding in the chorus. Nowadays, well…

Shanties have been re-discovered by the TikTok generation! According to the New York Times, a 26 year old Scottish postman, Nathan Evans, started the trend with a shanty on TikTok, Soon May the Wellerman Come, a follow-up to his earlier posting of another shanty, Leave Her, Johnny, and, now, even Kermit the Frog has jumped aboard ship and added his dulcet tones to those of Evans.

And the point of telling you all this? A limerick, of course…

A Millennial went down to the dock
Dressed up in a fisherman’s smock
Where he sang out with glee
Of ships and the sea
And gave rise to the tag: #ShantyTok!

A limerick a week #225

🎶You say you want a revolution…🎶

I think the entire mindset of Trump’s dysfunctional politics was encapsulated by the surprised tones of a self-appointed ‘revolutionary’ from Knoxville who complained when her attempt to storm Washington’s Capitol this week was met with resistance from the police and she ended up being pepper-sprayed. You’ve probably seen and heard it, but, if not, you can hear her whinge about it in Hunter Walker’s Twitter post, here.

On a night that has cost five lives so far, ‘Elizabeth from Knoxville’ was lucky that being maced was the worst that happened to her (although I suspect her problems have really only just begun). And what now for Trump, whose seditious rhetoric led to America’s humiliation? ‘Make America Great Again’? He’s turned it into a tyranny of misrule.

A revolutionary said “It’s a disgrace!”
As she wiped clear the tears from her face,
‘Cos her act of sedition
Had met opposition
From the police, who then sprayed her with mace!