A limerick a week #220

It’s a fair cop!

… I’d arranged to meet a former colleague to walk our dogs in the Country Park at Haddo House in Aberdeenshire. The house itself is a Palladian-style mansion owned, along with its gardens, by the National Trust for Scotland. The Country Park is an adjacent-but-separate entity run by Aberdeenshire Council

Haddo Country park

En route I’d slowed down to pass through the village of Pitmedden and was rather glad that I had as there was a police car lying in wait for speeding motorists. A pair of Aberdeenshire’s finest boys in blue were toying with a lidar gun.

“No bother”, I said to myself as I smiled for the device’s camera. The speedo showed that I was comfortably within limits, so you can imagine my consternation – and considerable surprise – when, just a few minutes later, I was apprehended by a constable.

Every breath you take, Every move you make, Every bond you break, Every step you take … I’ll be watching you

“Evenin’ all”, he said (actually, he didn’t – that’s just literary licence), “I have reason to believe that you are driving an uninsured vehicle”.

I quietly considered my options. Telling him that I had reason to believe he should eff off and mind his own bleedin’ business would, on the whole, be counter-productive. Instead, I assured the officer that to the best of my knowledge I was fully compliant with the laws of the land.

“Fair enough”, he said, “off you go, sir, and have a good day”.

Actually, he never said that either. What he did say was that my vehicle was not registered on the Motor Insurance Database (MID) as having any valid insurance; hence the blue flashing lights.Now that rang a bell, as a few weeks earlier I’d received a letter from askMID telling me exactly that.

“There’s a thing”, I thought, “the filth has me bang to rights” … or they may have done had I not contacted my insurer on receipt of the askMID letter and been assured that I was, indeed, insured.

It seems that the MID had not been properly populated with the company’s July insurance renewals. Nevertheless, despite my call to them, any follow-up action had seemingly failed to get the database updated.

Consequently, it took a while for my innocence to be proven. The Old Bill had others to call who, in return, had their own calls to make before I could feel the leaden hand of Plod lift from my collar.

Meantime, I conversed politely with the constable. He liked my dog and thought Haddo was a great place for walkies. He also liked my van, a bijou campervan, but was concerned that his oversized frame would be too large for it and, anyway, his wife wanted a big one, not a wee one.

In return I asked him when you should pull over if ‘blue lighted’; immediately or only when it is safe to do so? I was confused by his answer so, sadly, I’m no better informed

Eventually I was allowed to leave a free man and to continue my journey without hindrance or any stain upon my good character, albeit I was by then very late for the dog walk and left wondering quite how I could avoid the rozzers on my return journey!

Here’s the limerick:

It appeared to Plod, I’d ‘offended’
(Though no crime had e’er been intended),
But the law’s blues and twos
Soon conveyed me the news
That shortly I’d be apprehended!

Postscript: When you are in sight of the police automatic number plate recognition system, either from a fixed unit or mounted in a patrol car, your vehicle registration is ‘captured’ and checked against a number of databases such as the Police National Computer, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency and the Motor Insurance Database. The technology then flags up any anomaly, such as an uninsured, untaxed or non-MOTd vehicle or any other matter of interest to les flics. If the system is mounted in a patrol car, then the patrolling officers are alerted in real-time to the apparent transgressor and it’s let’s be havin’ you time!

Meantime, not only have you been observed, but you have also been recorded and even if yours is not a vehicle of interest, that observation will, ordinarily, be held on the system for 12 months.

If you are interested, the Home Office has published an impact assessment on data storage rules that can be found here. So, now you know. #BigBrother

A limerick a week #219

Making a clean breast of it…

It’s probably best to cut a long story short and simply tell you that this week’s ALAW was inspired by a couple of events a few years apart – one on a riverside walk in Tewkesbury and t’other at a cafĂ© in Arbroath.

A woman whose bosom was large
Once asked the tattooist in charge
If she loosened her robes
And paraded her globes
Would he draw on her décolletage?!

A limerick a week #218

… and the bells were ringing out for Christmas Day

I am indebted to Laurence Fox, erstwhile leader of the newly minted ‘Reclaim Party’,  for inspiring this week’s ALAW. His most recent populist tweet, seeking once more to belittle the British Broadcasting Corporation, brought a crushing response from a bunch of Anglo-Irish rapscallions:

So, here we go…

An actor once entered stage right
And tried to Reclaim the light
But that parcel of rogues
That we know as The Pogues
Just beasted that herrenvolk sh*te!

The Eleventh of the Eleventh 2020

A family at war

I have previously written about the life and experiences of my great uncle Harold, a wounded survivor of the First World War who also volunteered in the Second World War in support of the D-Day landings (see here and here).

I also had three uncles who served in the Second World War; Tot, who died at sea, Jack, who survived the land war and Doug, the eldest of his siblings, an electrical engineer in a reserved occupation who was unable to volunteer for active service or to be conscripted.

Tot was the second oldest of the brothers and served as an engineering officer in the Merchant Navy as poor eyesight caused him to be rejected by the Royal Navy. In 1941 he broke his leg when ashore in the United States and, although permitted to recuperate there, he chose to travel home on a convoy vessel, the SS Empire Crossbill, as a supernumary Fourth Engineer.

Empire Crossbill was an American cargo ship built in 1919 as the West Amargosa and laid up in 1937. In 1940 she was transferred to the UK Ministry of War Transport and renamed the Empire Crossbill. After several successful crossings of the North Atlantic, she mustered in Cape Breton in August 1941 as part of Slow Convoy 42 bound for Liverpool.

The West Amargosa, subsequently SS Empire Crossbill, before transfer to the UK Ministry of War Transport

SC42 was attacked by the Markgraf wolfpack of 14 German submarines that was on patrol southeast of Greenland. The attack extended over three night nights, 9-11 September. Empire Crossbill was torpedoed by U-82 east of Cape Farewell at 03.11 GMT on 11 September 1941 and sank with all hands: 38 crew, 10 gunners, and one passenger – Thomas Lang Forster, aged 23.

The reported location of Empire Crossbill’s sinking

Of the 65 merchant vessels that comprised SC42, sixteen – almost one quarter of the convoy – were lost. U-82 was itself sunk with the loss of all 45 crew just a few months later on 6 February 1942, north of the Azores, having been depth charged by HMS Rochester and HMS Tamarisk. Its captain, Kapitänleutnant Siegfried Rollmann, was 27 – just four years older than Tot.

Tot’s name (Forster T.L.) on the Tower Hill Memorial to merchant seamen

Jack, the youngest of the three brothers, survived the war having experienced both the Dunkirk evacuation and the D-Day landings.

Prior to the Dunkirk evacuation, he had been with 285 Battery, 72nd Field Regiment, Royal Artillery 50th Northumberland Division, a part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). His Division was one of the last to leave Dunkirk as it had been tasked to destroy any installations as the BEF retreated. Jack and his companions joined one of the last ships, if not the last, that departed Dunkirk. He landed at Margate on 2 June 1940.

As far as his family was concerned, Jack was missing in action, so it was a great relief to them that a telegram arrived from him on 3 June. No “Hello Mam, I’m fine”, but just one line asking her to ‘wire’ 10 shillings (50 pence) to him care of the General Post Office in Rugely Staffordshire!

The 50th Northumberland Division (and Jack) then went on to fight in the North African desert war with General Montgomery and landed on Sword beach on D-Day itself. He was on active service from the time of the BEF to VE Day.

Jack being Jack, he was almost court martialled on VE Day itself. He had been listening on the radio to Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s speech announcing the end of the war in Europe when a senior officer sent for him. He refused to attend the officer and told the messenger to go away saying that he was busy. Jack was subsequently escorted under armed guard to the officer’s room.

I don’t think the officer could have seen much action, certainly not compared to Jack, and on learning of his involvement at Dunkirk, in North Africa, and on D-Day, the officer absolved him of any offence. Many years later they were reunited on Breakfast TV in a segment to mark the 40th anniversary of VE Day and retold their story on air. (I have never watched breakfast TV apart from that one morning, but, unfortunately, despite viewing it from 6am until about 9.50, I never saw his contribution – my employer’s flexitime limit meant that I had to be clocked in by 10am and Jack’s contribution only came later – we had no video recorder at that time.)

NB. Some of the above is taken from archived records detailing the events mentioned, the rest is taken from the family matriarch’s tome ‘A European Family’ and archival material held by family members.

Postscript: This is Jack’s personal recollection of the D-Day landings…


The journey we made from Portsmouth to Normandy in France was unforgettable. We travelled in a ‘Landing Craft Tank [L.C.T]’ and to some, the journey was a veritable nightmare. The transport consisted of very long barges, designed to carry eleven tanks, and acted like huge white whales; they would rise from the water towards the sky and then crash onto the sea again after each swell.

It was a welcome relief to land on Sword beach with the main assault troops of the 3rd British Infantry division. The tanks, which went straight into action, left first and at the same time the ramp was in about 15 feet of water.

We were a signal section, part of the advance signals H.Q. and were issued with only handcarts containing wireless equipment. We managed to get a line ashore and the carts, being waterfproof and containing air, floated just below the surface. During this time shells were falling closer and closer. The L.C.T. Captain bawling “Get the hell out of here”, added to the threatening atmosphere. Fortunately we made dry land with only one casualty and that was the barrage balloon we were painstakingly carrying for the beach defence. It was shot down!

We struggled over the beach and found some protection in a farm just inland from the French holiday resort of Lion-sur-mer. Some holiday! Leaving the wireless operators to set up their equipments, driver Morgan and I set about clearing up the area following the tank and infantry assault. My binoculars and watch had been damaged by the sea water but I was able to replace them with those of a German Officer who sadly had no further use of them.

One of our tasks was to search the sleeping quarters below the fortress which had been designed to keep us out. While a young Welsh soldier covered me with my revolver I found two young Germans cowering in the upper bunks. They were terrified and I had to drag them out as they were convinced they were going to be shot. They were no more than seventeen years old and begged us not to shoot them. Having survived the previous infantry attack when many of their comrades had been killed, they were relieved to find out that they were destined for prison camp and safety.

It was unfortunate that our D-Day objective, Caen, was not taken for a further two weeks due to the arrival of Rommel and his famous Panzer troops. They had come north in an attempt to hurl us back into the sea. Rommel must have been extremely unhappy when he realised that both the 3rd. and the 50th. Divisions of the British Army were the ones that prevented him from doing so because he knew that they were the last ones to leave Dunkirk in 1940.

A limerick a week #216

Today I’ll offend a nation…

…by moderating the accolades paid to its favourite son who died earlier this week.

Sean Connery, for it is he, has just died at the age of 90 and, I have to confess that I am one of the minority upon whom his ‘big-screen charisma’ was entirely lost (and I’m not a great fan of tax exiles, either).

My minority status has been well and truly confirmed by the plaudits he has received from the worldwide press and Twitterati on his status as an iconic film star; the ‘best’ James Bond, a man’s man, a woman’s man and so on and on and on.

And that’s all well and good, but his is in spite of his first wife’s claim in her autobiography that he had abused her both physically and mentally, albeit an allegation that he denied.

Disregarding those claims, he is, nevertheless, on public record as having justified male violence against women:

In 1965, aged 35, he said that “I don’t think there is anything particularly wrong about hitting a woman- although I don’t recommend doing it in the same way that you’d hit a man. An open-handed slap is justified if all other alternatives fail”.

In 1987, aged 57, he reiterated that view. “I haven’t changed my opinion … I don’t think it’s good, I don’t think it’s that bad. I think it depends entirely on the circumstances and if it merits it … If you have tried everything else – and women are pretty good at this – they can’t leave it alone. They want to have the last word and you give them the last word, but they’re not happy with the last word. They want to say it again, and get into a really provocative situation, then I think it’s absolutely right.”

It took him until old age before he rejected his previous lifetime’s view, stating in 2006, aged 76, that “My view is I don’t believe that any level of abuse against women is ever justified under any circumstances. Full stop.”

It’s good that he changed his mind, but a shame that it took him so long to do so. So long in fact, that the damage had already been done and, for other than apologists for abuse (“typical of a generation and a certain type of man”), there will always be that stain on his character.

There once was an old-school male chauvinist
Whose character flaws can’t be dismissed,
‘Cos his words correspond
To the ‘charms’ of James Bond:
An antidiluvian misogynist!

A limerick a week #215

I went to a Grammar(less) School

Last week I came across a list of grammatical constructs that were explained using variations of the a man walked into a bar one-liner. I didn’t understand them all and still don’t, but one that resonated with me was this:

A gerund and an infinitive walk into a bar, drinking to forget.

Why should that have resonance? Well, you see, I was never taught English grammar at primary or secondary school by any means other than a single year of English language classes with ‘Whacker’ Wilkins at Kendal Grammar School (spot the irony in the school’s name) and, even then, most of his focus seemed to be on ‘unflattening’ our northern vowels.

So it was up to Nigel Molesworth, that scion of Geoffrey Willans’ imagination, to instruct me in the intricacies of English grammar via the pages of his Down With Skool quadrilogy on life at St Custard’s.

The books were famously illustrated by Ronald Searle and it is through his drawings and Molesworth’s narrative that I first came across the beast that is the gerund.

I met it again, many years later, when Firstborn was at secondary school, and we hosted Felicitas, her German penfriend, whose English was superb. One tea-time Felicitas told us that she’d previously learned about a ‘funny’ grammatical construct; the gerund. That was the cue for a family of four Brits to stare blankly at one another whilst wondering what exactly is a gerund, and rapidly changing the subject (“So, Felicitas, what do you think of Scotland?”).

Thereafter I made an effort to learn the intricacies of verbs functioning as nouns and ending in -ing. (I subsequently learned that gerunds also exist in the German language. What Felicitas must have found funny – as in peculiar – is that in German a gerund is just a capitalised infinitive rather than one whose spelling is changed to end with ‘ing’.)

More recently, I have also discovered that Down With Skool is not quite the nadir of academe that it first appears. What follows is the abstract from a thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in The Faculty of Graduate Studies at the University of British Columbia:

Geoffrey Willans’ and Ronald Searle’s Molesworth books, published in four volumes between 1953 and 1959, are a series of  boarding school parodies. Despite great sales success and cult popularity, the books have been dismissed  by academics and book reviewers alike as dated satires.  Isabel Quigly calls them “pure  farce” (276), while Thomas Jones claims they are “terribly cosy” (para. 7). This thesis adopts three pertinent theories  of Mikhail Bakhtin  in order to reconsider the four books in the series –  Down with Skool!,  How to be Topp,  Whizz for Atomms, and  Back in the Jug Agane. Through the application of Bakhtin’s concepts  of chronotope, heteroglossia and carnival, I show that the Molesworth books are more complex and radical than first assumed, and therefore constitute a remarkable response to the phenomenon of the boarding school genre.  ©Elizabeth Jean Milner Walker 2009.

So there you have it. I learned my grammar from books that ‘constitute a remarkable response to the phenomenon of the boarding school genre’ – who’d have thunk it!

Here’s the limerick:

At St Custard’s, a school of renown,
Molesworth – who played the class clown –
Set out on an errand
And found that a gerund
Is a verb that acts as a noun!

(This is misleading because in Molesworth’s experience, gerunds are actually creatures with a trunk-like nose, a specimen of which was discovered in the grounds of St Custard’s by Kennedy and taken into captivity – as any fule kno!)

Postscript: Here are the grammatical ‘one-liners’ referenced above:

An Oxford comma walks into a bar, where it spends the evening watching the television, getting drunk, and smoking cigars.
• A dangling participle walks into a bar. Enjoying a cocktail and chatting with the bartender, the evening passes pleasantly.
• A bar was walked into by the passive voice.
• An oxymoron walked into a bar, and the silence was deafening.
• Two quotation marks walk into a “bar.”
• A malapropism walks into a bar, looking for all intensive purposes like a wolf in cheap clothing, muttering epitaphs and casting dispersions on his magnificent other, who takes him for granite.
• Hyperbole totally rips into this insane bar and absolutely destroys everything.
• A question mark walks into a bar?
• A non sequitur walks into a bar. In a strong wind, even turkeys can fly.
• Papyrus and Comic Sans walk into a bar. The bartender says, “Get out — we don’t serve your type.”
• A mixed metaphor walks into a bar, seeing the handwriting on the wall but hoping to nip it in the bud.
• A comma splice walks into a bar, it has a drink and then leaves.
• Three intransitive verbs walk into a bar. They sit. They converse. They depart.
• A synonym strolls into a tavern.
• At the end of the day, a clichĂ© walks into a bar — fresh as a daisy, cute as a button, and sharp as a tack.
• A run-on sentence walks into a bar it starts flirting. With a cute little sentence fragment.
• Falling slowly, softly falling, the chiasmus collapses to the bar floor.
• A figure of speech literally walks into a bar and ends up getting figuratively hammered.
• An allusion walks into a bar, despite the fact that alcohol is its Achilles heel.
• The subjunctive would have walked into a bar, had it only known.
• A misplaced modifier walks into a bar owned by a man with a glass eye named Ralph.
• The past, present, and future walked into a bar. It was tense.
• A dyslexic walks into a bra.
• A verb walks into a bar, sees a beautiful noun, and suggests they conjugate. The noun declines.
• A simile walks into a bar, as parched as a desert.
• A gerund and an infinitive walk into a bar, drinking to forget.
• A hyphenated word and a non-hyphenated word walk into a bar and the bartender nearly chokes on the irony

– Jill Thomas Doyle


A limerick a week #214

🎶Only shades of grey🎶

A younger friend has just posted a picture of himself on a group WhatsApp chat, bemoaning the fact that his beard “is getting a lot of grey in it now”. Well, Aamir, old mate, that’s life (and don’t I know it)! And this is the limerick…

A pogonophile was once heard to say
He was sure that there’d come a day
When he looked at his beard
And t’would be, as he feared,
An image in ten shades of grey!