A limerick a week #254

🎶Raindrops keep falling on my head🎶

My young border collie doesn’t like getting wet and is certainly not a fan of heavy rain (despite being a four seasons breed!). She was distraught this week when the fine weather broke and the heavens opened.

Why does it always rain on me…

That’s when you discover how irksome it can be that an energetic, outdoor-loving and highly active pooch can prefer to remain indoors when it rains, but refuses then to adopt the altogether less-wearing persona of a calm and peaceful companion dog.

Anyway, despite her protestations, needs must, so she was walked in the rain and has, no doubt, been plotting her revenge ever since.

A young dog once thought it remiss
Of its owner to simply dismiss
Its pleaful refrain
To stay out of the rain
When ‘il pleut comme une vache qui pisse!’

A limerick a week #253

Ear, ear, what’s all this then?

I’ve had an ear-worm for the last three days and, “no”, you won’t find it on any online list of the 100 or more most difficult songs to get out of your head.

It’s a song that I first heard as a pupil at Kendal Grammar School a long time ago. My first year class was 1T. The ‘T’ stood for Talbot as Bob Talbot was its registration teacher. He was better know to the pupils as ‘Greb’ (no, I don’t know why either) and, in that first year, our music lessons comprised us caterwauling to the words of a school songbook.

Now, Bob was a young teacher and a nice bloke, but, in a sign of the times, he had us sing along to songs such as Jamaica Farewell and Mango Walk in a pseudo-Caribbean accent. That wouldn’t be acceptable now, quite rightly, but I’d take issue with folk that said it wasn’t acceptable even then. Greb and his pupils were complete innocents in those days and the pernicious and unintended consequences of that kind of thing were wholly unknown to us.

Anyway, my current ear-worm is neither of those tunes, but it was in the same book as them and is a song adapted from Jacques Offenbach’s operetta Geneviève de Brabant by Henry Farnie (thank you, Wikipedia, for that info). I’m not sure that younger folk would know it these days, but the song is The Gendarmes Duet.

It came back into mind earlier this week as I was watching the 1991 film Hear My Song, a comedy about the Irish tenor Josef Locke. I googled Locke while watching the film (as one does these days) and came across a recording of his version of The Gendarmes Duet.

In remembrance of my less-than-musical youth I then rather foolishly listened through every other recording of the song that I could find; hence the ear-worm. IMHO Locke’s version is by far and away the best. It is sung with Rose Tynan which is unusual as it is scripted as a duet for two men.

So, I guess I’ve only myself to blame for my 3-days-and-continuing ear-worm! Still, it has inspired this…

There once was a fellow who said
“I’ve a song on repeat in my head!”
That ear-worm seems,
To have messed with his dreams
Becoming a nightmare instead!

Postscript: I have tried to  reinterpret the lyrics of The Gendarmes’ Duet from the perspective of my dog, Callie Bordeaux. Here is Callie Bordeaux’s “Chanson de Deux Chiots Chien de Berger”

A limerick a week #252

An uncivil serpent

There was a widely reported story this week of a 65 year old Austrian gentleman who sat on his loo only to have his naughty bits ‘nipped’ by a albino reticulated python. The snake had apparently escaped from his neighbour’s reptile collection.

Crushed nuts, sir?

Pythons aren’t venemous, they constrict their prey, so perhaps the chap was lucky that anything that dangled was only nipped and not crushed!

‘Tis surprising the fate that befalls
An unwary chap in the ‘stalls’
‘Cos what can he do
If he sits down to poo
And a snake sinks its fangs in his b***s?

A limerick a week #251

Floods, fires and feculence…

I have to thank the designers of Edinburgh’s new St James Quarter for inspiring this week’s ALAW.

Having just opened a month ago, heavy rain has already caused part of its ‘Galleria’ to be cordoned off due to rain flooding its balconies and dripping onto the floor below, and a day or two later it had to be completely evacuated due to a false fire alarm.

Such teething troubles may be expected in a new shopping and hotel complex, but they’re not the ALAW’s inspiration. What has made me chuckle is the crowning glory of the centre’s hotel; a great big poop emoji on its roof! As the Graun’s coruscating report says:

You can’t polish a turd, but you can clad it in bronze-coloured steel. Edinburgh’s new W Hotel is proof. Poking its faecal peak above the historic skyline, puncturing the globally cherished panorama of elegant stone steeples and spires, this shimmering pile is evidence that, despite all the Unesco World Heritage site protections, conservation group campaigns and lengthy planning negotiations, shit still happens.

The paper further highlights a petition in the Scots vernacular to Pit Googly Eyes Oan The Jobby and an unofficial Twitter site, The Golden Turd Hotel! 

Welcome to Edinburgh!

A poop emoji
A hotel rooftop in Edinburgh

Auld Reekie has got a new view
Of a rooftop that’s somewhat askew
‘Cos the twists and the twirls
Of its helical whirls
Look just like the icon for poo!

It’s no surprise that competing interests are hoping The Golden Turd will become known as The Walnut Whip (bless!), but as I suspect they’ll be on the losing side, here’s another limerick…

In Auld Reekie, I’m sure you’ll have heard
Is a building whose rooftop’s absurd,
Not a big Walnut Whip
(So just give that a skip)
‘Cos it’s really a huge Golden Turd!

A limerick a week #250

School’s out for summer…

The end of term brought some sad news to our tap dance class as Gillian, our teacher, won’t be taking us again. She told us that she had been promoted and wouldn’t be able to front as many classes as she currently taught.

So, while we look forward to next term with a new tutor, we’re left wondering why our class was one of the ones that Gillian cut. I think I know…

There was once a dancer called Gill
Tried to teach how to tap to our Phil
But he dragged the class down
‘Cos he danced like a clown.
Now she’s quit as ’twas making her ill!

A limerick a week #249

Flood? I Noah guy…

According to Weird News in the online Metro newspaper:

An international incident of biblical proportions has kicked off on Ipswich’s waterfront.

A replica of Noah’s Ark is currently stuck there because it doesn’t have the correct paperwork to say that it is seaworthy.

The vessel arrived at Orwell Quay in November 2019 and has been detained there for 18 months by the Coastguard.

The Ark. Impounded due to seaworthiness regulations

The purpose of the original Ark was  of course, to wipe out humankind apart from Noah and his immediate family. This was because God had become disenchanted with folk as they had become corrupt and had corrupted the world as well.

The ‘build’ instructions were clear: 450ft long, 75ft wide and 45ft high with three decks, a roof and a door, all coated in pitch both inside and out. Oh, and made from Cypress wood!

No mention of paperwork or seaworthiness there. Clearly there was less bureaucracy in Biblical days (and given we have Noah’s three sons and their wives to thank for re-populating the entirety of humankind, neither was any thought given to the genetic perils of breeding within the degrees of consanguinuity)!

The Ark in happier days

To allow all his beasts to embark
Noah found somewhere to park,
But the vessel was grounded,
In fact ’twas impounded,
As a much-less-than-seaworthy Ark!

National Refugee Day 2021


June 20th is National Refugee Day. This opinion piece by Alf Dubs in the Graun points out that if the current policies of the UK government were extant in pre-WWII days, then thousands of Czech refugees, including those of the kindertransport, spirited away from the Nazi occupation by the actions of Doreen Warriner, Nicholas Winton and others would not have been saved. Sad, but true.

As one of the kindertransport children himself, Dubs credits the saving of their lives to the  compassion of one man, Winton, and the humanity of the country.

Personally, I find it rather sad that Dubs remains unaware of the real driving force behind the exodus of the Czech refugees, Warriner, but that’s not nearly as sad as the loss of this country’s humanity, particularly as demonstrated by its current government.

Dubs may not have known of the wider history of the kindertransport, but you can read my take on the bigger picture from the perspective of my father and paternal grandparents  pictured below, here.

Czech refugees at High Cross Castle, an English Lake District youth hostel. My grandfather is at the extreme left and my grandmother and father are front row left.

… and to top it off, the grand-parental origins of my family comprise more than just a political refugee; they include a displaced person, an economic migrant and a geordie. #diverse

Anglo-Czech, Irish-Italian, European. #WeAreScotland

A limerick a week #248

A bit of a Grilling…

This week’s ALAW is inspired by (i) a recent night out that ended up at a venerable Aberdeen institition and (ii) the pecuniary perils of sampling its menu of single malts. 

A chap once went out on the lash
And drank away all of his cash,
But he gave not a damn,
Drinking dram after dram.
‘Twas a Rabelasian stramash!

(Despite the impression given by the limerick, social distancing was observed at all times on the evening in question and no miscreant behaviour took place! The bit about pouring all your money down your throat is, though, sadly true.)

Postscript: although it is now a very welcoming pub, The Grill has history. Being a ‘men only’ pub at the time, it was invaded by female trade unionists in 1973, but even after that women were not allowed to be served until 1975 and female toilets were not installed until 1998! You can read some of its history here.

A limerick a week #247

Algorithms + Data Structures = Bollocks

… more often than you’d think.

I’d never actually heard of algorithms until many moons ago when, as a 23-year-old zoology graduate, I needed to bring my maths, stats and computing up to speed if I was to get the job I was after as a fisheries scientist.

So, being a glutton for punishment, I signed up for the most masochistic educational experiences of my life aka the University of York’s MSc in Biological Computation.

One of the books on its reading list was entitled ‘Data Structures + Algorithms = Programs’. Well, that equation was news to me, but despite my less-than-mathematical brain, I somehow managed to pass the course and went forth having successfully added ‘algorithm’ to my lexicon.

Scroll forward many years, and algorithms seem to rule everything from Little Britain’s ‘Computer says “No”‘ to recommendations for pages or ‘friends’ to follow on social media. A bank manager won’t refuse you a loan, but an algorithm will!

Of course algorithms can be seriously flawed. As the Graun reported nearly a decade ago:

“the very feature that makes algorithms so valuable – their ability to replicate human decision-making in a fraction of the time – can be a double-edged sword. If the observed human behaviours that dictate how an algorithm transforms input into output are flawed, we risk setting in motion a vicious circle when we hand over responsibility to The Machine”.

The most notable flaws appear to be that ‘human behaviours’ are often biased, sexist, racist or as many other ‘ist’s, subconcious or otherwise, that you can think of. That’s not something to desire in an objective decision-making system, particularly when, as last year in the UK, many students’ exam outcomes were downgraded based on their schools’ past results despite their own, individual strong performance.

On a lighter note, the weakness of algorithms can be seen in some of the recommendations made to me on social media.

As a bit of a canal anorak, I follow the ‘Foxes Afloat’ Instagram page and their YouTube channel and I have occasionally ‘liked’ one of their posts. So why, as a benign anti-monarchist, does my ‘like’ of an Instagram post about a gay couple living aboard a narrowboat with their cocker spaniel Otis, result in a recommendation for an Instagram post that shows HRH the Prince of Wales (alongside the present Mrs Wales) simply because you liked a post from foxesafloat?

Or why should Facebook feel a recommendation is in order for me to join a Facebook Group of manicure enthusiasts, or one of horse lovers, simply because some friends are members WHEN I DON’T HAVE ANY FACEBOOK FRIENDS!

(I don’t like Facebook, I’m on it, or rather my dog is, because it’s the only way to receive notifications about her agility class and that’s the way it will stay because although I have friends that are on Facebook, they are precisely that, friends, and Facebook has nothing to do with it!)

So, today’s limerick is a bit of a rant…

Insta’s ‘recommend’ algorithm
Deserves to be met with derision
‘Cos I always dislike
What it thought that I’d like.
It’s just guesswork that’s lacking precision!

A limerick a week #246

Running out of time…

I was sorry to hear that the British long distance runner Ron Hill had died recently at the age of 82.

Not only was he the UK’s leading marathon runner of the 60s and early 70s, but he was also a manufacturer of running kit that never wore out – perhaps that’s why his business ran into financial difficulties in the early 1990s!

I still have a pair of perfectly serviceable Ron Hill tracksters from the late 1980s!

Longevity extended beyond his eponymous running kit as he also ran at least one mile a day for over 52 years; his continuous daily running streak ended in 2017 at the age of 78!

Here’s the limerick…

An athlete who could never stand still
Kept on running and running until
He could no longer race
Or keep up with the pace
‘Cos by then he was over the hill