A limerick a week #110

Postman Pat and the effervescent tablet

My last post hinted at a family connection with John Cunliffe, the author of the Postman Pat and Rosie & Jim series, who died recently. The connection was that for several years he, John-the-teacher, taught alongside my mother (‘The Matriarch’) at Castle Park Primary School in Kendal. He was already a published children’s author and started his Postman Pat stories while still teaching at the school.

John Cunliffe, whose gentle tales were commemorated in the Graun’s obituary of him with these words: “Kindness and generosity, together with selflessness and community spirit, were virtues worth celebrating in the autumn of 1981 as the prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, entered her second year in office.” ‘Amen’ to that!

‘Tis a little-known fact that one of his book titles, a book of poems for children, was actually inspired by the Matriarch. She had been on dinner duty at the school one day when one of the children responsible for serving at a table (John-the-pupil) let drop a strawberry from one of the dessert dishes. Having seen it fall, and concerned that the poor lad might slip on it, the Matriarch yelled: “John, you’re standing on a strawberry!”.

On looking around afterwards, she saw John-the-teacher slip-sliding down his seat at the staff’s dinner table in a fit of laughter at what he’d just heard. I don’t know if John-the-pupil realised it at the time, or whether he ever knew, but his runaway strawberry and the Matriarch’s yell inspired this:

With its titular poem, that started:

‘You’re standing on a strawberry,
I heard the teacher say.
It was an end-of-term school dinner
and we’d had strawberries that day.
‘You’re standing on a strawberry,
and it isn’t very good,
to put your great big feet,
on what’s left of someone’s pud!’ 

On another occasion, John advised the Matriarch to take mega-doses of vitamin C to ward off the colds that the school’s pupils invariably passed on to their teachers. Boots the Chemist’s 1000mg vitamin C tablets were the order of the day and, dutifully, the Matriarch bought a packet and, without reading the label, immediately popped one into her mouth.

It was effervescent! Now, in a small town like Kendal, teachers often meet parents of their pupils in the high street and this day was no different. Not wishing to froth visibly, she kept her mouth shut and nodded at parents who wished to stop and chat – whilst swallowing furiously. When she told John he once more laughed hysterically and, later in the afternoon, he sent one of his pupils through to her classroom with a note for her. Here it is:

Some months later, when John asked if she still had the note, it wasn’t immediately to hand otherwise it may have comprised a verse and the epitaph of yet another anthology of his poems.

Here’s my take on it

‘Twas the author of ‘Pat’ who confessed
That vitamin C was the best
Cure for colds,
But the story unfolds
Of a teacher who then effervesced!

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😎 Former scientist, now graduated to a life of leisure; Family man (which may surprise the family - it certainly surprises him); Likes cycling and old-fashioned B&W film photography; Dislikes greasy-pole-climbing 'yes men'; Thinks Afterlife (previously known as Thea Gilmore) should be much better known than she is; Values decency over achievement.

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