A limerick a week #223

Let them eat cake…

… but it’s not only Christmas cake at this time of year…

Mmmm! A rustic 4-tiered coffee cake dressed with walnuts and mocha ‘coffee beans’, courtesy of Firstborn!

There once was a bloke gave three cheers
For his daughter because, it appears,
She’d gone out of her way
To mark his birthday
And to bake him a cake with four tiers.

Firstborn does the honours, but was just a ‘few’ candles short 🙂

A limerick a week #222

Melancholy Callie

Words inspired by @calliebordeaux and her mournful look after I brought her home from the vet yesterday…

A young dog, so badly betrayed,
Told the world she was really dismayed
And felt discontent
‘Cos she didn’t consent
To be sent to the vet to be spayed.

@calliebordeaux feeling understandably sorry for herself and, no doubt, pretty pi**ed off with me…

Postscript: On a seasonal note, it’s Christmas. That means it’s beholden on me to take some of the joy out of your merriment (again!) by once more drawing attention to the tragic tale of young Lovell’s Christmas bride. Go on, remind yourself – you know you want to – it’s here.

A limerick a week #221

The Rhythm Method…

Recent chatter on my, ahem, tap dance group’s WhatsApp, highlighted a 48 hour window in which you could watch the 2017 London stage production of 42nd Street on YouTube’s The Shows Must Go On channel. I’m not a great fan of a lot of musical theatre, but I settled down on a dark, dank Sunday afternoon to give this one a go.

The pluses were a couple of outstanding tap dance ensemble pieces and a few of the better known songs (Lullaby of Broadway, We’re in the Money, Keep Young and Beautiful). The minuses were the rather tired storyline (but probably novel in the 1930s when Busby Berkeley choreographed the original movie’s dance sequences) and, a real bête noir of mine, musical theatre acting.

And I don’t think these days it would pass muster in real life to have the director show how a romantic scene should play out by snogging the young wannabe starlet when alone in rehearsals!

Still, it was worth seeing the theatrical show on screen (once!) and I’d go and see a good production of it on stage if only for the big ensemble pieces, but, and here’s a smart tip, you can also see a truncated view of the highlights and save yourself about 2¼ hours of musical theatre acting by viewing the trailer instead!

My dancing shoes #AllTheGearButNoIdea

Having said all that…

… I almost stopped watching the full show quite early on when some of the footwork entered the ‘I can do it really, really fast’ school of tap dance. Maybe it’s because I’m not very good and will never be ‘fast’, but I do think there is a place for well choreographed rhythm-orientated tapping. Take, for example, this piece inspired by Anna Kendrick’s Cups routine from the film Pitch Perfect (one of the BTL comments on the video is a bit too close to home for me: This called me untalented in 800 languages!).

If anyone likes rhythmic theatrical productions sans ‘musical theatre acting’, I can also recommend a trip to see Stomp if there is ever a stage revival of it – it ran for 15 years in London’s West End until January 2018. I saw it twice and would happily see it again. You can still catch its trailer on YouTube

Here’s the limerick:

An enthusiast thought t’would be neat
To rhythmically stomp in the street
But a tragic mishap
When he started to tap
Was to find that he had two left feet!

C’est moi!

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 surprise – and considerable consternation – 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 got 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 café 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!

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 cliché 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!