A limerick a week #10

One of the more depressing issues highlighted in this week’s news was about young people drinking the equivalent of a bathtub full of sugary drinks each year. The BBC News website reported the Cancer Research UK’s survey results as:

  • Pre-school children drink the equivalent of nearly 70 cans of fizzy cola
  • Children aged four to 10 drink the equivalent of 110 cans a year (nearly half a bathtub)
  • Teenagers drink more than the equivalent of 234 cans each a year (a bathtub)

Pretty horrendous figures by any stretch, but defended by the soft drink lobbyists with the sort of weasel words and tendentious arguments that were mooted by apologists of the tobacco companies decades ago.

A spoonful of sugar helps the chemicals go down ...
A spoonful of sugar helps the chemicals go down …

Jacques Peretti wrote a compelling piece in the Graun a while back pointing out that we are, on average, 3 stones heavier now than in the mid-1960s. If you don’t believe that then simply gauge the average shape of teenagers walking down high streets today and compare them with the audience seen in the many TV repeats of Top of the Pops from the 1970s; your eyes won’t deceive you!

Given the potential for harm through the increased incidence of heart disease and diabetes, and don’t forget tooth decay, it’s hard to see why governments don’t take a harder line with the drink manufacturers. They seem to be in thrall to the drinks industry and agri-businesses rather than the promoters of a nation’s health (no surprise there!).

Not something to be made fun of, but I am in need of a topical limerick, so here goes:

A problem that’s facing our nation
Is a young person’s choice of libation.
‘Cos a bathtub of sugar
Is really a bu**er
And leads to their health’s ruination

A limerick a week #9

Statistically speaking …

Readers may recall my guarded amusement on hearing that Firstborn (MA in International Relations, St Andrews University) had elected to study statistics as part of her postgraduate studies (What Michael said #1, 15/9/16). Unfortunately for the mathematically non-intuitive like me (and apparently Firstborn too), the pursuit of a statistical education requires competent and sympathetic tutors, the corollary of which is that life gets hard if your teachers are crap.

So, in honour of Firstborn’s travails through the labyrinth of arbitrary standards, (so-called) significance tests and necromancy (ibid), I give you …

You’re a lass that once studied linguistics
But have now confronted the mystics
Who preach probability
And expose your fragility
To the priestcraft that we call statistics.


Postscript: The Peanuts cartoon, above, dates from circa 1982 when Management and I met at the University of York during our Masters year studying maths, stats and computing for masochists. It chimed with us then and I was delighted to find it on the internet for use here as it saved having to go through old albums and keepsakes to find the original.

As a statistical colleague once told me: “coincidences are the most paradoxical of things. They should almost never happen, but they always do“. So, coincidentally, and by chance and chance alone, the web page on which I found the Peanuts cartoon just happened to be a page of statistical jokes and cartoons curated by Peter Lee, the Bayesian statistics lecturer at York and quiz guru to whom I refer in the third paragraph of my earlier post: What Michael said #1.

(Twenty-something years after leaving York I decided that I needed to learn more about Bayesian statistics, so I bought a text-book written, again coincidentally, by Peter Lee. Once past the introductory verbiage, I didn’t understand a word of it!).

A limerick a week #8

Revenge of the redhead …

So, the current series of Poldark has just finished and we now have to wait until 2017 to get our next ‘fix’.

Regular readers will know that as far as Poldark is concerned I am on ‘Team Demelza’ and not ‘Team Ross’, partly because my ‘Party Seven’ can’t compare to Ross’s ‘six pack’, but mostly because I’m a bloke and Demelza is class.

Meantime, Ross has shown himself to be more crass than class by cheating on Demelza with Elizabeth (boo, hiss) in the most villainous and odious of ways and, as any fule kno, it’s not good for your health to p**s off a redhead and, boy, was Demelza pi**ed! Even Nicola Adams (our double Olympic boxing gold medallist) would have been proud of the blow with which Demelza later felled Ross (I told you she was class!).

DANGER - angry redhead alert (ANSI Z535.5 Definition: "Indicates a hazardous situation that, if not avoided, will result in death or serious injury. The signal word "DANGER" is to be limited to the most extreme situations).
DANGER – angry redhead alert (ANSI Z535.5 Definition: “Indicates a hazardous situation that, if not avoided, will result in death or serious injury. The signal word “DANGER” is to be limited to the most extreme situations”).

All of which leads to this week’s limerick:

So Ross, what is wrong with your eye?
Is it a bruise that I seem to espy?
It must surely be hell, sir
To be thumped by Demelza
‘Cos, boy, does she not half let fly!

I don't know what effect she will have upon the enemy, but, by God, she frightens me.
… or as Ross may have paraphrased the Duke of Wellington: “I don’t know what effect she will have upon the enemy, but, by God sir, she frightens me“.

(It may not have escaped your attention that in the final episode of the series and even with two of his retainers to help him, ‘Evil George’ Warleggan couldn’t fell Ross the way that Demelza did!)

Postscript: The ‘Party Seven’ was a can of Watneys beer that held seven pints – a small keg really, hence: “I used to have a six pack but now I’ve got a Party Seven” (a middle-aged man’s self-deprecating generational joke).

Thankfully the Party Seven disappeared in the 1980s (the beer was awful). I remember drinking from one shared between three of us (all under age) whilst watching a charity rugby match in 1974 between England and France at Twickenham; a game that was held to raise funds following the Paris air crash of that year.

The match was memorable for Michael O’Brien, an Australian, becoming the UK’s first mainstream sporting streaker. One photo of the event became the most syndicated press picture of the decade, LIFE Magazine’s picture of the year and the source of numerous humerous caption competitions (as I recall most seemed to involve a bad case of dandruff).

An Aussie in England: “Strewth, it’s cold mate. I thought I’d be charged with exposure, not die from it!

And just to show that the old-fashioned policemen’s helmets were gender neutral, here’s one in use when Erica Roe repeated O’Brien’s stunt in 1982:

So tell me, constable, how did you know I fit a 38G?

A limerick a week #7

The sight of them ducks …

Another memory from one’s youth fades 🙁

Jean Alexander who recently died aged 90 played Hilda Ogden, a pivotal character in Coronation Street during the soap’s heyday of the 60s and 70s.

Hilda was married to Stan, a hopeless and hapless layabout played by Bernard Youens. Everything in her life with him seemed to disappoint her. Yet when the make-believe Stan ‘died’ off-screen shortly after Youens himself had died, Hilda’s grief-stricken reaction was incredibly moving and remains memorable even 32 years later (Alexander won a Royal Television Society ‘best performance’ award for the scene).

I stopped watching ‘Corrie’ shortly afterwards when it ditched its warmth and humour in an attempt to match the more gritty ‘reality’ (aka ‘misery’) of the nascent EastEnders. (The same sad descent into miserable social issues also befell the Archers so ever since I have inhabited a soap-free zone). Anyway, this is for Hilda …

Your nagging just fell on deaf ears
While Stan carried on downing beers
But you sat there and cried
On hearing he’d died,
With genuine sorrow and tears.

The title of this post comes from one of Hilda’s last lines. She had a mural on her living room wall (that she always mispronounced as her ‘muriel’) and three plaster flying ducks (all of which Stan had damaged on the occasion that he let his bath overflow). On leaving the soap, Alexander’s character was to move away from the Street and her home of years at which point Percy Sugden suggested that she’d be glad to see the back of her decor.

Hilda’s reply was as dramatic as her response to Stan’s death: “I’ve come in here more times than I care to remember – cold, wet, tired out, not a penny in me purse – and the sight of them ducks, and that muriel… well, they’ve kept my hand away from the gas tap and that’s a fact“.

Hilda, Stan (right) and lodger Eddie Yates, with flying ducks and ‘muriel’

Postscript: The newspapers quoted some classic Hilda one-liners when reporting Alexander’s death; here’s a couple of them:

Elsie Tanner’s heart is where a fella’s wallet is – and the bigger the wallet, the more heart she’s got”.

Quite right Stanley, I wouldn’t give them to a working man, but since you don’t come under that category there’s no problem is there? Now get them ate”.

A limerick a week #6

I was at primary school when Dad’s Army first aired on UK television, but I still remember the fuss there was over a comedy being produced about the Second World War. After all, the realities of war were still to the fore in the minds of many. Initially, my folks didn’t let me watch it, but when it became clear that it was inoffensive humour based on the real life experience of Jimmy Perry, one of the writers, they relented. And thanks to the multiplicity of TV channels its repeats are still going strong fifty years later.

Possibly the most famous quote from the series arose in the episode where Captain Mainwaring’s hapless platoon was detailed to guard a captured U-Boat crew and in which the gormless Private Pike so irritated the submariners’ Captain (played superbly by Philip Madoc) with the rhyme: “Whistle while you work, Hitler is a twerp. He’s half barmy, so’s his army, whistle while you work” that Madoc demanded his name. “Don’t tell him Pike!” was Mainwaring’s reply in a phrase that has since entered the British lexicon.

Don't tell him Pike!
Don’t tell him Pike!

As is well known, Perry, who recently died, wrote a number of other sitcoms with ‘It Ain’t Half Hot, Mum‘ and ‘Hi-de-Hi!‘ probably the next best known. His co-writer, David Croft died a few years ago, but their obituaries both referenced the other as integral parts of the whole. So, based on Pike and the submariners, I give you my valediction to them both:

You taunted a man from the Reich
With a rhyme that he just didn’t like.
It made him exclaim:
“You! Give me your name”,
So Mainwaring said: “Don’t tell him, Pike!”.

(Non-native English speakers, and probably some native ones, should note that ‘Mainwaring’ is pronounced ‘Mannering’. My apologies for the last line. It does scan, but you have to get the phrasing right – Frank Sinatra’s speciality; he’d have found it a doddle to say!)

A limerick a week #4

It’s not often that I’m approached in the street by a bonnie lass asking to take my picture. Never actually – until yesterday that is (and I have witnesses!). I just happened to be kicking my heels down south when an attractive and youthful damsel ran – literally ran – across the road and asked if she could photograph me.

It turns out that she was an art student and she wanted to capture my visage for a project that she was working on. Well, who am I to frustrate the creativity of today’s youth, especially as she wanted a picture of JUST ME and not the others? Clearly Firstborn’s vanity is beginning to rub off on me.

I saw the result (quite characterful and flattering) and only later began to wonder about Photoshop, the internet and the heinous uses to which an innocently-gifted picture could be put.

Anyway, my late-middle-aged self-esteem had been suitably boosted so I’m happy enough😀

I was accosted just now in the street
By a lassie, both bonnie and sweet.
My cute new amigo
Then massaged my ego
By seeking a photo to tweet!

(Let me predict Firstborn’s reaction to this: “Oh no, not another Afroditi story. You are so ridiculous dad. You really are!“)

A limerick a week #3

‘Team Demelza’ strikes back …

He may have a six-pack, he may be Pol, dark and handsome, and he may have a voice that buckles the knees of womenfolk at 100 yards, but it’s not all about Ross …

While the girls have gone wild about scything
And fantasize all about writhing
With muscular Ross,
I don’t give a toss
‘Cos it’s Demelza with whom I’ll be ‘jiving’!

... but I already do!
… I already do (with Management that is, not Demelza) so glass duly raised!


A limerick a week #1

A Limerick a Week #1

During 2010-11, Jon Boden (ex-Bellowhead frontman) produced a daily podcast for 365 consecutive days under the banner of ‘A Folk Song A Day‘. The intent was to promote the practice of social singing, but as 99.9999% of the British public are probably entirely unaware of the project and wouldn’t give a damn about it even if they were, I suspect that his was a forlorn hope.

Now, it just so happens that one of the songs that he chose to perform for December was ‘The Mistletoe Bough‘ a delightfully depressing antidote to the over-commercialised festival that comprises our modern-day lost-its-way Christmas. This is a song that Firstborn forbids me to sing in her presence as it brings her to tears (which is the public’s usual reaction to my singing anyway, so what’s new?). Nevertheless, when telling her that it was part of the ‘A Folk Song a Day‘ project she suggested that I should copy the idea and produce a limerick a day on my Facebook (apparently my limericks amuse her). That was too ambitious for me and as I later left Facebook, it would certainly have failed. But a limerick a week? On this blog? Might work …

So here it is. The first one. Inspired by the depressing news of the UK vote to leave the European Union, and to ensure untrammelled, professional mobility throughout the European Economic Area for our kids, Management has taken advantage of her ancestry to claim Irish citizenship, thus enabling Firstborn and the Tall Child to be declared ‘out of country’ births and, as such, to adopt Irish citizenship themselves (if they so desire):

I don’t want to complain, but I do wish
That the Brits would not be quite so boorish
‘Cos leaving the Union
Just bolsters disunion
And my wife’s turned from English to Oirish!

Ready for Brexit ...
Ready for Brexit …

Postscript: The legend behind the Mistletoe Bough can be found here, and Jon Boden’s solo rendition of it is at the bottom of this page (requires Adobe Flash to play).