Occasional Limericks Only #49

King Of The Fells

During my youth and early adulthood, five names stood out in the pantheon of Cumbrian fell runners. Kenny Stuart and Billy Bland were certainly renowned, but the three that captivated me were Tommy Sedgwick, Fred Reeves and the ‘king’ of the fells, Joss Naylor.

Sedgwick and Reeves were renowned for their battles in the Grasmere Senior Guides race and their hair-raising descents of precipitous hillsides in those shorter disciplines. Throughout the 1970s, Sedgwick and Reeves had a terrific rivalry notwithstanding a strong friendship.

In 1976 Sedgwick set the Grasmere record of 12 minutes and 24 seconds over the 1.2 mile course, including an ascent of 870 feet (it was Sedgwick’s descents that saw him described as ‘brainless and brakeless”). Reeves broke the record two years later in a time of 12 minutes and 21 seconds; a record that still stands. I wonder if it was their rivalry that pushed them to such performances. Incidentally, Reeves also holds an unbroken record for the Ambleside Senior Guides race set in 1976. This will never be bettered as course changes circa 2016 resulted in a slightly longer course.

Such relative ‘sprints’ were not the forte of Joss Naylor. He was an out and out endurance man. A hill farmer based in Wasdale, Naylor’s achievements almost defy belief.

Descending screes in Wales. Picture taken from Keith Richardson’s biography, ‘Joss’, an oil painting by Jonathon Trotman based on a photograph by John Cleare.
According to Wikipedia, he felt his greatest achievement was his 1975 Lakeland circuit comprising “72 peaks, claimed to involve over 100 miles and about 38,000 feet of ascent in 23 hours and 29 minutes”. (Actually the distance covered was 108 miles). Chris Brasher who paced Roger Bannister to break the four minute mile barrier, who won gold in the 1956 Olympic 3000 metres steeple chase and who co-founded the London Marathon, agreed, calling Naylor “The greatest of them all”.

Naylor did not train according to the ‘scientific’, nutritional and spreadsheet methods of those who subsequently broke his records (and who often awaited optimal weather conditions). Naylor just ran. He ran with support, but only of the basic kind. Aged 70 he completed a Lakeland circuit of 70 peaks over 50 miles ascending more than 25,000 feet in less than 21 hours. Astonishing!

Sadly, Naylor has just died at the age of 88. Here’s my limerick-as-eulogy…

From Wasdale’s abrupt mountainside
And the peaks that he’d take in his stride,
O’er the hush of the fells
Rang the peal of the bells
On the day that Joss Naylor died.

Occasional Limericks Only #48

Nice buns!

Readers may recall a number of posts and limericks in the past that tried to promote the Gray’s School of Art short course exhibitions in Aberdeen. Sadly, Covid put paid to both the courses and the exhibition, but last year Gray’s made tentative steps to reinstate some of the classes, if not the exhibition. All of which means that I have taken and printed some more old-fashioned, B&W film photos. My favourite is a view of ‘Waves’ (see below)

‘Waves’ comprises a pair of figures overlooking the Aberdeen Sports Village running track. One of the figures is atop a curved pedestal and the other at the foot of one. The installation is the work of Steinunn Thorarinsdottir, an Icelandic sculptor, and was unveiled in November 2010 . A complete view of the work taken from the Codaworx website is shown here…

‘Waves’, by Icelandic artist Steinunn Thorarinsdottir. Aberdeen Sports Village

I wanted to take a pic on a similarly sunny day with fluffy white clouds, and to use a red filter to darken the blue skies as a contrast to the clouds. Initially I was disappointed that the cloud comprised a band low down in the sky rather than appearing as light and airy cotton-wool balls, but nature knew best and the pic turned out better than I could have wished for.

When it was printed at Gray’s, I made a jocular comment that you could tell it was appropriate for the Sports Village, as the statue was, well, statuesque with firm buttocks. In a conversational meander (that I am prone to) I then recounted that one of the Village’s gym team had once commented to me that only women turned up to her ‘Glute Camp’ exercise class. I suggested that if she wanted any blokes to turn up, she should rename the class ‘Buns of Steel’. Thus, in an instant, my photograph had its title!

Here’s the limerick:

An athlete who trained with great zeal
Thought his glutes lacked a certain appeal
So he did lots and lots
Of Sumo stance squats
And that’s how he got buns of steel!

…and here’s my pic:

‘Buns of Steel’. Digitised image from a B&W analogue print.

Occasional Limericks Only #47

The Battle of the Bulge…

Readers may recall that I’d injured myself last year during a gym class, although it was unclear as to what I’d done. If anything, it was likely to be a hernia, but not in the usual place and nothing ‘bulged’ down below that wasn’t supposed to; nevertheless, something was wrong.

I then had successively a CT scan, a colonoscopy and an ultrasound scan, only the latter of which suggested that something may be amiss, and even then it was speculative. Anyway, I was recently recalled for a six month follow-up scan to be carried out by a specialist groin sonographer (who knew that I had a specialist groin – I didn’t!).

It took much longer than anticipated, but the sonographer finally found it. As I engaged my core she found the site where something bulged and then disappeared when I relaxed. She even showed me the ultrasound screen in real time. Interestingly (for me at least) the bulge did not break through my abdominal musculature, so, apparently, I don’t have a hernia. I just have, err,  ‘something’.


So, borrowing from Douglas Adams’ concept of a trilogy in four books, here is the fourth limerick of my Abdominal Trilogy…

A sonographer said that she thought
Her patient was just overwrought
‘Cos a muscular base
Kept his innards in place
So he really should not be so fraught!

Occasional Limericks Only #45

Tomorrow’s almost over…

A View From The Lanterne Rouge had a modest degree of weekly traffic when I was posting A Limerick A Week, but that understandably fell away as the limericks became (very) occasional ones only. So I was surprised to see a number of new hits on the blog that almost reached treble digits in the last couple of days.

On delving into the stats it became clear that this was for a rather unfortunate reason. The vast majority of those hits had been for a post that I’d published in December 2017 as a sort of obituary for the former Likely Lad, Rodney Bewes, who died back then. However, I don’t think Bewes or the associated limerick was the reason for the post’s renewed popularity. I think the interest was in another person named and pictured within it.

The following words from the original might give a clue…

… and I do also recall Anita Carey in her few appearances as Susan, Thelma’s sister … she was one of the 1970s actresses that remain etched in the memory of schoolboy day-dreams!

Sadly, Anita Carey’s death at the age of 75 had just been announced publicly, although she had died a few weeks earlier. As the blog’s stats also showed that Google, Yahoo and Bing were the referring sites to my original post, I can only assume that it was the actor’s fans, searching for information on her as a result of the news, that landed on the blog page. They would probably have been disappointed that the post was an old one about Bewes and not her, but I hope they appreciated the sentiment (above) and maybe the limerick as well!

Anita Carey, whose very 1970s look in this pic takes me back a few years (well, decades, actually!)

As well as her appearances in Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads, I also remember Carey as Carter Brandon’s fianceé in the mid-70s TV comedy I Didn’t Know You Cared and I’m sad to say that almost 50 years later I still occasionally use Carter’s Uncle Staveley’s very northern utterance whenever someone sends a disparaging comment my way:  “I ‘eard that – pardon?”

Anyway, here’s the limerick…

There was once a thespian lass
Whose acting exuded great class,
But fast forward to now
As she takes her last bow
‘Cos her curtain call’s just come to pass!

Postscript: To many folks, the header for this post may not seem to have much relevance to the content, but those of us who grew up watching Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads will recall the words from the programme’s theme tune. There was always an air of forlorn nostalgia amidst the show’s comedy and that was perfectly encapsulated by the song’s mournful chorus:

Oh what happened to you?
Whatever happened to me?
What became of the people we used to be?
Tomorrow’s almost over, today went by so fast
It’s the only thing to look forward to, the past

My rearguard action against ageing is to look ahead and not behind and, to paraphrase Clint Eastwood’s words, to not let the old man in. Unfortunately, when you read the obituaries of people you remember from your youth, like Carey, it’s difficult to avoid a degree of reflection and makes you confront an interesting paradox:

the idea of living a long life appeals to everyone, but the idea of getting old doesn’t appeal to anyone.” Adam Rooney

True, very true!

Occasional Limericks Only #44

What lies beneath…

Eight months after injuring myself at the gym when following an errant trainer’s instructions, my lower right abdominal injury has ‘sort of’ resolved and I can do most gym exercises again, although there remains a residual dull ache in the affected area.

Having undergone a CT scan and a colonoscopy, the latter due to a red flag raised by the former (fortunately a false alarm), I’ve most recently had an ultrasound scan in the hope that it might be more successful than the CT scan in identifying what’s wrong.

Unfortunately the ultrasound scan was also inconclusive; there was nothing obvious, but a vague indication that there may be something amiss. During the scan I was asked to engage my core and then ‘release’. Apparently there is a muscle ‘rebound’ on release and my rebound over the injured area was not quite as rapid as would be expected and that may be indicative of a tiny hernia. There’s a degree of clutching at straws with that kind of conclusion and I’ll be called back for another ultrasound scan in six months to see if there has been any change for the worse.

The good news from all of this is that I’ve had a pretty good abdominal MoT over the last few months. I seem also to have impressed the sonographer during the ultrasound scan. Apparently, I engage my core really well and I was told that a lot of people can’t do that. I guess that my ability in that regard is due to the core exercises that I do at gym classes; an incongruity being that it was a misguided and ineffective core exercise that led to the injury in the first place – a rather unfortunate irony!

Anyway, here’s the last limerick in my abdominal trilogy…

An ultrasound scan didn’t show
The cause of his pain ‘down below’;
He still needs to consider-a
Breach in his viscera
‘Cos something’s amiss even so!

Occasional Limericks Only #43

🎶They marched her up to the top of the hill…🎶

Some lines composed whilst basking in reflected glory as one of the support group  (ie, providers of a post-race pasta salad) for Team Ellen after her terrific performance in yesterday’s ‘Run Balmoral’ Stena 10K…

4th woman home at the Run Balmoral Stena 10K, 2023.

An athlete was once heard to say
That to run in the Stena 10K
Would make you feel ill
By the top of ‘the hill’
And from then it’s downhill all the way!

Occasional Limericks Only #42

The Age of the Train…

Warning: there is a bit of a rant coming up, so just scroll down for the limerick if that is all you are interested in!

In the late 1970s, the then British Rail ran an advertising campaign that gives this post its header: The Age of the Train. One of its straplines was “Let the train take the strain”, something that drew derision despite the successful introduction of the Intercity 125 High Speed Train service during that period. My personal experience of using the Intercity 125 in those days is that it was, indeed, a good service.

I wish I could say the same of my recent experience with the fragmented UK franchise-based rail network. Out of three return journeys in the last couple of years, only one has been uneventful.

The most recent was on a flying visit to the Matriarch’s house in Kendal a week ago to finish off a bit of DIY that I’d failed to complete a couple of weeks earlier. Having made the return journey from Aberdeen to the English Midlands and Lake District by car on rather too many occasions in recent months, I thought that for my latest trip south I’d “Let the train take the strain“. Big mistake!

My journey involved two changes on both the outward and return legs. For the outward trip the first leg was from Aberdeen to Edinburgh with LNER. The second leg was from Edinburgh to Oxenholme with TransPennine Express and the third, a short trip along the Windermere branch line from Oxenholme to Kendal with Northern Rail. The return journey mirrored the outward one. (I can already sense the anticipatory laughter coming from those readers that have personally experienced those franchises.)

So, on reaching Aberdeen station to travel south, I learned that I would be travelling on a rail replacement bus. One, it turned out, that had a very grumpy driver and no working toilet (perhaps the two were related?). I hate travelling by coach and, if I had wanted to sit on one for three hours, then I would have booked it and not a train. So much for a smooth rail journey, but at least I made my connection in Edinburgh. Unfortunately, I never made the following connection due to my next train’s late arrival at Oxenhome. It was mid-evening and pouring down (it was the Lake District after all), so rather than wait at least an hour for the next branch line train, I called a taxi.

The following day my DIY job was finished with great elan (if I say so myself) and I left Kendal soon after only to find that both the Oxenhome to Edinburgh and Edinburgh to Aberdeen trains on which I had reserved seats … were cancelled. Apparently I can claim some recompense for the cost of my tickets, but that does not go anywhere close to making up for the inconvenience, the time wasted, or the additional cost of taxis.

When British Rail was privatised, its management lobbied for a single entity covering rolling stock and track. Instead, the Conservative government followed the ruinous plans of a right wing think tank (#nothoughtinvolved) by initially creating a fragmented system of seven passenger rail franchises and, later, 25 (these figures are from Wikipedia, so caveat emptor, but you get the gist). If the franchises make money, their customers get screwed as their executives and shareholders lap it up, and if they don’t make money, well, they just hand the franchise back and walk away seemingly without cost or penalty. As for improved performance under such a fragmented system? Let’s just say that press reports suggest that my most recent experience is commonplace.

Here’s the limerick

As the rail franchise once again fails
Déjà vu is all that prevails
“Let the train take the strain”
Is the fatuous refrain
As your journey goes clean off the rails!

Occasional Limericks Only #41

With mirth and laughter…

Many years ago I was on holiday in Brussels with la famille. We often took the Metro to visit the sights on offer and, whilst at one stop, a very elderly couple got on. Our carriage had standing room only and no-one offered them their seats, so I motioned to Firstborn and suggested that we stand and give them ours.

The couple were both wizened and, I suspect, neither was used to the locals offering-up their seats. They had heard me speaking in English and the lady said ‘thank you’ in what seemed to be the only English that she knew, possibly learned from a film adaptation of Dickens or from Eliza Doolittle before she met ‘enry ‘iggins.

So, that is how I came to be addressed by an elderly, petite Belgian woman, speaking English with a Cockney accent, as she said “Gawd bless you, sir”. It made my day!

In contrast, my day was ‘unmade’ yesterday as I stood in a crowded bus travelling down Union Street in Aberdeen. I know the young woman meant well when she offered me her seat, but my angst must have been clear as I politely declined whilst thinking to myself, “Surely I don’t look THAT old!”.

It was a ‘first’, but I’m also vain enough to hope that it was also the ‘last’ for a very long time!

Here’s the limerick:

I’m grey-haired, but not lacking conceit,
And was happy to stay on my feet
So a young lass was told,
“I’m not really THAT old!”
When she got up to offer her seat!

Postscript: the header to this post comes from lines in The Merchant of Venice where Gratiano proclaims:

“Let me play the fool.
With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.
And let my liver rather heat with wine
Than my heart cool with mortifying groans”.

Amen to that!

Occasional Limericks Only #40

Still not quacking…

This is a longish one, so if you only want the limerick, just scroll to the end.

Regular readers may recall my recent sports-related injury of the is-it-or-isn’t-it-a-hernia variety (it looked like a duck and walked like a duck, but didn’t quack like a duck). The colorectal surgeon to whom I self-referred a few weeks ago wasn’t convinced that it was a hernia (no ‘bulge’ and the pain was a bit far away from where you’d expect it to be in a bloke). Consequently, she referred me for a CT scan both to check for a hernia and to eliminate any other pathology.

The CT scan results were mildly alarming. There was some apparent irregular thickening of the caecum that extended into the ileum (the ileum is the final third of the small intestine and the caecum is where the large and small intestines meet). Irregular thickening of the bowel is not a good sign apparently, so I was referred for an urgent colonoscopy to rule out anything sinister.

Fortunately, there were also some encouraging signs that indicated either a less serious cause of my pain or that any neoplasm, if present, was at an early stage. This was because the CT scan had shown that my abdominal lymph nodes were all less than 1cm long (Dr Google says that, generally, you’d be concerned if they were greater than 1.2cm in length, but less so if they were shorter than 1cm). Also, I’d not lost weight suddenly or unexpectedly, and there were no observable bloodied stools exiting stage right.

So, a colonoscopy was arranged for the week after Hogmanay. That’s not something that would normally be high on anyone’s New Year wishlist, but I have to say it was a fairly benign procedure. The good news was that my innards showed nothing of concern. Although the biopsies have yet to be examined, the consultant was pretty well convinced there was no thickening as suggested by the CT scan, but, simply, a harmless quirk of anatomy.

Once the doctor was happy that everything looked fine, I then got a guided tour of my caecum and terminal ileum courtesy of a handily placed TV screen. One of the ‘quirks’ was that the valve between the ileum and the caecum, the ileocecal valve, was ‘prominent’ (I thought it looked like a sea-squirt!). The other quirk was that the so-called mucosal folds of the large intestine were also prominent (the inner view of the large intestine reminded me of the accordian-like folds of a tumble-drier ventilation hose). As a bonus, I also got to see my appendix from the inside.

Given there was nothing found of obvious concern, I can say with hindsight that the whole process was fascinating. The consultant managed to navigate the endoscope deep into the distal end of my ileum, rounding three right-angled bends, to a total ‘depth’ of 1.6 metres. How they manage that is beyond me!

The road less travelled… (1) Terminal ileum; (2) Caecum extending to the proximal ascending colon; (3) Rectum. The little spidery thing represents the location of the ileocecal valve and the dangling appendage is the appendix.

To ensure that a complete job was done, a number of biopsies were taken at the caecum and the ileum. An open-jawed instrument was placed against the tissue, snapped shut and, literally, ripped away from the intestinal wall. (The clarity of the image that I could see was due to a ‘well-prepared bowel’, ie, two days of fasting, gallons of water drunk and two doses of Picolax on the second day coupled to a frequently visited, adjacent loo.)

I watched the biopsies in real-time, but felt nothing. That was quite weird, as I thought it might nip a bit as I was only on pain relief when they were navigating the camera to the furthest point examined. Once there, there was no apparent need for it. I’d chosen self-administered Entonox (gas and air) rather than a vein-delivered sedative; largely because my other half had rather enjoyed tripping on gas and air during childbirth!

(Some people forego any form of pain relief as, generally, you are told you may experience only mild discomfort, but as I’m a coward with a low pain threshold I chose to get high.)

Consequently, I was only loosely aware of subsequently taking part in what must have been a surreal conversation with the chatty nurse at my head end. Pre-procedure literature had warned that the gas they use to inflate the intestines for observational purposes may make me feel uncomfortable and a bit windy afterwards, so, when asked how I was going to spend the rest of the day, I think I replied: “Farting!”. I can also remember referencing the ‘blood donor’ episode of Hancock’s Half-hour for some reason, but only after ensuring that all present were aware of who he’d been and emphasising that he was only known to me through repeats of his TV show as “even I’m not that old”.

Chatty nurse also asked me what I did for a living. I replied that I was now retired from Aberdeen’s Marine Laboratory, so she let me know that she was friends with a ‘bit of a character’ who worked there. I, of course, then regaled her with some colourful anecdotes about said ‘character’. As I was tripping quite high by then, I sincerely hope that I didn’t mis-remember them or  conflate them with tales of other characterful Marine Lab staff (of which there are many).

Having successfully traduced my former colleague whilst lying on my left side, I was asked to change position onto my right side. Chatty nurse missed that manoeuvre as she had left her post for a couple of minutes and, when she returned, exclaimed “Oh, I didn’t see you change sides!”. I’m embarrassed to say that was when I compared myself to a deity: “Oh yes”, I said, “I’m like God – I move in mysterious ways!”.

The final topic of narcotically-induced conversation was the tale of ‘just a little prick, sir’ from many years ago when I’d had the snip. I think that, on this occasion, it must have been the nadir of my story-telling because as soon as I’d finished it they placed the Entonox out of my reach.

So, where to now? In terms of diagnosis, other than counting out a bowel problem, I’m back to square one. When I next see my consultant I’ll perhaps suggest a second look at the CT scan in case an apparent irregularly thickened bowel diverted the radiologist’s focus from a more benign issue that may have been present. If not that, then what?

Here’s the limerick.

A patient lay prone on his side
Thinking “Hmm, this is not dignified!”
As a doc tried to pass
A ‘scope up his ass
To a metre and a half deep inside

Postscript: a couple of days after undergoing the colonoscopy, I read a news article that referenced Whitney Houston’s song, Greatest Love of All. I couldn’t help but think it would have ended me completely if, when lying prone with an endoscope a metre and a half up mon derrière in full view of four onlookers, I’d heard her blasting out the lines:

No matter what they take from me, they can’t take away my dignity!