A limerick a week #224

New Year, new beginnings?

So, Brexit was all about ‘taking back control’ was it?

Bollocks! It was an object lesson in how lies, sophistry and populism can be used to create a sense of grievance in the populace and to accentuate and make respectable the ‘little Englander’ xenophobia of the Sun, the Daily Mail, the Daily Express, the Telegraph, the Times and many of their readers.

Personally, I think a lot of chickens will come home to roost as a result. Indeed, given the emphasis placed by Brexiteers on ‘sovereignty’, I find it difficult to see how the UK government can rationally object to the current Scottish government’s desire also ‘to take back control’ and to assert its own sovereignty (and, ultimately, to rejoin the European project in whatever guise suits, either through membership of the EEA or the EU itself).

I say that as an internationalist, not a nationalist, and as someone who values ‘coming together’ rather than ‘breaking apart’.

As an internationalist, I don’t see that there is any contradiction between maintaining a country’s sovereignty and its ‘independence’ as a part of the European project. That ‘contradiction’ only exists in the minds of sophistrists and xenophobes that confuse sovereignty with interdependence.

So, my prediction for 2021 is that the Scottish government elections will herald a stronger mandate for the SNP (despite its factional in-fighting, and its  own facility to create grievances to suit its political ends) and that the UK government will face substantially increased pressure to legislate for a 2nd independence referendum.

It certainly looks as if the country is on a trajectory for independence whether it be in 2 years, 10 years or 20. For my own part I’d have preferred to remain a part of the UK within the EU, but if the only option to becoming a European citizen again is through an independent Scotland, then perhaps ‘needs must’.

Here’s the limerick…

I think there will now come a day
(And it might not be that far away)
When all due to Brexit
The Scots finally exit
The Union and it’s ‘Goodbye UK’!

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!

The Eleventh of the Eleventh 2020

A family at war

I have previously written about the life and experiences of my great uncle Harold, a wounded survivor of the First World War who also volunteered in the Second World War in support of the D-Day landings (see here and here).

I also had three uncles who served in the Second World War; Tot, who died at sea, Jack, who survived the land war and Doug, the eldest of his siblings, an electrical engineer in a reserved occupation who was unable to volunteer for active service or to be conscripted.

Tot was the second oldest of the brothers and served as an engineering officer in the Merchant Navy as poor eyesight caused him to be rejected by the Royal Navy. In 1941 he broke his leg when ashore in the United States and, although permitted to recuperate there, he chose to travel home on a convoy vessel, the SS Empire Crossbill, as a supernumary Fourth Engineer.

Empire Crossbill was an American cargo ship built in 1919 as the West Amargosa and laid up in 1937. In 1940 she was transferred to the UK Ministry of War Transport and renamed the Empire Crossbill. After several successful crossings of the North Atlantic, she mustered in Cape Breton in August 1941 as part of Slow Convoy 42 bound for Liverpool.

The West Amargosa, subsequently SS Empire Crossbill, before transfer to the UK Ministry of War Transport

SC42 was attacked by the Markgraf wolfpack of 14 German submarines that was on patrol southeast of Greenland. The attack extended over three night nights, 9-11 September. Empire Crossbill was torpedoed by U-82 east of Cape Farewell at 03.11 GMT on 11 September 1941 and sank with all hands: 38 crew, 10 gunners, and one passenger – Thomas Lang Forster, aged 23.

The reported location of Empire Crossbill’s sinking

Of the 65 merchant vessels that comprised SC42, sixteen – almost one quarter of the convoy – were lost. U-82 was itself sunk with the loss of all 45 crew just a few months later on 6 February 1942, north of the Azores, having been depth charged by HMS Rochester and HMS Tamarisk. Its captain, Kapitänleutnant Siegfried Rollmann, was 27 – just four years older than Tot.

Tot’s name (Forster T.L.) on the Tower Hill Memorial to merchant seamen

Jack, the youngest of the three brothers, survived the war having experienced both the Dunkirk evacuation and the D-Day landings.

Prior to the Dunkirk evacuation, he had been with 285 Battery, 72nd Field Regiment, Royal Artillery 50th Northumberland Division, a part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). His Division was one of the last to leave Dunkirk as it had been tasked to destroy any installations as the BEF retreated. Jack and his companions joined one of the last ships, if not the last, that departed Dunkirk. He landed at Margate on 2 June 1940.

As far as his family was concerned, Jack was missing in action, so it was a great relief to them that a telegram arrived from him on 3 June. No “Hello Mam, I’m fine”, but just one line asking her to ‘wire’ 10 shillings (50 pence) to him care of the General Post Office in Rugely Staffordshire!

The 50th Northumberland Division (and Jack) then went on to fight in the North African desert war with General Montgomery and landed on Sword beach on D-Day itself. He was on active service from the time of the BEF to VE Day.

Jack being Jack, he was almost court martialled on VE Day itself. He had been listening on the radio to Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s speech announcing the end of the war in Europe when a senior officer sent for him. He refused to attend the officer and told the messenger to go away saying that he was busy. Jack was subsequently escorted under armed guard to the officer’s room.

I don’t think the officer could have seen much action, certainly not compared to Jack, and on learning of his involvement at Dunkirk, in North Africa, and on D-Day, the officer absolved him of any offence. Many years later they were reunited on Breakfast TV in a segment to mark the 40th anniversary of VE Day and retold their story on air. (I have never watched breakfast TV apart from that one morning, but, unfortunately, despite viewing it from 6am until about 9.50, I never saw his contribution – my employer’s flexitime limit meant that I had to be clocked in by 10am and Jack’s contribution only came later – we had no video recorder at that time.)

NB. Some of the above is taken from archived records detailing the events mentioned, the rest is taken from the family matriarch’s tome ‘A European Family’ and archival material held by family members.

Postscript: This is Jack’s personal recollection of the D-Day landings…

Normandy

The journey we made from Portsmouth to Normandy in France was unforgettable. We travelled in a ‘Landing Craft Tank [L.C.T]’ and to some, the journey was a veritable nightmare. The transport consisted of very long barges, designed to carry eleven tanks, and acted like huge white whales; they would rise from the water towards the sky and then crash onto the sea again after each swell.

It was a welcome relief to land on Sword beach with the main assault troops of the 3rd British Infantry division. The tanks, which went straight into action, left first and at the same time the ramp was in about 15 feet of water.

We were a signal section, part of the advance signals H.Q. and were issued with only handcarts containing wireless equipment. We managed to get a line ashore and the carts, being waterfproof and containing air, floated just below the surface. During this time shells were falling closer and closer. The L.C.T. Captain bawling “Get the hell out of here”, added to the threatening atmosphere. Fortunately we made dry land with only one casualty and that was the barrage balloon we were painstakingly carrying for the beach defence. It was shot down!

We struggled over the beach and found some protection in a farm just inland from the French holiday resort of Lion-sur-mer. Some holiday! Leaving the wireless operators to set up their equipments, driver Morgan and I set about clearing up the area following the tank and infantry assault. My binoculars and watch had been damaged by the sea water but I was able to replace them with those of a German Officer who sadly had no further use of them.

One of our tasks was to search the sleeping quarters below the fortress which had been designed to keep us out. While a young Welsh soldier covered me with my revolver I found two young Germans cowering in the upper bunks. They were terrified and I had to drag them out as they were convinced they were going to be shot. They were no more than seventeen years old and begged us not to shoot them. Having survived the previous infantry attack when many of their comrades had been killed, they were relieved to find out that they were destined for prison camp and safety.

It was unfortunate that our D-Day objective, Caen, was not taken for a further two weeks due to the arrival of Rommel and his famous Panzer troops. They had come north in an attempt to hurl us back into the sea. Rommel must have been extremely unhappy when he realised that both the 3rd. and the 50th. Divisions of the British Army were the ones that prevented him from doing so because he knew that they were the last ones to leave Dunkirk in 1940.