A limerick a week #197

Beyond satire… 

It’s a bit of a rant-cum-braindump this week, so just skip to the end for the limerick I would!).

From the Financial Times a few days ago:

Mr Johnson is expected to exhort his cabinet on Tuesday to lead a campaign to persuade Britons that it is safe to go back to the pub and to enjoy other aspects of normal life.

“There’s a job to be done to encourage people to go out,” said one government official, suggesting some ministers might take the lead by heading to the pub.

From the Graun (a few days later after the British-but-mainly-the-English public decided to crowd together at the seaside and inland beauty spots and ignore the Covid-19 guidance and pre-lockdown social norms):

Earlier in the week, Johnson urged people to get out and “enjoy themselves” on 4 July, claiming that “the bustle is starting to come back”.

How the UK’s right wing tabloids promote Johnson’s easing of the Covid-19 restrictions

Subsequently from the Graun:

While thousands of people used their “good old British common sense” to flock to the beach at the first sign of a heatwave – who could have predicted they would interpret Boris’s upbeat “Show some guts ending of hibernation” address this way?

And today from The Observer:

On Wednesday in parliament the prime minister was asked a simple question by Peter Kyle, Labour MP for the seaside constituency of Hove. It was certain, Kyle noted, that with the relaxing of restrictions on socialising, coastal towns like his would become dangerously packed with visitors. “What will the prime minister do in the absence of the promised [track and trace] app to make sure these communities are destinations for investment and not destinations for covid?”

Boris Johnson replied with typical scattergun harrumphing: “I will be calling on local representatives such as himself to show some guts and determination and champion their communities as venues for people to return to and support!”

Through his mishandling of the Cummins ‘lockdown’ affair, our Prime Minister and his Cabinet had earlier lost all moral authority to complain about the British public breaking his Government’s most recent Covid-29 guidance. On top of that, his pronouncements on the easing of lockdown have since positively encouraged the public to ignore it entirely.

And what is his next great thought? He declares that it is for local councils to deal with the mess for which he is responsible. What a pillock!

When Boris starts passing the buck
On a virus that’s now run amuck
All I can say,
In a most heartfelt way,
Is the man’s just a stumbling rumblef*ck

A limerick a week #196

🎶There ain’t nothing like a Dame🎶

When Dame Vera Lynn, the UK’s WWII Forces’ Sweetheart, turned 100 a few years ago, I recycled an old tongue-in-cheek limerick. You can read it here.

Well, she has just died at the grand old age of 103. Quite an innings, but I wonder, I just wonder, that with her passing and that of the recent 75th anniversary of VE day, whether the UK can finally place the part it played in WWII in its historical context, albeit its modern history, instead of re-living its glories every time our present-day politicians want to divert attention from the divisiveness of their policies.

I’m all for Rememberance, but only in its truest sense and not as a pretext for ‘uniting’ a country behind xenophobic populism. Dame Vera was symbolic of unity for the right reasons; reasons that led to the UK’s post-war social democratic concensus rather than the bitter divides that neoliberalism has brought about more recently. 

Anyway, here’s a ‘goodbye’ in ALAW fashion…

A songstress who enthralled servicemen
Sings no more, as the time has come when
It’s ‘adieu’ to Dame Vera
And the end of an era
‘Cos I don’t think that we’ll meet again!

A limerick a week #195

For someone at the start of their secondary school years, the early 1970s BBC Time-Life magazine ‘The British Empire’ made for a fascinating weekly read over the course of its 98 issues. 

It was the first ever part-work magazine that was specifically linked to a BBC television series and, as with the broadcast programme, the subject of ‘Empire’ and its presentation was controversial in the eye of the dominions if not to those for whom it was a nostalgic echo of when Britannia ruled the waves.

To the thirteen year old me, the magazine’s depictions of the slave trade were horrific. Horrific, but far away. After all, although we were ‘offcomers’ to my home town of Kendal, we were Caucasian just like the locals and weren’t exposed to the realities of racism in the 1970s.

So, despite being rather shocked by the appallingly-racist sitcom Love Thy Neighbour and bemused by the peculiarity that was the Black and White Minstrel Show, we were, in those days, quite unaware of the offensiveness, for example, of white actors ‘blacking up’ in other TV productions. 

It wasn’t until I was a student in the east end of London during the autumn of 1977 that I learned about some of the realities of racism. Although my stay in London was short, for a part of that time I shared a room with Gwyn, a young man of colour from the then Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) .

We were lodging with a senile landlady on the fifth floor of a tower block, the bucolically-but-deceptively named Barley Mow Estate on Oak Lane in Poplar.

My student ‘residence’ in London’s east end four years after I’d lived there

Our landlady’s senility was a problem (lettuce for breakfast, anyone?) and she should have been properly cared for by her family. Instead they encouraged her to take in students as lodgers so there was someone there to keep an eye on her.

But that wasn’t our real problem. Our real problem was the hostility shown to Gwyn by some of the area’s locals whenever he, or we, ventured out. It was more than an eye-opener to a naïve north country lad. (Due to my accommodation problems I dropped out after one term. I don’t know if Gwyn lasted the course or what became of him.)

Needless to say, in view of my experience back then, if only as a mere observer, the recent Black Lives Matter protests in the UK and the downing of Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol and its dumping in Bristol Harbour, has resonated with me and I do hope that it leads to a substantive change for the better and not just the usual hand-wringing of privileged UK politicos

Here’s the limerick

When the time finally came to take stock
It never was really a shock
For the people of BAME
To attribute the blame
To the man they’ve just put in the dock!

I’ll leave the last word to the historian and TV presenter David Olusoga… 



A limerick a week #194

If you’re gonna be stupid, be lucky too!

So, there I was on my bike, peddling in an easterly direction along the South Deeside road and trying to impress SID, the Speed Indicating Device, as I entered the new-build settlement at Riverside of Blairs when, BANG!

I thought “Gosh, that was loud!” (or words to that effect) and although the flapping-cum-graunch sound of a deflated tyre implied a puncture, the explosive retort suggested it was just a tad more serious than that.

The truncated route!

And indeed, it was. I’d just experienced a catastrophic failure of my front tyre at about 21mph. Fortunately, I was on the flat heading straight ahead and the tyre stayed on the wheel. Had I been tanking downhill or on a corner then I suspect it would have come off the rim, jammed in the forks, and I’d have crashed – perhaps heavily.

What a catastrophic tyre failure can look like from the outside.

And d’you know what? I’d have only had myself to blame.

I’d inspected the bike before setting off and the front tyre looked a bit bockety in one place. I actually took it off and re-seated it, but the distortion remained. If I’d examined the inside of the tyre before re-fitting it, I would have seen something that shouted out loud when I examined it after the event (I also wouldn’t have ridden on it!).

Nearly all bicycle tyres are manufactured cross-ply. That means the rubberised woven material that forms the casing has its warp and weft at 45° to the direction of travel. In my tyre the weave had split at one point along the angle and compromised the structural integrity of the carcass; hence the distortion when fitted to the rim and inflated to 100 psi.

… and from the inside. In this case, the woven casing had split along the direction of the warp (or weft, whichever) distorting it when pressurised and it became a blowout just waiting to happen.

The simple moral of the story is to never trust a tyre that doesn’t look right. That’s even more true if, like me, you’d considered the tyre to be a bit ‘iffy’, but decided to ride on it anyway whilst assuring yourself that things would be fine as long as you never went too fast down hills or around corners. It was lucky that I did take things cautiously. It was also lucky that ‘management’ was just about to start her lunch break and was able to rescue me several miles from home.

… and the good news, if you believe the advertising, is that the new tyres I have ordered will turn me from a ‘trundleur’ into a speed merchant – aye, right!

Here’s the limerick:

As a cyclist you’re playing with fire
If you ride with a bockety tyre
‘Cos if it explodes
When you’re out on the roads
The outcome, I fear, may be be die-er!

Postscript#1: From the late-lamented Pâtisserie Cyclisme website… 

“The trundleur is a cyclist who enjoys riding any kind of bicycle, at their own pace for the sheer enjoyment of it. They frequent cafés, stopping to enjoy the view, converse with friends or simply sit and reflect. The trundleur does not care for recording their rides obsessively, nor do they obsess about their speed or beating their fellow cyclists.

The trundleur finds a simple joy in the act of riding a bicycle.”

Je suis un trundleur and ‘management has decided, that being the case, then she can only be a pootleur

Postscript#2: The website www.bicyclerollingresistance.com rates, ranks and compares bike tyres. My road bike’s tyres were originally Schwalbe Lugano and the new ones on order are Continental GP5000. So why not see what that website comes up with?

No contest, apparently. The GP5000s get a 5/5 rating and come highly recommended whilst the Luganos score a measly 1/5 and are not recommended at all. In terms of rolling resistance, the GP5000s each consume 10.7 watts at my riding pressure of 100psi travelling at 18mph whereas the Luganas each come in at a whopping 22.6 watts.

The graphic, below, shows the ‘performance’ of the tyres at each of nine variables. No tyre is ‘best at everything’, so the outer limits of the nonagon are an amalgam of the best performing tyre for each measure individually. Basically, it shows that the Luganos have better puncture resistance at the tread, but much greater rolling resistance at all pressures. The Luganos are only on sale as clearance items now, but originally came in at around £39 a pair whereas you’ll only get one GP5000 for that price!

Continental GP5000 performance vs Schwalbe Lugano tyres. The closer to the outside edge of the nonagon, the better. The cycling world seems generally to consider the GP5000s to be the best ‘all round’ tyre (which implies some may not be all round – octagonal, perhaps or just plane square?)

A limerick a week #193

The Bishop’s Tale

My childhood hometown of Kendal is rarely the seat of scandal, proper scandal, that is, not just the tittle-tattle of local gossip, but in the autumn of 1996 it most certainly was.

The actual locus of scandal was in the Scottish Highlands and Islands, but its unfolding was just around the corner from my family home. I was visiting and first became aware of events when I popped out to the corner shop to be met by a bevy of broadcast media vans with their satellite dishes erect and a host of journalists and attentive locals staring across the road at an elevated terraced house.

The location of what is now known locally as the Bishop’s House on Mountain View, close to my chidhood stamping ground around Kendal Green. The corner shop is also highlighted.

It turned out that the house had become the bolthole of ex-Bishop Roderick Wright and his, ahem, ‘parishioner’ Kathleen MacPhee. For a few weeks Father Rod was, for Kendal, more than an answer to Father Ted and the Craggy Island team. The couple had fled in disgrace from the Scottish west coast, as lovers, shortly after Wright’s resignation as Bishop for the Diocese of Argyll and the Islands.

The Bishop’s House

One’s sympathy for them, that their relationship and personal conflict between matters spiritual and temporal was being illuminated by the more salacious end of the British news media, was tempered by the pronouncement that the Bishop had fathered a child to another woman some years before. Oh, that and the fact that they sold their story to the News of the World.

This is how the Irish Times described Kendal’s five-weeks-long brush with fame: The return of the fugitives, and attendant TV vans cluttered with satellite dishes, to the Cumbrian market town caused some astonishment in streets around Mountain View, where the bishop and Ms Macphee who left her three children in Scotland rented their grey stone mid-terrace cottage after flitting from Argyll. Both had left the house, with its tangles of lavender on the front path, in the company of News of the World representatives after being recognised and traced by the media a month ago. 

Down with this sort of thing!

I had to laugh at one a part of the Church’s response to the tabloid Bishop’s tale: “It does show Roderick up in a very, very bad light”.

By coincidence, it turns out that the irreverend Bishop had attended Blairs College in Aberdeenshire, which I now regularly pass on one of my local cycling routes, and he later became its spiritual director prior to his ministry in the west of Scotland. Well, that was some ministry! Here’s the limerick…

There was once a licentious Scots priest
Took part in a celtic love feast,
But when he de-frocked
He appeared half-cocked.
‘Seems the bishoprick’s reach had decreased!

A limerick a week #191

Things are warming up again

Border collies are renowned for ‘giving the eye’, a long, hard stare used to intimidate sheep when herding them. I’ve found that mine, @calliebordeaux, also uses it to express disbelief when I ask her to do something she’d rather not, or when I disappoint her in some way; the former conveys contempt, the latter is intended to guilt trip. 

@calliebordeaux giving me ‘the eye’

Anyway, immediately after the trauma of living with her ‘in season’ earlier this year, I was advised to wait for three months before having her spayed. Unfortunately, the corona virus lockdown means that vets are not offering that service just now, so it looks as if another ‘season’ looms later in the summer, the thought of which inspired this…

A young female dog thought it neat
To flaunt herself out on the street.
If you dared to ask why
She’d just give you ‘the eye’
And sneer “Can’t you tell I’m on heat?”!

A limerick a week #190

It’s a week past May Day and we’re still in lockdown. The date reminded me of the freedom to roam that we had last year as friends and I cruised the Grand Union and Stratford canals, and when on May Day itself we had been awakened at an ungodly hour by Morris Dancers celebrating dawn in the heart of Stratford-upon-Avon.

Bridge 55, a classic ‘split-bridge’ of the type that are a feature of the South Stratford canal. In the days of horse-powered canal boats, the gap in the centre of the bridge allowed the tow rope to be fed through so that boats could pass without unhitching the horse. (The pic is one of my B&W analogue prints that was exhibited in the Gray’s School of Art exhibition until Covid-19 shut it down).

That sense of freedom resonated further as I walked @calliebordeaux down the old Deeside railway line into Aberdeen’s Duthie Park earlier this week. It was eerily quiet (despite lockdown, there are usually a few people around) and, as I walked through an old railway cutting with birds chirruping away, it reminded me of cruising through similar cuttings on the South Stratford canal. That, in turn, brought back to mind a quote that I have previously posted, by Francesca Morini: “I usually start walking along the canal carrying the weight of my slightly dull existence on my shoulders and end up with a head full of dreams”.

And it’s true, canals can be dreamy places whether you’re walking down the towpath or holding the tiller whilst chugging along on a three-miles-an-hour pub crawl cruise. Once you feel confident at the tiller it’s 99.9% relaxation and only 0.1% blind panic; a reversal of the percentages of when you first started out!

Cruisin’ not boozin’ – two of the ‘three men in a boat’ captured in analogue B&W.

Here’s the limerick:

A narrowboat skipper once said:
“There’s no need for ‘full speed ahead’,
‘Cos, you see, this canal
Is a taproom locale
So we’ll leg it at a snail’s pace instead”.