A limerick a week #186

In honour of Honor…

So, Honor Blackman has died at the age of 94 and, predictably, the obituary writers have majored on her rôle as Pussy Galore in in the Bond film franchise production of Goldfinger. Equally predictably so does the limerick that follows, but before that, one or two more substantive things that the obituaries reveal.

Honor Blackman circa 1991 (©Trevor Leighton)

I like that she thought little of Margaret Thatcher: “She was a powerful figure, but she did damn all for empowering women. She didn’t surround herself with any women whatsoever or encourage women to come into politics or do anything in particular.

I like that she felt strongly about tax exiles such as her Bond compadre Sir Sean Connery: “I disapprove of him strongly now. Because I don’t think you should accept a title from a country and then pay absolutely no tax towards it. He wants it both ways. I don’t think his principles are very high.

(That is something of a volte face from her as, earlier, she had lauded him, not even calling him out over his public expression that “I don’t think there is anything particularly wrong with hitting a woman“.)

Post-war pic of Blackman (in sandals!) reliving her biker years as a wartime dispatch rider in London

I also quite respect the fact that she declined a gong as she felt it would have been hypocritical of her to accept one given her strong republican views, although, personally, I see shades of grey in the issue.

Here’s the limerick:

Double-O Seven could never ignore
A Bond girl from out the top drawer, 
But he’ll no longer linger
With the girl from Goldfinger. 
‘Cos there is no more Pussy Galore.

A limerick a week #168

A final flood of colours

We’ve recently said adieu to a quartet of well known faces in the UK: Gary Rhodes:  Jonathan Miller, Clive James and, most recently, Bob Willis. It was the latter two that most engaged me over the years.

Celebrity chefs like Rhodes are not my ‘thing’ and Miller may have been an incredible polymath, but I found him a bit too full of himself to warm to (and according to the BBC’s obituary of him, he was also “famously cantankerous and grumpy, and on occasions devastatingly rude”, so not my tas de thé).

But, to a cricket-watching teen in the 70s (whole summers of free-to-air test matches on the tele!), Willis was a fast bowler who was always worth a spell. And although England’s 1981 series win against Australia is known as Botham’s Ashes, Willis’ 8-43 in the third test after England had been forced to follow on remains firmly lodged in cricketing folklore – the stuff of legends! (If my last boss was to read that sentence I can only imagine the look of contemptuous bewilderment on her face as she tried to fathom what on earth it means!).

Bob Willis in full flight

Clive James was altogether different. His ‘bouncers’ were not hurled the length of a cricket pitch, but fashioned from words with a turn of phrase that would take out the middle stump of any conceit and pretence whilst standing in awe of his own literary heroes.

He could also bowl a verbal googly if required and although he started out as a literary critic, it was as a TV critic that he bowled to more popular acclaim. Both in writing and onscreen he never failed to  delight in wordsmithing his take on the sometimes ludicrous world of the box in the corner of the lounge.

His autobiographical ramblings were humorously illuminating and clear evidence that unlike the Jonathan Millers of this world, he never took himself too seriously. Nevertheless, he never feigned gormlessness or a lack of intellect:

“I see the pain on your face when you say the word intellectual, because it has so many syllables in it.”

I wonder what the critic in him would make of this (not much, I suspect) …

There once was a literary critic
Whose words were quite sybaritic,
But sadly for Clive
He’s no longer alive
Cos his B-cells became lymphocytic.

Postscript: As it’s getting on for Christmas (again) it’s time for me to look back (again) to the story of Lovell’s bride. It’s traditional and it’s here

There’s more than clouds and daffodils…

Longfella’s about

I’ve just been reminded of a quote from a former colleague, a statistician, who said:

Coincidences are a most paradoxical thing; they should never happen, but they always do.

What reminded me of that? Simply this – a couple of weeks after posting about Tony Walsh’s poem Up ‘ere (See Quotes that made me laugh #51) I’ve just read in my hometown’s local rag, Kendal’s Wezzy Gezzy, that he has now debuted his latest poem, a commissioned piece on the English Lake District; a part of the country that just happens to have been my childhood backyard.

His poem comprises the narrative to a short film, Reflecting On The Lakes, and his rendition seems typical of his style.

Poet Tony Walsh lives up to his moniker ‘Longfella’ as he shakes hands with a shortfella (the Chief Executive of the Lake District National Park) at the launch of ‘Reflecting on the Lakes’.

I suppose it was inevitable that Walsh would refer to the (in)famous Alfred Wainwright in his Lakeland verse, but at least he didn’t laud him in the way that seems de rigueur these days when anyone mentions the Lakes (‘AW’ as the ignorant, fawning masses call him lived just up the road from us and was a miserable and grumpy old git!).

If I had to be picky about the poem it would be that it mentions Kendal mintcake (a dentally-challenging confection) even though Kendal is not in the Lake District…

Kendal mintcake, a bête noir of dentists the country over! (In my teens I was in the same youth group as Dan Quiggin’s daughters, but even that is not enough reason to commend the stuff.)

… and fails to touch upon the area’s finest culinary confection, the remarkable Grasmere Gingerbread.

My kind of job!

Anyway, there’s now a trio of pivotal ‘northern’ performance pieces by Longfella on the web:

This is The Place

Up ‘ere

…and Reflecting On The Lakes

Give ’em a shot!

Postscript: For anyone interested in knowing why coincidences occur all the time, I’d recommend the book How Not To Be Wrong by Jordan Ellenberg. Not always the easiest of reads for the non-mathematical (despite what the review, below, states), but sufficiently textual to give anyone an insight (it also covers, among many other things, how to win the lottery and why all electoral systems seem to have a democratic deficit. See a review here for a better insight into the book).

A limerick a week #70

For every action …

… there is an equal and opposite reaction; aka Newton’s Third Law of Motion.

It comes as no surprise then, that in response to Donald Trump’s support of the so-called birthing movement that questioned Barack Obama’s true country of origin, a social media reaction has taken place due to the dubiety of Trump’s recent medical report.

The girthing movement as it is known gets its name from doubts over Trump’s recorded weight and height, but it’s greater concern will ultimately comprise the report’s mendacious support of his fitness for office.

No-one could ever accuse Trump of modesty or humblebragging (“I think I am, actually humble. I think I’m much more humble than you would understand.”), but his latest excursion into the realms of fantasy is a hoot, (“[I’m a] a very stable genius”).

Really? When he believes that “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive”?

What an idiot!

And here’s my tuppence-worth for the week …

With veracity ever so sparse
‘The Donald’ continues his farce
And fantasy meets
Vainglorious tweets
That prove he’s a true genie-a**e

Quotes that made me laugh #31

I’m a couple of years off it in body, and hopefully many years off it in mind, but my sister’s recent 60th birthday got me looking into other folks’ reactions on hitting that age.

One article that I found in the Graun was written a few years ago by Ian Martin, one of the writers of The Thick Of It. His 60 thoughts about turning 60 provided three that I feel should be shared here, including one that made me laugh out loud …

The first, on the government of Cameron, Osborne et al:

“But I cannot remember ever before feeling the visceral contempt I have for this gang of posh sociopaths. As a rough guide, I would say any government that sets the welfare of the comfortably off above the welfare of the old, the young, the sick, the poor, the oppressed, the disabled … well, call me old-fashioned but any government like that wants hosing down the drain.”

… the second, on abhorring violence as “it never solves problems”:

“Why, then, do I keep thinking that if I had two weeks left to live and just one decent throw of the arm left in me, oh man, I would really want to punch Iain Duncan Smith in the face.”

… and, finally (the one that made me laugh) on thinking twice before speaking ill of people:

“Before you say anything nasty about someone, just pause for a second and browse through some really good adjectives in your head.”

Perspectives on cycling #1

In 2012 Beatrix Campbell was in the World Pride Power List of the 100 most influential gay people of the year and is a self-styled “republican with politics rooted in Marxism and feminism”. Although she is not a person without flaws, I was impressed that she had this to say about cycling:

In the context of the great debates about identity politics – are you gay or straight, nationalist or republican, British or English and so on – I would ask, “Do you ride a bike?

Of course I do!

View looking upstream from Park Bridge on the River Dee on a cold Valentine’s Day ride

What Michael said #4

1. a view or judgement formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge.
that, in my opinion, is right
2. a statement of advice by an expert on a professional matter.
if in doubt, get a second opinion


One of the problems with opinions is that everybody has one. And now as a school of ‘opinion’ develops across the pond that conflates lies with facts, I am reminded again of the wisdom of Michael Graham, who wrote in 1943 that:


To build up an informed opinion is a matter of some difficulty: not in the opinion part of it, because the public frequently shows itself very opinionated on the slenderest of information. The difficulty rather lies in making sure the opinion is well-informed.

Postscript: I could have sworn that it was the late-lamented football manager Brian Clough who said to his namesake commentator, Brian Moore: “Let’s face it Brian, we’re all entitled to our opinions, but it’s my opinion that counts”, however, I can’t find any reference to it! On reflection it seems that one of the most memorable quotes from my teens was simply a conceit of the TV impressionist Mike Yarwood.

A limerick a week #17

Not long ago in a galaxy very close to home …

I was sorry to hear of Carrie Fisher’s death. I hope they write her out of the Star Wars franchise and don’t resort to a CGI impersonation otherwise it tells the world that she was ephemeral to the rôle she took; just a collection of molecules that could be replaced by some bits and bytes fed into a GPU. She was a lot more than that.

She was sassy: “Instant gratification takes too long“.

She was brassy: “We treat beauty like an accomplishment, and that is insane. Everyone in L.A. says, ‘Oh, you look good,’ and you listen for them to say you’ve lost weight. It’s never ‘How are you?’ or ‘You seem happy!'”.

And she was classy: “I don’t want my life to imitate art, I want my life to be art“.

She was also wise (in between the excesses of her life): “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die“.

There’ll be some that may shed a tear
When the news reaches them and they hear
That Carrie had died
And the world is denied
The ‘spark’ that empowered Princess Leia.

Fisher gently explains to George Lucas know that if she's made to wear 'that' bikini again, she'll also be wearing his testicles as earrings.
Fisher gently explains to George Lucas that if she’s made to wear ‘that’ bikini again, she’ll also be wearing his testicles as earrings.

Quotes that made me laugh #22

This quote is one that I heard a long time ago when I first saw the movie The Third Man. It’s probably the best known quote from the film and as our recent trip to Vienna brought a lot of the Third Man sequences to mind it seems timely to post it here.

Unfortunately our arrival in Vienna was one day too late to take advantage of the Third Man ‘sewer tour’, a promenade through the tunnels that allowed the films eponymous character to move surreptitiously between the ‘controlled zones’ of post-war Vienna. It had closed for the season so we’ll just have to go back again when it’s open!

This is a still from the closing scene of the film as Anna walks away from Harry Lime’s funeral and towards Holly “I haven’t got a sensible name” Martins:

No happy ending ...
A long, slow walk to the accompaniment of the haunting refrains of Anton Karas’ zither as Anna decides that a happy ending is far too bourgeois for one of the 20th century’s most pivotal films noir …

… and this is a not too dissimilar pic taken on our recent trip to Vienna:

The Hauptallee of the Wiener Prater in autumn – another of Vienna’s fabulously long, tree-lined avenues. Unlike Anna we decided to be extremely bourgeois and left for an altogether happier ending at a favoured cafe in the Naschmarkt.

Finally, the quote. When Holly and Harry eventually meet on the Wiener Riesenrad (the Prater’s giant ferris wheel) Harry seeks to justify his black market sales of watered-down and ineffective penicillin that had led to the deaths of sick children:

…in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love – they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.

What Michael said #2

(Or more precisely: “What Sid said Michael said”).

One of the knee-jerk reactions of neo-liberals to anyone that expresses left-of-centre views is to consider them as ‘commies’ and to point out that communism didn’t work.

Of course most sensible people realise that ‘left-of-centre’ encompasses a spectrum of views that is just as wide as the spectrum of right-of-centre views. Not every conservative is a fascist and facism didn’t really work either, did it?

Which is why, once again, I reach for a quote from my favourite fishery scientist of the past, Michael Graham, a former Director of the Lowestoft fisheries research lab, this time on the distortion of political ideals by extremists.

As recalled by Sidney Holt, Graham wanted all his scientists, of whatever grade, to be called naturalists, to spend the same amount of time at sea on research vessels as each other working for the common good and not as an individuals on their own research projects, and … for everyone to be paid the same! (The pay thing wasn’t allowed – this is the hierarchical UK Civil Service of the 1940s and 50s we’re talking about).

Anyway, as also reported by Holt:

Graham came from a farming background, Quaker family in Northwest England, and had socialist tendencies – Fabian style. “Then“, he said to me, after we had been talking about Engels’ The Dialectics of Nature, “Lenin came and f***** it all up”. Until then I didn’t know that respectable middle-class intellectuals used that sort of language, and presumed he must have picked it up from the fishermen, who hardly used any other sort of language“.

(I must have picked up my occasional use of intemperate language from the same source!)

Postscript: Graham, true to his beliefs, spent his sadly short retirement helping restore deprived areas in Salford into urban green spaces. Sidney Holt tells of this and much more in an online essay entitled “Three lumps of coal“; a good read for anyone interested in the political influence of American scientists on the misdirection of generations of fishery scientists into the fruitless pursuit of fisheries’ holy grail, the so-called maximum sustainable yield.