Old Long Since

We may all sing a bit of it tonight but we don't always remember quite what it means. 'Lang Syne' translates roughly as 'Long Since' or, even more roughly as 'Times Gone By'. So when you sing 'Auld Lang Syne', think 'Old Long Since' and you'll at least be on the right track.

Back on this day in 1999, with the 20th Century burning rapidly down to the quick, I had a go at 'translating' the original Burns language into something closer to my own.

So, with sincere apologies to my Scottish friends, here it is.

I'm not trying to be disrespectful to the wonderful original or even trying to be smart.

I'm just trying to commemorate the gentle wearing down of yet another old year and the rolling out of yet another new one.

Auld Lang Syne

Should old acquaintances be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
And days of auld lang syne?

We two have run about the hills
And pulled the daisies fine
But we've wandered many a weary mile
Since auld lang syne.

We two have paddled in the streams
From morning sun till dine
But seas between us broad have roared
Since auld lang syne.

So there's a hand, my trusty friend
And give me a hand of thine
And we'll take just one more drink of cheer
For auld lang syne.

And surely you will stand your round
And maybe I'll stand mine
And we'll share that cup of kindness yet
For the sake of auld lang syne.

Robert Burns (25 January 1759 – 21 July 1796)

A Happy New Year to us all.

k x

Is it Still a Snog Fest?

When I was a teenager - before the Dublin Post Office has bullet holes in it - New Year's Eve was a very big deal.

It wasn't about looking forward or even about looking back, not about old friends, old memories or even 'Old Lang Syne'.

It was about snogging. Pure and simple.

Maybe it was just me but, back in those 'wilderness years' of 15, 16 and 17, kisses often seemed to be in bloody short supply.

New Year's Eve offered itself as a teeming oasis in the midst of this Kalahari of consensual lip-contact. Dec 31st was a free-for-all. Everybody could kiss everybody, no-holds barred.

And, boy, they did.

We all used to rush to a place called 'The Baymount' in Strandhill. This club/dance hall/den of innocent iniquity comprised two extremely large halls which were interlinked by one tiny set of double doors. The object of the night was to pass through these double doors from one hall to the next as many times as possible.

This was made interesting because both of these two halls were absolutely jammed to the rafters with revelers. Getting through that link-door on those nights was as close as you could come to another human being without risking an unwanted pregnancy.

And the kissing... (almost) everyone you met that night wanted to kiss and be kissed. It was as close to a Bacchanalian Wine Fest as I am ever likely to see.

Maybe it still is? Maybe all that ruthless snogging is still going on out there?

I sincerely hope so.

I'm completely happy to stay at home this New Year's Eve and attempt just one kiss, round about midnight.

But, if it's still the case and you're still the right age, stock up on that old Cherry Chap-Stick, go somewhere crowded and just... pucker up.

You may as well. It could turn out to be another Kalahari year.

Long Distance

He called again last night, just like he always does.

It was after three in the morning when the phone finally rang out. I was not asleep. I lifted the handset and listened. As always, it was a poor connection. My father's voice sounded hollow and tired and very far away.

He said, "Do you know what day it is?"

"I haven't forgotten," I said, "I've bought flowers for the grave."

There was silence then, at the mention of graves, as well there should be.

The phone had woken Teddy. She raised a tired eyebrow at me and I nodded and waved her towards the tape machine in the corner. She padded over and set it running.

"How is the weather?" My father asked and I told him, just as I always do. I rarely bother to ask him questions anymore. For many years I was encouraged to do so but it was always a tiresome business. Dad was never a great one for dialogue but now he has simply given up responding to my queries altogether. Now, when he calls, all he ever does is persist with his own inane, pointless line of questioning.

Always the same questions, always the same day every year.

The anniversary of his death.

"Did you get the shoes?"

As a rule, I answer all of his questions positively, even though I usually have no idea what he is talking about. I say "Yes" to humour him, hoping to fall on the answer that has most chance of bringing him peace. It never matters anyway. He inevitably ignores me

"No, Father, I did not."

This year I am trying "No". It is harder to ignore "No".

Dad doesn't find it at all hard. He gives no reaction, not even an "Oh", just onwards to his next familiar topic.

"Is it safe?"

I can never answer this. For anyone who has seen that film there can be no serious answer. I wonder about this particular question. Perhaps it is some kind of joke from beyond the grave? But my dad was not a humorous man and he died, you see, several years before they made 'Marathon Man.' Who knows, perhaps it has played wherever he is now. Perhaps he liked it.

"Is there water in it?"

I sit on the edge of my bed, in my favourite "Neil Young" tee-shirt, wiggle my toes in the deep pile carpet, and wish that this was all over for another year. The calls neither disturb nor sadden me anymore because I have long since stopped thinking of them as real conversations. To me, they have become like a recording. An old L.P. that you dust off once a year and play distractedly for "old times' sake".

Whatever else he is, though, my father is certainly not a recording. Though repetitive, he will often vary the questions he asks and occasionally will throw in something that I will never have heard before. The quality of his voice will also vary from Anniversary to Anniversary and, of course, there are the background voices. They are always different. Except for the woman who cries for Vigler. She is the only constant.

"Is it raining?"

"No, Dad, it's fine tonight."

"When will it be dark?"



"Now, Dad it's bloody dark now. It's the middle of the bloody night!"

Teddy frowns at me from across the room. My wife is the type of person who would sit and read to a coma victim for ever. She doesn't really believe that my father can hear me but still she worries that he might.

"Vigler, Vigler...where are you?"

Poor lady. Faint, insistent and always punctual, she is one of the many voices which continuously echo behind my father's. A member of that subdued cacophony of ethereal tones, each of whom has their own unfathomable agenda to follow.

"Oh Vigler, please answer."

For eight years now I have recorded these calls and kept the tapes. I have discovered that these background voices perform most eerily in playback. They vary considerably in quality and content each time I listen to them. I could, for instance, pull out the '85 recording now and hear on it voices that were not there before. Only poor Vigler is constant.

Most of what they say is unintelligible although, here and there, clear phrases will emerge, things like "I have run out of patience" or "I see Murray's off the smokes again". One shifty voice in '91 said "Bohemian Lad" quite clearly several times. I thought it might have been a tip on a horse but, if it was, I never found it. I have never traced Vigler either although I have searched.

"Is the heat up?"

"Yes Dad. So how are you, Dad, eh? How are you?". My last ditch attempt at real communication.

"Where's the dog got to?"

I don't know why I even bother.

One year we got a psychic investigator in. He arrived from Kingsbury with an anorak and some luncheon-meat sandwiches. At bedtime, he positioned himself at the foot of our bed in a tangle of Radio Shack gizmos, entreated us to pretend he wasn't there, and goggled so hard at Teddy's breasts that she had to get up and put a sweater on.

Dad was late that night but he did finally get through. Duncan, the investigator, nearly wet himself. He had listened to all of the earlier tapes in preparation but the real thing was almost too much for him. He collected himself somewhat as the call progressed and proceeded to suggest a series of ridiculous questions written with the aid of a piece of white Formica and a smelly felt tip pen. I dutifully passed them all down the line and Dad dutifully ignored them, choosing instead to touch on such favorite subjects as the price of oatmeal and the whereabouts of his other blue sock.

Afterwards, Duncan proclaimed the event to be "a class one psychic encounter" and cited us a few chilling examples of similar documented experiences. One of his stories stays with me.

He told of a teenage girl in America - New Hampshire I think it was - who used to hitch her way home from University every Christmas. Almost invariably, she would phone up on Christmas Eve and explain how she had been left without a ride a few miles from home and could someone please drive out and get her? This particular year, however, it was terribly late when she got through. "Please Mum", she moaned down the line, "can somebody please come and get me? I'm cold and it's dark here and I'm very, very scared..." She was, of course, dead. She had been killed in a road accident over twelve hours before the call was made. Or so the story goes.

Duncan left us next morning promising faithfully to get us "written up" and, unfortunately, he was as good as his word. We made it into most of the tabloids, the local rag did a centre page spread and we only missed a "That's Life" spot because somebody came along who could play a passable version of "Amazing Grace" on his knee.

The year after that, we received a lot of attention. All through the night of the Anniversary, a bunch of second rate hacks fluttered around our porch light and swapped tall stories. We even admitted a few to the inner sanctum, on Duncan's recommendation. Father never called that year. He always was an awkward bastard. Duncan and the associated press went off in the morning and never came back, thank God.

I wonder why he phones on his anniversary. I wonder why he phones at all. I can picture his funeral, the Astroturf, the flash of unnatural yellow from the poorly concealed mechanical digger, the incongruous sunshine. There was no hint, that day, that he would ever speak again. I remember being at his deathbed. He almost spoke to me that day, almost gave in and said something bloody worthwhile. Maybe it is the memory of that which summons him back each year, maybe not.

"What time is it?"

I pay attention.This is a brand new question.

"3.24 A.M."

It is best to be accurate when speaking to the faithful departed.

"Is it?"



My toes stop their dance in the carpet. This is different. This is more like a real conversation than I ever remember it being before. In the corner, Teddy looks out from between her headphones with eyes like saucers, she has heard it too.

I know all the theory. I've read all the books on the subject. In case you don't know, they say that the entire "Phone-call from the dead" phenomenon is spawned by an advanced form of self-hypnosis. The person left behind feels such a desire to keep in touch with the deceased that they can generate an actual manifestation of the person's voice. They can even cause a phone to ring. Although I see it to be unlikely and flawed, I have always subscribed to this theory, it being the only semi-rational one open to me. It is definitely Dad who is on the phone, He is definitely dead, what else can I believe? Hence I have always blamed my over-emotional subconscious for this annual ritual, always reprimanded myself for putting so much subliminal energy into something so intrinsically foolish.

Until tonight, that is, until Dad started to talk back.


He had never used my name before.

"Yes Dad?"

("Vigler, Oh please Vigler, answer me now")


"Is it dark there?"

"Yes, Dad, it's dark now."


"Dad... can you hear me?"

A pause, such a long pause.

"Yes Sam, I hear you now."

And I cry, as I haven't cried for many years. My hair is being stroked. I look up, Teddy is beside me, smiling.

"Speak to him," she says, "Talk."

When I can finally open my mouth he beats me to it.

"Are you all right?" He asks.

"Yes, I'm fine. Are you?"

"Where are the shoes?"

"Damn it Dad, don't start with the fucking shoes again, talk to me!"

"You shouldn't swear, Sam, it never suited you."


"It's all right."

His voice has started to fade now. To break up, like it always does when the call is coming to its end. Soon he will become a part of, and finally lost in, the background babble.


"Yes Dad?"

"This will be... last call...won't... ... call...again."

God, he was going fast.

"I don't understand. What are you saying?"

"Last call...you'll have a...new life...good luck old..."

And that was it. I could feel him go. I shouted after him that I loved him, shamelessly for the first time, and I swear that his voice returned for a moment to say it back to me. The recording doesn't have it but I heard him, I know I did.

Then he was gone. I laid the phone gently on the bed. The other voices would continue to ebb and flow until just before dawn and I could never hang up on them. I fell back on the bed and there was Teddy above me. Huge soaking tears were flooding in her eyes. She laughed and cried at the same time.

"Oh Sam", she said, "Oh bloody hell Sam."

"It was really him, wasn't it?"

"It was him all right. 'Your new life.,' he said. Sam, oh Sam, I was going to tell you in the morning, but he knew, the bugger bloody knew!"

And then I knew too.

So I held them both for a long time.

(c) Ken Armstrong

(Would you like to read another story?)

My Favorite Christmas Song and Other Ramblings

Everybody in Ireland will know my favorite Christmas song and will probably be fed-up of hearing it by now.

But it just struck me that the rest of the world may not know it as well as we do. Are there places in the world where 'Fairytale of New York' is not well-known?

Let me know, eh?

This little post is just my way of wishing all you lovely visitors a Happy and a Peaceful Christmas.

Thanks for a fun fun year, let's hope for more of the same next year.

I'll be 'around' for Christmas so say hello if you're dropping by. I have lots of old whiskey and some porter cake in the press.

All right... I don't. It just sounded good.

Drop by anyway.

There used to be a tradition in Ireland where the Christmas Eve newspapers would publish some fiction. Just a little seasonal reading. I used to like that - I remember John McGahern one year...

Anyway, to try to keep up the tradition, I will post a short story tomorrow night and leave it up for a few days. Although it's not set at Christmas, it does concern ghosts and families, so it might suit the mood a little.

I'll leave you with a joke I heard on the radio yesterday - thanks to Joe Duffy and the guys for this.

God granted a man one wish. He had a choice between all the wisdom in the world or all the money in the world.

He thought about it and he finally chose wisdom.

"There you go - wisdom", God said, "now, say something wise."

The man thought for a moment, then he said.

"I should've taken the money."

My Favorite Christmas Joke (Rude)

Here's a little joke I've told over quite a few Christmas's. It's rude so be warned.

There aren't many new jokes in the world and this certainly isn't one of them but it can get a good laugh if the punchline is delivered correctly.

* * * *
So the dust bin (garbage) man was going around all the houses collecting his Christmas pressies.

He called to this attractive housewive's house and there she was, all done up in frilly under-garments and seductive spices.

She invited the bemused bin man into her living room and, without further ado, made mad passionate lurve to him right there on the living room floor.

When they were finished, and he was getting ready to go, she handed him a five euro note.

The bin man became quite emotional.

"I have to tell you", he said, "this is the best Christmas present I've ever been given."

"You can thank my husband for that," said the lady. "When he was going to work this morning, I asked him should I give the bin man a tenner for Christmas and he said...

... No, f**k him, give him five."

* * * *

Writing that reminds me of another favorite joke-for-telling which isn't Christmas-related but which does involve the garbage bin again. Both these jokes are infinitely better in the verbal tradition rather than written down so, if you've not falling about laughing, try telling them to yourself as you might tell it to somebody else and you may see the potential for smiles.

Oh - language differences - you need to know what a Wheelie Bin is. It's a fairly descriptive term anyway. Wikipedia says that Americans call it a "mobile garbage bin" or 'MGB' (that's so gonna spoil my joke) and you dear dear Canadian-folk tend to call it a 'Green Bin'.

It's a bin-with-wheels, jees!

Without further ado, here's number two, the 'Wheelie Bin Joke. I'm always grateful to my dear Sister-in-Law, Carrie, for telling me this one:

* * * *

So the waste-collection-company hired a man who had recently arrived from China. His job was to ensure that everybody put their Wheelie Bins outside their house at the correct time each week.

He took his job very seriously and was known to be quite belligerent with people who failed to get their bins out on time. The fact that he was still learning the language didn't always help

One collection-day, he came to a house with no bin outside. He knocked loudly on the door and a man came out. The man was wearing only shorts and was very very sunburned.

"Where you bin?" The wheelie-bin guy shouted.


"Where you bin?"

The man smiled proudly, "I have been to Hawaii for three weeks."

"No no no no no... where you Wheelie Bin?"

The man deflated.

"All right," he said, "I fell asleep on the damn sun bed..."

* * * *

Anyone got a seasonal joke for me.?

Let's aim to maintain a loose PG13 rating, eh?

Goose-ey Goose-ey

Before we bought our own place in Twickenham, we lived for a few years in a little first floor one bedroom apartment in Acton.

We flew home from there to get married and came back to live there again afterward. It was cosy and it was fun.

Even when Trish’s sister Una came to stay for a few months, it was still fun. Una was always a blast and London was at its very best for us around that time.

But it was kind of tight for space, what with Una sleeping in the living room and all. Finding those intimate little moments, the ones that newlyweds crave, was sometimes a bit hard to manage.

So I was delighted when I slipped into the bathroom one Saturday morning and found my wife leaned over the wash basin vigorously brushing her teeth. She was dressed casually in a nice pale blue Ton-Sur-Ton top which I liked (I know I shouldn’t know that, sorry) and black leggings

Being young and foolish I couldn’t resist sidling up behind her, lifting her Ton-Sur-Tom hem a little and gently clasping her legging-clad ass with my hands. One hand for each buttock – rather a neat equation.

Then I did something I had never, ever, done before and it has lived with me ever since. Well, it wasn’t actually something I did, it was more something I said. Perhaps it was that clasped rear-end, so familiar and yet so new, that made me do it.

I whispered in my wife’s ear.

I whispered the immortal words, ‘Goose-ey, Goose-ey’.

(Wait a minute… “So new?” What the hell_?)

Her head raised from the wash basin and our eyes locked together through the steamy wall mirror.

This wasn’t my wife, this was her sister. She must have borrowed Trish’s Ton-Sur-Ton top and now here was I, hands neatly planted on buttocks, whispering sweet but absolute nonsense into her ear.

I fled.

I don’t think I said a word, I just fled. I had only one thought, to find Trish and explain it all to her before Una burst out of the bathroom screaming virtual-incest and incoherent verbal harassment. Trish was watching telly in the living room.

“I_ I_ went in the bathroom and I thought it was you and I_”

Una came in. She looked at Trish.

“He said ‘Goose-ey Goose-ey,” she said and then she collapsed on the couch in a paroxysm of silent hilarity.

I’m telling you this because it’s nearly Christmas time and, wherever my in-laws gather, this story will be told and retold.

If ever I’m being over-serious or pretentious, someone only has to mutter two words and all my attempts at gravitas fly out the window.

“Goose-ey goose-ey.”

Dark Knight – Who Was Heath Watching?

As you may know, I don’t often see movies in the cinema any more. So when there’s one I’m really keen to see, I make sure that I get the DVD as early as possible, turn up the sound, turn down the lights and watch it right.

So it was with ‘The Dark Knight’ last weekend.

A newer foible is that I avoid as many reviews and as much discussion about a film as possible, until I can see it for myself. After quite an effort, I therefore came to this one fairly ‘clean’. Not entirely, of course, the world and his grand-aunt knows that the late Heath Ledger turned in a performance as ‘The Joker’ which rocked the screen and promised great things to come. Alas not to be.

Much more about Heath in a minute but first the movie.

Singer paved the way with ‘X-Men’ and one can hold out some hopes for next year’s ‘Watchmen’ but, really, ‘The Dark Knight’ is the first comic book adaptation directly aimed at adults. It’s a great film but I think you're going to have to like comic book adaptations to get it. Correct me if I’m wrong.

Director, Chris Nolan rarely puts a foot wrong with his movies anyway. There’s ‘Memento’ (brilliant), ‘Insomnia’ (Pacino’s last 'genuine' performance?) and, hell, I even rate, ‘Prestige’ as a clever, highly-entertaining film. His first hit at Batman (... Begins) suffered, for me by too much back story and one unforgivably misguided line from Gary Oldman (“I gotta get me one of those...”) which nearly spoiled the whole show for me.

But this time he gets it all just right. Most impressive for me was the editing. Nolan cuts from many of his scenes even before they seem to be finished and hits off into the subsequent scene just a few seconds after it seems to have begun. The effect is one of breathless story telling with not enough time in hand. It is both striking and highly effective.

So I really enjoyed it.

But here’s a funny thing that happened while I was watching it. Heath Ledger appeared on screen and I was very interested in what my reaction to his performance would be. My immediate thought was, ‘My God, he’s ‘doing’ someone.’ When I say ‘doing’ I don’t mean it in a bad, rip-off. way or anything. I think Heath yet again proved himself as a great performer here and it is lamentable that he didn’t get to stay around and show us many many other great things. But it immediately struck me that an element of his performance was clearly referencing someone or something that I had seen elsewhere. It was very distracting and it took me over half an hour to figure it out.

I have a theory about two people he might have studied. The second one even revealed something very interesting to me about the film.

Here’s the first:

That’s right. Jack Lemmon. Half an hour in, it hit me like a ton of bricks that Heath was throwing quite a bit of 'Jack Lemmon' in there. Need some more proof? Just watch the scene where the buildings blow up behind the Joker, watch how he moves, then watch ‘Some Like It Hot’. Eh?

Then, I saw someone else in the performance.

The second actor I saw was none other than… Andrew Robinson.

Now before any of you run away saying ‘who the hell is Andrew Robinson?’ I think you know him all right. Watch this (be warned, may be disturbing):

The 'Scorpio Killer' from 'Dirty Harry'. Tell me that Heath’s Joker does not contain elements of Andrew’s spectacular performance. Go on, tell me.

The Joker character is so very remarkable because of the remarkable way the late great Heath Ledger plays him. But the writing also helps too. Dispensing with the traditional ‘History Of’ back story, The Joker comes from nowhere, wants nothing and tragically, due to the actor’s untimely death, may now disappear back into nothingness. A comic legend is completely redefined.

And, finally, when I realised the ‘Dirty Harry’ connection, I came to see something else . that was; how very similar to ‘Dirty Harry’ the whole ‘Dark Knight’ movie is. A twisted serial killer, a city held to ransom, a renegade law bringer deeply tied to the killer, it’s all in there. Batman is Dirty Harry. Is that an accident, do you think? Just something I’m over-thinking? Look at all those yellow school buses in ‘The Dark Knight’, so iconically used in ‘Dirty Harry’ – no accidents in the mind of Chris Nolan methinks.

What do you think of my Joker theories. Did you see anyone else in Heath’s performance? I’m off now to read some reviews and see if any one else saw what I think I saw.

‘I bet the whole bloody world did…

Limerick Competition Winner!

Thank you all so much for joining in the Limerick-Fun-And-Games in the last post. I really had a ball and I hope you did too. Let's try something similar in the new year, eh?

I promised I would pick a winner from the comments section and here he is - my friend and yours - Linc, otherwise known and loved as Canucklehead.

Linc gets himself a space on my sidebar for a few months and 500 EC into the bargain... the lucky lucky bastard!! I gave it to Linc because he met my criteria so wonderfully. He wrote about the commenter above him, his meter was exemplary, he rhymed well, and he was borderline-very-rude.

Here's what he wrote: about Margaret from Eyespi

A lady who went by eyespi,
Was well known as 'a heck of a guy',
Which was gender confusing,
Yet rather amusing,
As long as you don't check her fly!

Honorary mention (or is it 'honorable', I never know) to this miscreant, who gets 200 EC and a kick in the ass.

Celtophilia (on Canucklehead)

It's true, Linc's my favorite Canuck,
but beware if he drives up in his truck.
He's Canadian so keep
an eye on your sheep
unless they could use a good f**k

There's loads of other super Limericks in the comments section of the previous post. Keep them coming, if you like..

... and thanks for playing!


Jena Isle - a woman of her word - has contributed an additional 500 EC to the prize fund. Therefore Canuck gets another 200 EC, Celtophilia, gets another 100 EC and we get another runner-up who bags a cool-and-highly-desirable 200 EC for himself

He is Dave King of Pics and Poems, - a highly-literary-yet-highly-enjoyable blog which you really should visit. Here's Dave's contribution (about Rachel Fox).

There was a young lady named Fox
whose work was exact, not approx,
every word apropos,
every metre would flow,
and all rendered best by her vox.

Rhyming 'apropos' with 'flow' certainly put you in the running for first place, Dave, you just weren't quite rude enough!

Start Your Week with a Lim-er-eeek

I had planned to be posting something else today but the feedback to the last Limerick post was very cool so I thought I’d drag it out just a little bit more.

Some of my commenters were suggesting that I might post a regular Limerick feature. It’s a good idea – I’ll certainly think about it – but it’s probably not for me. I like to be a little ‘looser’ than that.

Give me land, lots of land and the starry skies above, don’t fence me in’ and all that kind of jazz.

But, seeing as how we had such ‘joy and fun’ last time and nobody apparently died, I thought I might suggest a small Limerick competition for you clever types who leave me comments.

In the last day or two, I’ve whipped up three Limericks about three of the very nicest people I chat to at such excellent forums as: ‘Top Ten Blog Tips - CMF Forums’ and ‘The Batcave’ or on Twitter. They also happen to have wonderful blogs so do hit the links.

The blogger we call Fragile Reggie
Eats only some lime juice and veggie
Guarding her body mass
So the shape of her ass
Doesn't give her poor undies a wedgie*

*My reference for the undies remark

Wisdom Hypnosis
I consulted with Wisdom Hypnosis
And I cured all my tics and psychosis
I got wisdom and care
And my hypnotised stare
Caught a glimpse of her sheer panty hoses

Ohio Realtor
House hunting? Go talk to Cecilia
Her houses are really a steal. Yeah
So when you’re ready to buy-oh
In Cleveland Ohio
She’ll do you a really good deal. Yeah

(There! How to insult your pals in one fell swoop...)

Now, here’s what I thought.

In the comments section, I'd love you to take the name of the commenter above you and compose a limerick about them. I’ll disable comment-moderation for this one post so please behave (a little).

After a couple of days, I will give 500EC’s (or a link in the sidebar if you don’t use EC’s) to my personal favourite limerick. Then I will try and write my own one about the winner.

The first comment (if there is one) should be a limerick about me. 'Felix' is my middle name if you want a slightly tougher challenge.

Oh and ‘God among men’, rhymes quite well with Ken...


There Once Was a Fellow Called Ken…

Anyone who’s come across me around the forums may have noticed that I quite like Limericks.

I like trying to write them, particularly if the name in question is a little unusual. I don’t think I’m particularly good at it but I like trying to came up with a rhyme which says something about the subject-matter as well as meeting the simple rhyme and scan criteria.

My relationship with the Limerick goes back quite a ways but it was definitely cemented when I came second in my school class in first year of secondary school.

I would have been twelve years old then. For coming second (I always came second, where are you now Martin Kennedy? Eh? Do you have a blog all of your own… he’ll probably answer too) anyway, for coming second, I got a book. It was called ‘A Little Treasury of Limericks, Fair and Foul’.

It was a great book, right up my street. The teachers knew I liked a bit of a laugh and a joke so somebody thought this would fit me. They were right, bless them. But, man, they so mustn’t have looked inside – it was full to the brim of filthy limericks. I couldn’t show my prize at home ‘cos they would have looked inside and all hell would doubtless have broken out. So I kept it as my little secret, well, one of them – you don’t need to hear about the others thank-you-very-much.

The opening Limerick in that book summed up the art-form pretty well I thought. This from memory:

The Limerick packs laughs astronomical
Into space that is quite economical
But the good ones I’ve seen
So seldom are clean
And the clean ones are seldom so comical

How true, how true.

There are clean ones, of course, but it seems to be the added sauce that decides whether a particular limerick is palatable or not.

I’d like to share with you my favourite limerick, which comes in the form of a story. It’s a story I tell quite a lot and I pass it on to you in the hope that you might tell it somewhere too. If you tell it right, it’s a winner but, please note, it works better in the telling than it does in the reading so you may not get a full appreciation for the jollyness-potential from what follows. I should also say that I am writing the following story from memory from that book. I don’t know the copyright issues with my doing that but if anyone has a problem, do let me know.


So, the father-of the bride had to make a speech at the wedding and he was very nervous about it. He wrote all his prompts on little cards and then, at practically the last moment, he discovered a limerick which he thought would finish off his speech brilliantly. The limerick went like this:

There was a young man called Skinner
Who took a young girl out to dinner
At half past nine
They sat down to dine
And by a quarter to ten it was in her…
… the dinner, not Skinner.

Yes, it had a sixth line, breaking all the rules of limerick writing but it was funny, if a little rude, so he decided to include it in his speech.

The speech went ‘poorly’. He’d had too much dinner-wine and he’s got his little cards all jumbled up and, right at the end, he could not find the card with the limerick on it, So he decided to rescue the evening by doing the verse from memory. Here’s what he said:

There was a young man called Tupper
Who took a young girl out to supper
And half past nine
They sat down to dine
And by a quarter to ten it was up her
…not Tupper… some bugger called Skinner.

Stardust – A Movie Review

I came to this movie on DVD with a number of prejudices.

In fact I might not have come to it at all if Matt of MTMD hadn’t rated it so highly. My hand had already brushed over it in the video shop (will it ever be the DVD shop?) several times, my brain saying 'nuh-aww, life’s too short'.

It’s a really good film though, I recommend it to parents with young teens who would like to sit down with a movie – perhaps over Christmas – and be engaged and entertained. I think this is just the film to do that.

But let me tell you about those prejudices before we get into all that. The screenplay for ‘Stardust’ was co-written by Jane Goldman (sorry to do this Jane but it’s my prejudice and I have to explain it). Jane is married to Jonathan Ross, talented controversial British talk-show host and, wait-for-it, foremost TV movie critic in the country.

The movie was pushed hard on Jonathan’s show and the impression I got was that the production was populated by British celebrity chums and a peppering of A-Listers who were having favours called in.

I concluded that this was a silly confection, best avoided altogether and so I duly left if alone.

Then Matt recommended it just when it was coming up to Friday night and that helped. You see, Friday nights are always a challenge for me. On those nights, my son John and I like to settle in and watch a good movie. It’s just that, him being twelve and all, the list of movies which can keep us both hooked is rapidly dwindling. We’ve done ‘Cloverfield’ and 'Be Kind Rewind'. So, a couple of Fridays ago, we had Stardust.

‘Stardust’ is adapted from material by the excellent Neil Gaiman – first a series of DC Comics then a novel. It stars Claire Danes and Michelle Pfeiffer, relative newcomer Charlie Cox and that host of familiar faces that threw me off the damn thing in the first place.

It’s a fairytale. I’ll tell you what it’s like, shall I? It’s like ‘The Princess Bride’ except played much straighter. William Goldman’s excellent film was all-knowing and full of insider-swipes at the fairy-tale genre. ‘Stardust’ on the other hand, believes much more in fairy tales than ‘Princess Bride’ ever did.

Claire Danes recreates that ‘something magical’ she had so much of in Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ – and which she hasn’t had any of since. Michelle Pfeiffer is dazzlingly beautiful when she is required to be (how does she do that?) and the smaller-parts are often most-charmingly played.

Star of the show for me among the smaller parts was Mark Williams as Billy. You may know Mark as Arthur Weasley in the Harry Potter movies. He does his acting work with such integrity. Watch him in ‘Shakespeare in Love’ as the stammering narrator of the play who comes good at the critical moment. In this movie, he plays a goat transformed into a man by witchcraft and he does it quite brilliantly.

Bum note? Okay (sorry) Robert De Niro strikes a distracting bum-note in this, his much hyped ‘Gay Pirate’ role. He prances and gurns and looks unconvincing to the core. I wish it was otherwise, it’s a fun part that somebody could have enjoyed doing.

So, come Christmas, if you can handle a little sexual frisson and a Gay Pirate or two, settle down with somebody young and try this one. It surprised me, it may do the same for you.

And did it keep John entertained? Well, he’s currently in a bit of a ‘meh’ phase where it’s often hard to tell the ‘brilliant’ from the ‘dreadful’.

But he did ask for it to be paused while he went to the bathroom.

That’s a good sign. Isn’t it?