Tuesday, 19 September 2017

POEM - Pirate Limericks


Arrrrrr, Jim-lad! It's International Talk like a Pirate Day (because apparently there's a day for almost everything these days).

So in honour of this salty sea-faring event, I dug out some old piratical limericks for your riotous delectation.

This is always the first thing that comes to mind when I think about Pirates

Remember, in order to read them properly, you need to have a parrot on your shoulder and a flagon of rum at your elbow. (Not that I'm endorsing being drunk in charge of a poem, mind you...)



There once was a pirate called Smee
Who was frightened of drowning at sea.
So he dumped his career
As a fierce buccaneer
And he now runs a small HMV.


The once was a Captain called Jack
Who rowed to Jamaica and back.
When asked why he did it
He slyly admitted,
“I would swim, but I don't have the knack.”


There once was a ship's cook named Silver
Who had a penchant for a pilfer.
After close scrutiny
(And a grand mutiny)
He was sacked, and re-trained as a builder.


There once was a pirate called Bonney
Who was fearsome and daring and brawny.
She slit plenty of throats
While dressed as a bloke,
Which is badass, but not very funny.


Anne Bonney - one of very few women pirates

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

POEM - Roald Dahl Day


Happy Roald Dahl Day everyone!!

This year, the Roald Dahl estate have teamed up with Lego to create Lego versions of six figures from classic Roald Dahl stories - and George from George's Marvellous Medicine is hanging out in Nottingham with us for the next two months! 

It got me thinking about which story was my favourite, and after a conversation with the very marvellous Hannah Radenkova (excellent illustrator and ME/CFS blogger) I remembered that George's Marvellous Medicine always scared me as a child. This was mainly because of the blatant dangerousness of the ingredients that went into the mixture. 

George! Stop being so irresponsible!!

What can I say - I've always been a bit of a worrier!

This week, I got to thinking whether George's potion could stand up to the rigours of modern science and medical ethics. And here's the result...

George takes his Marvellous Medicine to the Research Ethics Committee

George – it is George? –
Thanks for coming today.
Now you know that we're
not here to get in your way...

But we've read your study –
authors Kranky and Dahl –
and we have to confess
It makes no sense at all.

There must be a graph
or a figure we've missed;
do you really propose
this ingredients list?

Deodorant, floor polish,
brown paint and shampoo.
It reads like a breakdown
and not a breakthrough.

Anti-freeze and horseradish,
engine oil and gin?
Forget Boots the Chemist,
this belongs in the bin!

You want this drug licensed?
You want to trademark it?
We can't in good conscience
put this on the market!

It's gross and revolting,
it's totally vile;
has it been peer-reviewed
in a clinical trial?

One Grandma, two chickens;
that is not double-blind!
But you're telling us now that
not one of them died?

The Grandma imploded?
Well that is a shame...
but mishaps can occur
in the medicines game.

You've answered our questions,
please answer one more:
would you care to explain
what it's actually for?

A serum for growing?
That sounds a bit dodgy.
Is this really science
or pure demagogy?

We cannot endorse this.
It just will not suffice.
You can bet that it won't get
approval from NICE.

But... it's cheap and dual-purpose.
(It also kills weed.)
It might be the elixir
the NHS needs!

We haven't seen anything
this strange in ages.
It could be good fun
for the BMJ pages!

And who cares about death-rates
or efficacy?
You'll have a bright future
as George (PhD).

Plus, there's way too much paperwork
if we say no...
Ok, here's your licence,
now quick, off you go!

Not approved by NICE

This post is not sponsored by Lego or by Roald Dahl's estate (although, if either of them wanted to chuck a couple of quid my way, I wouldn't say no...)

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

POEM - Conversations with Sheela Na Gig


Sheela Na Gig is the name given to a group of stone carvings found on churches, castles and other large buildings built in Ireland, the UK and Europe during the Medieval Period. These carvings show naked women holding open their own vulvas. 

That sounds a little odd, doesn't it?

A Sheela Na Gig on Kilpeck church in Herefordshire

Architectural historians can't agree whether Sheela Na Gigs are meant to represent a warming against the evils of lust, or whether they are cerebrations of fertility. Other academics think they might serve as protection against evil (in a similar way to Nazars) or that they are re-cycled stonework depicting much earlier pagan goddess symbols.

Personally, I really like Sheela Na Gigs. This is mostly because they always seem so pleased with themselves, and also because it feels to me like they're celebrating their own womanhood in a very strange but joyfully anarchic way. There's something about them that feels cheekily transgressive to the modern eye, and I very much like that too.

Sheela na Gig at Dunaman in County Limerick

Anyway, here's my sonnet for Sheela Na Gig. I hope you like it!

Conversations with Sheela Na Gig

Corruption is the moral soul's disease
and Sheela serves to offer us the proof.
She crouches, showing all the world her foof
and makes the passers by feel ill-at-ease.
“Put on some granite knickers, if you please!
You cannot dress like that while on our roof!
It's no good looking smug and all aloof
coz even Playboy wouldn't print such sleaze!”

She counters “Do you fear a woman's power?
Does nakedness transgress the rights of man?
Or is the blossom of this fertile flower
the seed from which all present life began?
Your outrage is just twisted poetry;
The shame you feel says more of you than me.”


The Llandrindod Wells Sheela

I feel a bit smug that I managed to rhyme 'proof' with 'foof' - that's a career first for me!


And, if you enjoy a good carving of an open vulva, you can read all about the project to catalogue all the Sheela Na Gigs in the UK here

You can also get hold of the PJ Harvey track Sheela Na Gig here. (I listened to that song a lot while writing this piece!)