Definitely Limericks by Rory Ewins


“Jesus Christ! Yer a flamin’ galah,
Son—a mongrel! Ya bloody well are...
I should give yer a thrashin’!”:
A fearsome earbashin’
To hear from the back of the car.

I’m happy to report that this isn’t autobiographical. The Australian term earbash is more or less evenly stressed, and being on the receiving end of one is stressful.

“Earl Grey?” asked my Mum, “Cup of tea?”
As she lifted the pot towards me.
This bergamot mixture
Was a permanent fixture
In our afternoon tea-drinking, see.

People claim being early to bed
Can prevent being too early dead,
And consider it wise
To be early to rise;
I would rather sleep in, though, instead.

The proverb “early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise”, although often attributed to Benjamin Franklin (as it was included in his Poor Richard’s Almanack of 1735), first appeared in that form in the seventeenth century and in a related form in the fifteenth, when it was already being described as old—making it one of the oldest English sayings still in everyday use.

Tombstone’s Marshal heard one outlaw chirp,
“Who would let his dang brother usurp
His own place in the history
Books? It’s a mystery!”
Virgil, now wounded, says: “Earp.”

Thanks to Hollywood, everyone remembers his younger brother Wyatt, but Civil War veteran Virgil Earp (1843–1905) was the City Marshal who led the 1881 gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona. During the famous thirty-second shootout, Virgil was shot through the calf, but survived. He was then critically wounded in an ambush two months later, but again survived. In his fifties his feet and ankles were badly crushed in a mining accident, but he eventually recovered. He died years later of pneumonia.

From an astronaut’s prospect in space,
The mountains and lakes take their place
Next to deserts and ice
In a view beyond price:
An earthscape, our world’s noble face.

An Earthship’s a home made of trash,
Like tyres and cans, saving cash
And, especially, the planet.
It’s solar-based, an’ it
Will make a good bunker, post-crash.

Let’s hope civilisation doesn’t collapse just yet. Earthships were developed by New-Mexico-based architect Michael Reynolds (b. 1945) as a form of sustainable architecture, using solar-passive design and recycled construction materials such as cans, bottles and earth-filled tyres. First developed in the 1970s, Earthships today are coupled with green forms of power-generation such as wind and solar for off-grid living.

Can I not get it through your thick skull?
You’re someone I don’t want to lull
Into thinking I like you—
Does it not ever strike you
You’re truly, earth-shatteringly dull?

Not you, of course.

Mongolia, China, Japan,
Korea (both North ’n’ South), an’
Some of Russia, Taiwan:
If I could, I’d go on,
But that’s all of East Asia, my man.

And m’lady.

“Come to Maine!” says the tourist board poster.
“Meet a local, authentic East Coaster!
See a sunrise! The ocean!
The lobsters in motion!
Every thirty-fourth guest wins a toaster.”

Not all East Coasters are from Maine, or elsewhere on the Eastern Seaboard of the US; others hail from South Africa, New Zealand, England, Canada and Australia (especially Tasmania).

He’s from Durban? From Gisborne? Skegness?
Cape Breton? Miami? Unless...
No, I reckon I’m gunna
Just guess Triabunna.
An East Coaster from Tassie. Oh yes.

“The Eastern Europeans are coming!”
Scream the tabloids. “These migrants are thumbing
Their nose at our rules,
And will fill up our schools!”
Goes the claim. Or they’ll help with the plumbing.

British critics of migration from Eastern European countries seem to argue that these EU citizens will somehow bleed dry the UK’s welfare system and take all our jobs, causing the collapse of the NHS with their unhealthy foreign lifestyles while filling up primary schools with their vigorous British-born children, who will end up marrying our children and forcing us to eat cabbage at their weddings and misspell the names of our in-laws on Christmas cards, so there.

The eastern grey kangaroo stands
Up to 1.5 metres (in hands,
It’s fifteen-ish). It jumps
Over three-metre bumps,
And likes fertile Australian lands.

The eastern grey likes grazing on open grassland, is mainly nocturnal, lives for around 15–20 years, and can travel at speeds of up to 64 km/h and leap gaps of up to 9 m and heights of 2–3 m in a single bound. The Tasmanian subspecies is called the forester kangaroo.

The quietly quaint eastern quoll,
Like its cousin quolls, quickly shuns Sol:
Dusk in Tassie, you’ll spot it;
On the mainland, though, not—it
Quit quartering there, kewpie doll.

The eastern quoll, Dasyurus viverrinus, is a cat-sized dasyurid, a carnivorous marsupial with brown fur and white spots; unlike the tiger quoll, it has no spots on its tail. Thanks in part to predation by introduced foxes it was considered extinct on the Australian mainland by the 1960s, but it survives in fox-free Tasmania. Eastern quolls were reintroduced to fenced sanctuaries in Victoria and the ACT in 2003 and 2016 respectively.

Until the 1980s, the name quoll was attached to this specific species, also until then called the eastern native cat, and distinguished from what were then called tiger cats. Now, both the eastern quoll and tiger quoll are called (different species of) quolls: the other Australian species are the western quoll or chuditch and the northern quoll. Two more species are found in New Guinea, sweet pea.

The East India Company’s Spice Trade:
A Colonial British Device?
With India started
Benignly, but parted
Thereafter from being a nice trade...

The opening words of a much longer article on the storied East India Company, 1600–1874. Its first century as an English enterprise was primarily one of trade with the Mughal Empire rather than conquest, but in the 18th century it became more and more an arm of Empire, until it was nationalised after the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and finally dissolved in 1874.

Do you know Sulawesi and such?
The Moluccas? Go south just a touch.
On this isle, Timor-Leste
Is east; to the west, a
Former ruler once ruled by the Dutch.

Portugal established a foothold on Timor in the sixteenth century and ceded the west of the island to the Dutch in the nineteenth, but didn’t do much with its remaining colony until after World War II. In the wake of its own 1974 revolution Portugal more or less gave up on East Timor, which declared independence the following year. Within days, neighbouring Indonesia (the former Dutch colony whose territory also includes Sulawesi and Maluku, or the Moluccas) invaded and occupied it, remaining until 1999 and only agreeing to an independence referendum after the end of the Suharto dictatorship. After the referendum returned a pro-independence result, opponents of East Timorese independence within the Indonesian military destroyed infrastructure and killed 1400 people, until stopped by an Australian-led UN peacekeeping force. East Timor at independence had significant oil and gas reserves, but these are now declining, and most of the country remains poor.

This mandarin’s easy to peel—
A satsuma or clementine. We’ll
Buy a bagful, that means.
But not those tangerines—
Those are difficult peelers, I feel.

In Britain, easy-to-peel soft citrus fruit are regularly marketed as easy peelers. Of the mandarin varieties labelled in this way, satsumas are the easiest to peel, followed by clementines. Tangerines, a tangy mandarin-pomelo hybrid, are also sometimes labelled this way, but can be a lot more work to peel than the term suggests.

Her eyes simply sparkle with glee
When she tells of her exploits. If she
Strikes it lucky, she shrieks
With excitement for weeks.
Her ebullience sure betters me.

I heard mah wee hedgehog opine,
“Ah cuid handle a porcupine fine,
Bit nae an echidna.”
Mah prickly pal didna
Like monotremes. “Tae sharp a spine.”

This wee beastie (who clearly lives on the Isle of Arran or some such) disnae ken that echidnas were once known as porcupines, as well as anteaters, porcupine anteaters, spiny anteaters, and—jings!—hedgehogs. Australia’s endemic fauna were often named by British settlers for animals from Europe and the Americas.

Unbelievably, Europe’s had three
Institutions all known as EC—
A Community/ies
And Commission. Oh, please—
More ECs? This ain’t easy for me.

The European Community (EC) was an informal name for the European Economic Community (EEC) prior to 1993, when it became the formal name of the EEC element of the new European Union’s “three pillars”, one of which was the European Communities (EC) pillar. The three pillars were subsumed into the EU via the Treaty of Lisbon, so the EC—and the EC—effectively ceased to exist in 2009. However, the EC (European Commission) remains part of the executive branch of the EU, along with the EC (European Council) consisting of the heads of the EU’s member states, the EU President and the European Commission President. EC Comics is no relation.

EC Comics, once safe under Dad,
Now runs titles that parents find bad.
When the censor explains
To its owner, Bill Gaines,
That its horror’s insane, he thinks: “Mad!”

EC was founded as Educational Comics in 1944 by Gaines’s father Max (1894–1947), former owner and editor of the comic-book company All-American Publications, the original home of the Flash, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman before it merged with DC. After his father’s premature death, William Gaines (1922–1992) took over the business and rebranded it Entertaining Comics, supplementing old titles such as Picture Stories from the Bible and Tiny Tot Comics with new horror, crime and science fiction titles such as Tales From the Crypt, Weird Science and Two-Fisted Tales. When their gruesome and ironic storylines drew the attention of Congress in the mid-1950s and led to a US government crackdown on the industry, Gaines focused his efforts on an EC side project, Mad, transforming it into the famous long-lived satirical magazine.

An Oz neoliberal averred,
“Other countries just follow the herd!”
The cause of his nationalism?
That economic rationalism
Was first an Australian word.

Economic rationalism was the Australian term for what we now call neoliberalism, coined in the 1970s and embraced in the 1980s and 1990s by the Hawke and Keating Labor governments when they deregulated markets, privatised government corporations, reduced trade protections and floated the Australian dollar.

When our captains of industry fall,
Debts are massive and savings are small,
When prime ministers lose
And the pound’s in the news,
The economy looms above all.

Can a skin-borne bacterium thrive
Off its host? I asked mine, “Tell me, Clive,
If you leave, will you die?”
He said, “Nah, I won’t lie:
I’m ectogenous, mate. I’ll survive.”

If you fancy a comedy binge,
Why not come to the Edinburgh Fringe?
It has thousands of shows,
And at least some of those
Have performers who won’t make you cringe.

I reckoned, as soon as I read it,
Your limerick required an edit.
The metre is wrong,
Half the lines are too long,
And the joke isn’t strong. There, I said it.

Japan’s shoguns ruled Edo for years,
But its name on their maps disappears
In 1868.
A tsunami? No, wait...
Now it’s Tokyo. Settle your fears.

The castle town of Edo became the de facto capital of Japan from 1603 as the seat of the Tokugawa shogunate, under which it became the largest city in the world, with an estimated population in 1721 of one million. The overthrow of the shogunate in 1868 by supporters of Emperor Meiji and his Imperial Court in Kyoto ended Edo’s status as de facto capital, but it soon became the formal capital of Japan (as Tōkyō, “eastern capital”) when the emperor moved his residence there.

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