Definitely Limericks by Rory Ewins


“Father Pat,” said a pretty parishioner,
“Do you wash using fabric conditioner?
Why, your cassock’s divine.”
Which would all have been fine,
Were his next impulse not “proposition ’er”.

“Yer face fungus, matey, looks weird,”
Cried the yobs to the hipster. He feared
That a toadstool had sprouted
From his nose, till they shouted,
“Why the hell doncha shave off yer beard?”

I’m a fact-checker, checking the truth
Of that stuff we call “news”. I’m a sleuth
Who gives journos the terrors
By finding their errors,
Driving writers en masse to vermouth.

In this factory, women can’t shirk
From hard labour; can’t chatter or lurk
In their cells: it’s a gaol.
Vandemonian male
Convicts, scatter: it’s female work.

Female factories were workhouses for convict women in the penal settlements of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land (whose residents called themselves Vandemonians), primarily for the production of textiles. Although they were effectively gaols, and did contain cells (including for solitary confinement), factories were places where people could come and go: some free women worked in them, and many of the convict women working in them had to look for accommodation elsewhere, as space was limited. Women were often forced to procure lodgings with sexual services, even though many had no prior record of prostitution, which wasn’t a transportable offence in Britain. Convict men could also visit factories, often in search of a bride—convict marriage was encouraged in order to increase the population. It’s estimated that between one in seven and one in five Australians have a convict ancestor who worked in a female factory.

The mythical country of Faerie
Sounds charming, but principally scary:
Here magic folk dwell,
And here fairy-tales tell
Of enchantments which snare the unwary.

Tassie’s fagus—deciduous beech—
Is a difficult species to reach.
When it’s April, try tak-
ing a hike to Dove Lake
To see red leaves appearing on each.

Nothofagus gunnii, commonly known as fagus, deciduous beech or tanglefoot, is the only Australian native deciduous tree to drop its leaves before winter (the few others are tropical, shedding their leaves before the dry season). Once considered part of the Fagus genus of northern beeches, it is part of a genetically separate Gondwanan group with relatives in New Zealand and South America. It is found in Tasmania’s high country and remote southwest.

Och aye’s a phrase Scots dinnae say,
Nor fair dinkum most Aussies—no way.
They’re phrases that smack
Of invention, which lack
Much connection to either today.

Yes, it’s true—or should I say aye, it’s dinkum: these two phrases, so regularly used in stereotypical depictions of Scots and Australians, are rarely heard from the lips of either. That’s not to say that the individual elements aren’t: Scots often say aye for yes, and I’ve heard a few ochs in the wild as expressions of exasperation or bewilderment, but they don’t automatically, or often, go together—let alone get appended with the noo, meaning “right now”.

Aussies, meanwhile, still sometimes call something dinkum if it’s genuine or true, though you’ll more often nowadays hear its descendant dinky-di, but we don’t really say fair dinkum unless it’s a sly dig at stereotypes. You’re more likely to hear fair in the phrase fair go. We don’t wear hats with corks hanging off the brim, either, although maybe one or two bright sparks did once upon a time in the Outback.

This fair green—not golfing on links,
But for village fairs—isn’t, Ray thinks,
Well-preserved; his society
Acts with propriety
And tends it. (There’s still a few kinks.)

These hundreds and thousands, I think, ’ll
Make partying kiddies’ eyes wrinkle
With pleasure: white bread,
Margarine, or instead
Softened butter, and sugar. Let’s sprinkle!

In Australia, fairy bread (recipe above) and hundreds and thousands go together like strawberries and cream, but for children’s birthday parties it’s a lot cheaper to make. The tiny rainbow balls of sugar (which in the US would be called sprinkles, but only of a particular kind) aren’t used for very much else in Australia; in Britain, hundreds and thousands are used on cakes, biscuits and soft-serve ice cream. Margarine is stressed on its last syllable in Britain and AUstralia.

Melting sugar, then spinning till airy,
Gives a floss that’s as light as a fairy
And melts on the tongue.
It’s a hit with the young,
Whose devotion to sweetness is scary.

In legends of old, fairy knights
Slew the dragon in one or two smites
(Something which, I confess, is
Far-fetched), as princesses
Looked on while admiring their tights.

“You don’t know of Falco?” I frown.
“An Austrian star of renown.
Here, allow me to play us
His ‘Rock Me Amadeus’...
Sad der Kommissar isn’t in town.”

Austria’s best-known pop export of the 1980s sadly died in a car accident in 1999, while planning a comeback. His first international hit “Der Kommissar” was the first seven-inch single I ever bought.

My mother’s collapsing, and it’s
Quite a moment; she’s falling to bits.
“I can’t take it! No, no,
It’s too stressful... just go!”
So dramatic. Mum gets on my tits.

I fancy some venison tallow, dear,
As fallow-deer fat (from a fallow deer)
To fashion a candle
Is finer to handle
Than cattle’s, and sheep tallow’s shallow, dear.

To fang it means drivin’ cars fast
In Australia, at least in the past.
What the hoons do today,
I dunno—people say
Anti-hoon laws are biting at last.

Since around 1970, fang, as either noun or verb (with or without an object), has meant a high-speed drive or to drive at high speed: you can go for a fang, fang down the road, or fang your car down the road. If you do it all the time, you’re probably a bit of a hoon. Reckless drivers were such a problem in Australia by the start of the 21st century that states started bringing in anti-hoon laws to curb their excesses.

UKIP’s Nigel Farage had his way
With our future in Europe. Today,
Britain’s down and it’s out.
Like a beer, Nige? Your shout.
Yes, you kippered us all, I would say.

Nigel Farage (b. 1964), former Member of the European Parliament and leader of the UK Independence Party from 2006 to 2009 and 2010 to 2016 (and of the Brexit Party, later Reform UK, from 2019 to 2021), has arguably been the most successful British politician of the early 21st century: despite failing seven times to be elected to the UK Parliament, he achieved his main aim of securing Britain's exit from the European Union.

Members of UKIP are colloquially known as Ukippers or Kippers. Given that they want to overturn pub bans on smoking, the latter seems apt.

The Ukipper, Nigel Farage,
And his anti-EU entourage
Had one aim: independence.
Restore our resplendence!
He had us all chase a mirage.

Far Breton’s a custardy cake
Fine boulangers in Brittany make
That’s embedded with prunes;
A dessert lover swoons
At the thought of this fabulous bake.

Far Breton is a classic French dessert, partway between custard and cake, made with prunes or raisins soaked in Armagnac, brandy, rum, tea or simply water; it can also be made with apples or without fruit at all.

It is far to the Faroes, I fear;
Only Iceland and Shetland are near.
Oblivious sheep’ll
Be mostly what people
Run into when travelling here.

A new leader signs callous decrees,
While apologists seek to appease.
As conditions get tougher,
Minorities suffer,
And fascism comes by degrees.

The fascist thinks nothing of crushing
Political enemies, brushing
Aside all conventions
And laws. His intentions
Are clear: do his worst, without blushing.

Salvete, Dumnones! Our fasti
Confirms that the sale of this nasty
Comestible’s banned
Today, Rome has command-
ed. (Say, what do you call it?)” “A pasty.”

In Ancient Rome, a fasti (pronounced with the short a of crass) was a calendar showing lawful business days and festival days. The Dumnones, or Dumnonii, were a British tribe living in modern-day Devon and Cornwall. As their descendants will confirm, pasties are not at all nasty.

Would you like more dessert, or more wine?
Help yourself to a chocolate—it’s fine.
But don’t pull a fast one
By taking the last one.
I’m onto your tricks, son—that’s mine.

If you fancy yourself as a Fauve,
Dab a canvas with red, yellow, mauve,
Move to somewhere in France,
Paint a whirling-round dance,
And you’re Henri Matisse now, by Jove.

For anyone Aussie who works,
Keep an eye on the number of perks
You’re provided for “free”:
You’ll incur FBT
On those company Mazdas and Mercs.

Fringe Benefits Tax.

In Britain, the letters F.C.
Stand for “football club” (soccer): e.g.,
Aston Villa or Reading.
If you’re thinking of heading...
I bet you’re a club devotee.

Takin’ care o’ me ’orrible teef
Brings me dentist a fair bit o’ grief.
I imagine he’s greetin’
His FDI meetin’
Wiv sumfin’ approachin’ relief.

The World Dental Federation, the Fédération Dentaire Internationale.

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