Day 318: Nether Wallop

Nether Wallop is listed as number 91 in Bailey’s and Hurst’s Rude Britain. There is also a Middle Wallop and an Over Wallop. The Wallops are quiet and picturesque Hampshire villages, featuring quaint stone cottages with thatched roofs and churches that date back to the Anglo-Saxon period. They are just the kind of village that readers of Agatha Christie might envision St. Mary Mead, Miss Marple’s fictional village, to be like, except that St. Mary Mead might be expected to have more murders per capita. Apparently, that’s what the folks at BBC thought when they filmed their series with Joan Hickson playing Miss Marple, because they chose St. Andrews Church in Nether Wallop as the setting for some of the episodes.

When Laetitia arrived in Nether Wallop, she found that her group consisted mostly of Agatha Christie fans. They visited thousand-year-old St. Andrews, a brick, stone, and flint parish church that features the only sacred Anglo-Saxon wall painting that survived mostly intactin situ. The Normans had little respect for the art of the Saxon period, and the painting was damaged when the church was remodeled during the late Norman period. After a tour of the church, with many in the group praising the beauty of the church and its lovely stained glass windows, they went to the village square and a local home that served as Miss Marple’s house in the television series.

According to Laetitia’s guidebook, the village name was derived from Old English words that translate roughly as the lower part of a valley with a spring. A mind prone to enjoy the slang meanings of words might wonder whether a village with that name would attract “spankophiles.” A story from the bartender that evening, whether true or not, suggested that this might be the case and provided Laetitia with the limerick of the day.

When Elmer went to Nether Wallop
He searched for and found the town trollop
But his bouts with this whore
Left his buttocks so sore
That he had to use salve by the dollop.

Day 317: Shaggs Meadow

Still in Hampshire, Laetitia brought her group to Lyndhurst, a town not far from Southampton. They spent most of the day hiking in New Forest National Park. Bailey and Hurst included a street in Lyndhurst called Shaggs Meadow in Rude UK, so Laetitia and her group went there before retiring to their bed and breakfast for the evening. As they walked down the street, Laetitia had a conversation with a local woman named Meadow who lived there with her husband, John. Meadow’s complaint was the source of the day’s limerick.

Meadow blushed when she heard her man’s name
For John’s middle and surnames were same
As their street and townsfolk
Would shout, as a joke,
“John Shaggs Meadow,” which brought her great shame.

Day 316: Tosson Close

Laetitia met her group in Hampshire in the City of Southampton. There are many reasons why one might lead a tour there. It was, after all, the port from whence the Titanic set forth on its fateful maiden voyage on April 14, 1912. Indeed, most of those who joined Laetitia’s tour did so because of their interest in the Titanic, so Laetitia made arrangements with a local Blue Badge Guide to conduct a show and tell of Southampton’s Titanic-related sites and paraphernalia.

Laetitia’s real reason for going to Southampton, however, was its street called Tosson Close, which happens to be listed in Rude UK. She thought it might make a good limerick, since there are a number of slang meanings associated with tossing. These include what happens when people drink too much, or have stomach flu, or eat tainted food. There is also a meaning for “tossing salad” that is more likely to occur in the bedroom than the kitchen.

When they arrived on Tosson Close, Melvyn, one of her group, engaged a local resident in a rather graphic conversation about the street name, and it spawned the limerick of the day.

When Melvyn walked down Tosson Close
He talked about subjects morose
Like the virtue of flossing
When one’s finished tossing
And some topics even more gross.

Day 315: Rude Man

No trip to Wiltshire would be complete without visiting Stonehenge. Located in the south of England on the Salisbury Plain, the site was constructed in several stages from 2,800 to 1,800 BC. In 1740, Dr. William Stuckly studied the site and suggested that it was astronomically aligned. No one living today knows for certain the purpose of its construction. The site has some unique features that have been studied at least since the Middle Ages. The large stones in the outer ring interlock with the stones on top. The bluestones that make up the inner ring were transported all the way from Wales. Scientists and historians have proposed a variety of possible functions for Stonehenge in the ancient world, including religious and astronomical ones. Laetitia and her group did a hike nearby while they waited for their turn to enter the site. Once they were escorted to Stonehenge, they found it awe-inspiring.

After their turn, Laetitia chatted with a local Blue Badge Guide named Marsha. When Marsha learned that Laetitia had been to Dorset but had not been to Cerne Abbas to see the Rude Man, she told Laetitia that it was a “must see.” So after shepherds’ pie at a local pub, the group headed for Cerne Abbas.  The picturesque community, now inhabited by about 800 souls, was once home to Cerne Abbey. Its Benedictine culture dominated the area for more than 800 years until Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in 1538.

However, the area’s best-known tourist attraction is the Cerne Abbas Giant, or Rude Man, a geoglyph about 180 feet tall carved into a Dorset hillside. The figure outline is made from trenches in the turf filled with white chalk, an abundant material in England. A number of such figures, depicting both humans and animals, grace the English countryside. The Rude Man is somewhat unusual in that he is carrying a club and sporting an enormous erection.

The earliest record of the Rude Man is from the seventeenth century, but its origin and its artist’s intent remain mysterious. Whatever its original significance, it a now a central feature of the area’s popular culture, often appearing in films, television shows, and publicity stunts. Local folklore holds that a woman can become fecund by sleeping nearby, and that sexual intercourse atop the figure is a sure cure for infertility.

After a walkabout in Cerne Abbas, Laetitia took her group to view the figure, both from a distance and up close. The visit provoked a great deal of banter among her guests, some of it bawdy, about the power of the figure as a fertility symbol as opposed to some other symbols of fecundity like the Easter (Oestre) Bunny, the Easter egg, the frog, the cat, or the turtle. Laetitia was off in her own world while this discussion was going on.  She wondered if artist Aubrey Beardsley visited here before he illustrated Aristophanes’ Lysistrata.  His pictures shocked and titillated his Victorian contemporaries with its gargantuan depictions of male genitalia. Her consciousness returned to the discussion just in time for a limerick to pop into her head.

If fecundity is a hurdle
Those cultures that offer a turtle
Can’t be as reliant
As Cerne Abbas’ Giant
For women who wish to be fertile.