Day 480: The 39 Steps

As she walked down the sidewalk toward the Emerald Victorian, Laetitia was happy that she wasn’t leading a tour today. She would enjoy a cup of coffee in the library, write a limerick, and then be on her way. She had been to the theater the night before and had stopped at a pub with some friends afterward. The play, The 39 Steps, was a delight, and they were all in the mood to talk about it afterward. Patrick Barlow wrote the adaptation, a farce based on Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 film and the 1915 novel by John Buchan.

Laetitia especially enjoyed an early scene where Richard Hannay, the protagonist brings Annabella Schmidt to his apartment. Annabella tells Richard she is a spy and has uncovered a plot to steal British military secrets. Her country of origin is uncertain, but she has a German surname and speaks with a German accent. She says “schtup” when she means “stop.” Thus, when she said to Richard Hannay the following lines in her German accent, about a third of the audience erupted in laughter: “These men will stop at nothing. I’m the only person who can stop them. If they are not stopped, it’s only a matter of days, perhaps hours…”

The laughers were those that had some knowledge of German, since schtup is a word that means “have sexual intercourse with.” Quite a few others in the audience laughed too because they sensed something must be funny, but they didn’t understand what.

Laetitia was one of the laughers, and as the coffee brewed in the kitchen she thought about her great grandfather, a first-generation German American. She remembered being on his farm as a child when several neighbors were over to help with silo filling. During breaks from work, the men sat under a shade tree and spoke in German. She heard them say “schtup” several times, and each time it was followed by laughter. Because of its association with laughter, she remembered the word and looked it up many years later when she was an adult. It wasn’t the only off-color German word her great grandfather used. Another stimulated the limerick of the day.

Great grandfather’s favorite vice
Was to use the non-English word scheiss
So that kids without German
Just might not determine
That the word that he said wasn’t nice.

Day 452: Jake, the Rake

When Laetitia walked into the kitchen of the Emerald Victorian, she found next to the coffee grinder a packet marked, “Intense French, Cameron’s Coffee, Rice Lake, Wisconsin.” Rice Lake is only about 50 miles from Hayward, where she had toured the day before. As she walked into the library with a cup of the steaming rich dark brew in hand, she decided to take the hint.

Rice Lake, Wisconsin is both a body of water and a community of about 8,000 souls on the lake’s shore. Rice Lake is named for an aquatic grass that grows in shallow lakes and rivers in the upper Midwest. The grain it produces was a staple in the diets of the Native Americans who lived in the area. Today it’s sold in stores as “wild rice.”

Laetitia and her group began the day with a visit to Indian Mounds Park, a pre-Columbian burial ground on the shores of Rice Lake. Archeologists estimate that there have been human populations in this area for at least 12,000 years. The group went to Hiawatha Park for a picnic lunch and then did a lakeshore hike.

At happy hour that afternoon, a bartender told Laetitia about a local wildlife artist whom he described as a “rake.” When Laetitia was a child and heard her grandmother use the term to describe a profligate member of the extended family, she was baffled as she tried to imagine Cousin Eddie as a garden tool. Later, as an adult, she realized that the term was short for rakehell, no doubt referring to the way a fire flares up when it is raked, allowing more oxygen to reach the coals. Those who coined the term likely imagined the dissolute life of the libertine fanning the flames of Hell. In any case, the story provided the day’s limerick for Laetitia.

An amorous fellow named Jake
Who was known as a bit of a rake
Had a habit of fetching
Girls to see his etching
Of flowers and birds ‘round Rice Lake.

Day 450: Halifax

It was time for another day off from touring. Laetitia’s grandmother and her friends, whom she referred to as “the girls,” were in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where they had rented a house for a week, and they had invited Laetitia to join them for the day. The house was owned by a Dalhousie University faculty member. When Laetitia arrived and was given a tour of the house by her grandmother, one of the things that impressed her was its extensive library, which included several books of limericks and a rhyming dictionary.

It was a lovely day and Laetitia, her grandmother, and the girls walked to the waterfront for an early lunch. As they passed by a park and stopped to admire the flower gardens, they heard bagpipes. They followed the sound and found a young woman practicing behind a clump of evergreen trees. Because of Nova Scotia’s Scottish heritage, bagpipes are very popular there. After lunch on the pier, the group visited a dory maker’s shop. The dory is a lightweight boat with high sides, a flat bottom, and high pointed bow that was once the mainstay of the cod fishing fleet. The boats are usually made with the lapped boards and nails construction characteristic of the Viking boats. That evening they had dinner at one of the city’s fine dining establishments.

Laetitia loved Nova Scotia and decided she would lead some tours here, but they would have to wait until she finished the Eastern United States. Back at the Emerald Victorian, Laetitia posted a multiple-verse limerick describing the house and the visit on the Mind’s Eye website.

This limerick’s about that house merry
With limerick books in its library
And on the next shelf
‘Midst the literary wealth
A fine old rhyming dictionary.

The house is quite well situated
Near an avenue where are located
Dining places galore
And a grocery store
Where food needs can mostly be sated.

On a day when the weather is clear
You can walk all the way to the pier
And have lunch waterside
Viewing harbor and tide
And taste local micro-brewed beer.

In a region renowned for its dories
Or have dinner at Bear or at Stories
Or hear pipe music played
And see gardens displayed
Resplendent in colorful glories.

But all things must come to an end
And back toward my home I must wend
I’ve had a great time
In this city sublime
And I hope I can come back again.

Day 432: A Lick and a Promise

As she walked down Raglan Road toward the Emerald Victorian, Laetitia decided that she would leave Scotland today. She was beginning to think about the tours she would lead in the eastern United States, but she needed to plan some tours in Wales first. She opened the big wooden door, went into the kitchen, started a pot of Columbian dark roast brewing, and went into the library. Her first thought was that Wales was going to be a bit of a challenge, since she didn’t have a feel for the Welsh language. As she walked back into the kitchen to pour a cup of coffee, she mulled over her options. By the time she had finished her second cup of coffee, Laetitia made a decision.

Her grandmother hated “housewifery,” as she called housework, borrowing the term from American Puritan poet Edward Taylor. When her grandmother gave her house a cursory cleaning, she would say she was giving the house “a lick and a promise.” Laetitia decided to give Wales a “lick and a promise” this time around. To atone for giving the country short shrift this time, she would go to Wales again when she did the worldwide series of tours that she planned to do after the eastern United States.

She was still drawing a blank on a tour in Wales for today, so she made a second decision. She would use the day to plan a short series of tours in Wales. The powers that be at Mind’s Eye Limerick Tours headquarters—wherever that was—hadn’t authorized a day off from touring, but she would do it anyway. She decided it was easier to beg forgiveness than ask permission. She still needed a limerick for the day, so she made one up about a female stamp collector named Natalie.

When a man kissed a lady named Natalie
She was so engrossed in philately
That she gave John Thomas
A lick and a promise
When he wished her to play Lady Chatterley.