Day 333: Shaver’s Place

Arriving in London, Laetitia arranged with a local Blue Badge Guide to take her group on a city tour. When the tour was finished, they had lunch and then walked to Shaver’s Place, a London alleyway listed as number 14 in Rude UK. As they started walking down Shaver’s Place, they passed a pub called Old Hundredth and decided to stop in for a drink. The pub was Scottish; “Old Hundredth” refers to a hymn from the Geneva Psalter based on Psalm 100 that was an integral part of the Sunday service of many Presbyterian Churches in times past. The interior of the pub was adorned with a variety of Scottish memorabilia. There was a bust of Robert Burns, a variety of tartans, painted scenes from the highlands, crossed Claymores, and posters advertising Scotch whisky from various distilleries. Laetitia sat at the bar and ordered a pint of Black Douglass Ale. While she drank it, the bartender told her a story about a Scottish couple that lived in London and were regulars at the pub. Their story became the limerick of the day.

A Scots lass walked down Shaver’s Place
And thought about men who shave face
And how she did savor
Smooth skin on a shaver
When locked in a loving embrace.

So she thought that it would be astute
To shave all her regions hirsute
Bare as when she was born
On that September morn
And imagined she would be as cute.

But when her love saw her, alas
He thought she no longer had class
For her lad from Glengarry
Preferred sporrans hairy
Especially when worn by a lass.

Then a book of Burns poems, he displayed
One with Cock Up Your Beaver portrayed
And did loudly aver
That if beavers lacked fur
There would never have been a fur trade.

But soon did the two reconcile
And once again, she did beguile
Him in her cutty sark
And they played in the dark
Just like Caesar and Queen of the Nile.

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.