Day 359: Nasty

Laetitia took her group to the Roman Baths near Welwyn and then to Ayot St. Lawrence to visit Shaw’s Corner. Now a historic National Trust property, the house was home to George Bernard Shaw from 1906 until he died in 1950. Shaw did much of his writing in a small hut on the edge of his garden, dubbed “London,” so unwanted visitors could be told he was “visiting the capital.”

Late that afternoon, they went to Nasty (Rude UK number 91). Nasty is a hamlet in Hertfordshire. In Anglo Saxon, the name Nasthey means something like “at the eastern hedged enclosure,” and that is apparently its derivation. Nasty’s only pub, The Woodshed, features in its back room on a big-screen television the 1968 BBC Mini-series Cold Comfort Farm. Based on a comic 1932 novel by Stella Gibbons, it is about a destitute 20-year-old orphan that goes to live with the Starkadders, her mother’s dysfunctional relatives, on the squalid farm after which the series is named. The novel parodies some of the earthy romances that were popular at the time it was written. One of the series’ most unforgettable characters is the eccentric matriarch, Aunt Ada Doom, who is the way she is because she “saw something nasty in the woodshed” when she was young.

After watching part of the series, Laetitia saw that the pub offered Cornish pasties, so the group had those for dinner, along with pints of ale. The pasties were actually made commercially in Cornwall and shipped frozen to the pub, but they were very good. The bartender had a story about a young Cornishman who was new to the area and asked at an inn in nearby Great Munden where there was a place that served pasties. When the innkeeper told him, “Nasty,” he thought it was a derogatory comment about Cornwall and its food and he left in a huff. Laetitia thanked him for his story and wrote down the limerick of the day.

To a young Cornish lad’s great chagrin
When he asked at a Hertfordshire inn
Where he could get a pasty
The innkeeper said, “Nasty,”
So he swears he’ll not go there again.

Day 340: Fulwood Walk

Laetitia decided to take her group to Wimbledon. Wimbledon is a south London district that is best known as the home of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships. The Wimbledon tournament, which takes place in late June and Early July at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, is the oldest and most prestigious tennis competition in the world. Most of those who joined Laetitia’s tour were female tennis enthusiasts who had come to see the place where the championship matches were held. Laetitia, who was not especially a tennis fan, had chosen Wimbledon not because of its tennis fame, but because a Wimbledon street, Fulwood Walk, is in Rude UK.

She arranged for a local Blue Badge Guide to take her group on a tour of Wimbledon that included the Lawn Tennis Club. Afterward, she and the group went off in search of Fulwood walk. The street is a cul-de-sac that is mostly residential. It was an ordinary street in most ways; its most remarkable feature was that it was lined with small, classical-style statuary. Each figure was male, and each displayed a gargantuan erection. Needless to say, the statuary stimulated an exchange of conversation from which it emerged that the women in her group were tennis friends who taught at an American university.

“It looks like the work of an Aubrey Beardsley who turned to sculpture,” one woman said, thinking of the controversial artist of the Art Nouveau era whose illustrations of Lysistrata and drawings for Oscar Wilde’s Salome shocked and titillated his Victorian contemporaries.

“Picasso said, ‘Art is never chaste,’” another woman said.

“I think it’s Priapus,” a woman who taught art history said. “He was a minor Roman god of fertility, gardens, livestock, and male genitalia. He’s always portrayed this way.”

When they stopped at a neighborhood pub after their walk, they heard that the statues were put there by Bobby, a local teenager, who made these sculptures in chalk as a kind of three-dimensional graffiti. Chalk is not an especially enduring medium, but it is cheap and abundant in England and easy to work with. “Some who start with graffiti move on to become artists,” thought Laetitia, “Time will tell. I have my limerick of the day.”

T’was a subject of no little talk
The statues that lined Fulwood Walk
That were put there by Bobby
Who did as a hobby
Sculpt Priapus figures from chalk.

Day 339: Trumpers Way

That morning in the Emerald Victorian, Laetitia was looking for a tour locale that combined both interesting scenery and museums and the possibility of a limerick. After consulting several guidebooks and Rude UK, she chose Trumpers Way, a street in Hanwell, London. The street borders the Grand Union Canal, dug in 1805 to link the Oxford Canal with the Thames. The old towpath for the canal has now been converted to a pedestrian walkway and features views of the old locks, lock-keepers cottages, and occasional picturesque boats. Even better, it borders a mansion and grounds that are open for visits by tourists.

Osterley Park was once an eighteenth-century country estate with extensive green swards of lawn, vistas of trees and lakes, and a temple of Pan. The mansion is now a museum, and both are now part of the National Trust. Laetitia and her group first went to the museum and walked the grounds of Osterley Park and then walked down Trumpers Way.

A woman in Laetitia’s group named Norma asked about the street name’s origin. The street name was probably derived by the presence at one time of artisans who made horns, but Laetitia was trying to think of a polite way of telling her that the slang meaning of the term referred to the nether orifice that both men and women have. While she was pondering that, Norma began to pose a series of rhetorical questions in an attempt to answer the question herself. Before Laetitia had an opportunity to answer, Norma saw some flowers she was interested in, and walked off to look at them. Norma’s meandering queries gave Laetitia the multiple-verse limerick of the day.

When Norma walked out one fine day
And found herself on Trumpers Way
The meaning of “trumper”
She found was a stumper
And left her mind in disarray.

Is a trumper someone who plays cards
Like bridge with its bids and discards
But no ace in the hole
For to some it’s more droll
Than poker which lacks trump rewards?

Bridge has trumpers, but mostly lacks pots
Of hard cash, although Don Trump has lots
And was he a trumper
With Ivana, to dump her
With kids in between teens and tots.

The Trumpers Way trumpers, alas
Were folks who made horns out of brass
And none were rude strumpets
Just folks who made trumpets
And as far as we know, none were crass.

Day 334: Blue Ball Yard

In London, near the Thames, Laetitia and her group went for walks in Green Park and St. James Park, not far from Buckingham Palace. Afterward they visited the Royal Mews and walked by 10 Downing Street on the wayto the Household Cavalry Museum. Fans of the film Accidental Tourist know that there are some people who don’t like to leave home when they travel. Such tourists seek out McDonalds in Munich and Starbucks in London. This was the case with Laetitia’s group today. When it came time for a late lunch, they wanted to go to a place that served hamburgers.

Laetitia found an appropriate place in her guidebook. They walked down St. James Street and under a narrow archway into a cul-de-sac called Blue Ball Yard. At the end of Blue Ball Yard is an upscale hotel and their destination, a bar that serves American fare. The walls and ceilings of the bar were adorned with British and American memorabilia from World War II onward, including American and British admirals, warplanes, sports items, pictures of celebrities and the like.

Laetitia’s group spread out among the tables, and Laetitia sat at the bar. While the waiters were taking orders and serving her group, Laetitia listened to the bartender. “This area used to be Queen Anne’s mews. Lord Godolphin built the carriage house for her. They used timbers from wrecked wooden warships in its construction and it is now part of the hotel.”

Then he asked Laetitia, “What do you do?”

She answered, “I lead tours and write limericks.”

He said, “A limerick is a kind of poem, isn’t it? There used to be an aspiring poet named James who was a regular here. People in the bar used to call him ‘St. James’ after the nearby street, but he called himself, ‘The Bard of Blue Ball Yard.’ The title wasn’t a success; there’s something about blue balls that isn’t very appealing. Most of the other regulars thought it wasn’t a very smart choice.” Laetitia smiled and thanked him for his story. Then she wrote down the day’s limerick.

When young James, the self-proclaimed bard
Of the cul-de-sac called “Blue Ball Yard”
Learned the thought of blue balls
Is one that appalls
Getting over that proved to be hard.