Games People Play

Pandora Melly explores an explorer's pastimes
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Michael Alexander, 76, explorer and writer

I've just been given an outrageous little book for Christmas about the games played by Surrealists. "How do you reconcile a love for women with a taste for sodomy?" That was a question put to Paul Eluard by Guy Tanguy, but there are some good limericks in there too.

I make up limericks about my friends. Listen to this one: "A dirty old vicar from Chester/laid hands on a choirgirl and blessed her/in order to test her/he pressed and caressed her/ 'til they came to arrest the molester."

I have several friends who make up limericks; an American girl in Paris, she's made up some quite good ones, and an Italian friend who's a diplomat. He writes them all down. You should see his book, he's got lots of them, he collects them, you see.

I can't remember exactly when I started writing them - far too long ago - but I have sessions with friends at the Chelsea Arts Club. Here's another one: "There was a young girl from Ceylon/who locked herself up in the john/when they knocked down the door/she was flat on the floor/and they found she'd not been but she'd gone."

Edward Lear's not terribly good: he doesn't bother much with first and last lines. It's better to get some internal rhyming, then it's a minor art form. This one's my favourite: "There was a young man from Bengal/who went to a fancy dress ball/he thought he would risk it/and go as a biscuit/but a dog ate him up in the hall." Not one of mine, but I've always liked it. I can see it all happening, can't you? I'm afraid I've become a bit of a limerick bore. You know, rattle them off, and don't let the other man get his limerick in.

In case of failed inspiration "The Penguin Book of Limericks", edited by E O Parrott, is available from any good bookshop for pounds 8.99.