Top marks for Gummer-less limericks

Lest you think this column without social importance, here is the story of the ruthless grilling of one of my Irish guests by anti-terrorist police.

You need to know that James, though a close friend of mine, is a gentleman. He is handsome in a distinguished kind of way and very conservatively dressed, so he was slightly surprised to be called aside for questioning as he was boarding the Holyhead-Dublin ferry.

In response to the opening inquiry he explained that he had been visiting England on academic business. That did not impress. Since Dr Felim O'hAidhmaill, a lecturer in politics at the University of Central Lancashire and now a guest of Her Majesty, was picked up with 17 kilos of Semtex and accessories, the Special Branch have added scholarship to the list of suspect trades.

"And where have you been, sir?"

"Oxford and Cambridge," answered James truthfully but implausibly. He was politely asked to open his bag. On top lay a file of notes out of which leaped a number of unfortunate words like "rebellion" and "sedition", for James had been studying a collection of Cambridge pamphlets relevant to his researches into the 17th century.

His interlocutor nodded agnostically and investigated further. The next find was a copy of Alan Clark's diaries, which somewhat worried James, since he could see how this could appear sinister to a suspicious mind.

The policeman decided on a test: "I rather preferred his father, sir."

"Ah, yes, indeed, officer," answered James. "I myself enjoyed watching the late Lord Clark's Civilisation."

Relaxed a little, the interviewer pursued his duties further by investigating the other book in the case. When this turned out to be The Re-establishment of the Church of England - 1660-63 - unlikely reading for Dr Seamus O'Terrorist - he ushered James out of the room saying with evident embarrassment, "I'm really very, very sorry, sir. I do beg your pardon."

James, who is now fretting lest his interviewer read this and have his feelings hurt, said I couldn't use this story unless I made it clear that he genuinely thinks this shows that British policemen are wonderful.

Simon Bridge asks if we've heard that the (Northern) Irish sequel to Silence of the Lambs was called "Shut up Youse".

As a gesture to the EU and to all those elves who sent material I have been unable to use but which I am hoarding for the future, I am squeezing in one of William Elphick's clerihews:

John Redwood,

As he said, would

Not want to mix with Frogs,

Krauts, Ities and other


Many of you struggled nobly with the hellishly difficult "The chief delectation of summer": no great limericks emerged, but full marks for effort (and yes, I know I've allowed the odd extra syllable to creep in). I feel very sorry for John Gummer; anyone leaving him out had 10 per cent added to their marks.

Shortlisted are "Is that clothing becomes minimum-er/And my wife's derriere/Is bikinied or bare/Tights ensphering her rear don't become her!" (Don Barnard); "Is sport on TV for what's rummer/than nostril and gristle/'Gainst kneecap and bristle/To prove other nations are dumber?" (Laura Garrett); "The clicking of crickets and hum o'/The bee; scents of flowers;/Still, sunlit hours; /And absence of John Selwyn Gummer." (Fred Robinson); "Which will stop it becoming a bummer,/Will be throwing sharp darts/At unprintable parts/Of a picture of John Selwyn Gummer". (Peter Toye). Zoe Powers is runner-up with "Is to view, from behind, each newcomer;/But the average rear/is too flabby, I fear/Oh, how sad! What a shamel What a bummer!", but Sue May made me laugh most and wins the pink champagne with: "Is having a fling with a drummer/Who goes like a train/Has a passable brain/And looks nothing like Selwyn Gummer."

I can't give you the full text of the last ICA postcard of the week - an entertaining account of New Man's battle to clean the lavatory properly before heading off to a meeting of his men's group - but it ends with "New Man Says: Hey! Leave that seat DOWN!" I leave you with two questions. Why do feminists make so much fuss about something so unimportant and why do men never demand that women leave the seat UP?