in a cleft stick

in a cleft stick

  (British & Australian old-fashioned)
if someone is in a cleft stick, they have a problem which is very difficult to solve I'm in a real cleft stick because I can't sell my house. Because of new employment laws, these companies are caught in a cleft stick.
See also: stick
References in classic literature ?
Just as I had written the last word, a Kafir came up my avenue of orange trees, carrying a letter in a cleft stick, which he had brought from the post.
Not more than any other youngster did he like to eat dirt or to be misjudged, but he saw himself in a cleft stick.