Friday, February 4, 2011


The other night a man on the phone doing a survey wanted to know my views on the national economy. I suspected that the “survey” was a ruse to sell me something. Probably a cheaper mortgage, or an opportunity to invest in something that required me to attend a meeting and be harangued by excited young men brimming with positive thinking. By question three I was laughing and we agreed that the survey was possibly the most ridiculously useless exercise devised by people running out of ideas, and we could stop wasting my time on it. My opinion was valueless as I was not an economist. And anyway, remember that George Bernard Shaw observed that if all the economists were laid end to end they still would not reach a conclusion. My golden rule of economics is based on the Micawber theory: spend less than you earn and save the difference.

However, lack of knowledge doesn’t stop people being an expert on everything. You only have to listen to talk-back radio. (No don’t – it will drive you mad.) Therefore, to save other surveyors bothering me, here are my views on a few subjects that I, like everyone else, have expert views about.

Teenagers scrambling their brains with alcohol
Stop telling them that they are having the best time of their lives. Grown-ups say make the most of it, soon you will be settling down with a job and family responsibilities. Can you imagine being seventeen and thinking that life isn’t going to get any better? Can you imagine contemplating the dreary prospect of the next sixty or so years all being downhill? No wonder they take to booze and look for cops to taunt into chasing them down motorways. I bet they’re whooping and hollering all the time until they smack into that power pole. How can we let this happen?

Smoke detectors
We know they save lives. Against that, we know that we are driven nuts when they go off every time we make toast and we have to flap at them with something flappable to make the racket stop. So maybe we take out the batteries. Until yesterday, I didn’t know that the new ones come with hush buttons. That single piece of information could save even more lives. And while we’re on the subject …

I tried for years to stop smoking. None of the usual tactics worked. This one did, like magic. Cancel the counselling session. Throw away the pills and patches. Don’t throw away the half-empty packet of cigarettes. Put it in a drawer, handy and available. You can stop smoking easily if you know you can have a cigarette if you really must – so you don’t. You just keep putting it off.

Another time I may offer advice on how to fix leaky houses, the best way to lose weight, the most effective beauty treatments, and how to coach the Black Caps to victory.

The picture is "Harbour"

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