Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Putting the 'egg' in beggar

I drove up to the place that does tyres and exhausts, parked my car next to the entrance and, as I got out of the car, a shabby fellow approached me with a hesitant "Excuse me,..." I have long experience of bums, shnorrers and other derelicts, so I gave a dismissive wave of the hand and said something like "Not interested."
He persisted, "But, it's just...", so I turned to him and switched on the heavy irony.
"Listen, bro, if I give you money, promise me you won't spend it on food."
"It's not that, I just wanted to ask you if you could move your car over a little so that my wife can park her car."

I don't know anyone who has such a talent for getting egg on his face as me

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Pause dramatic

Peeple laughed ven I sat down at ze piano: someone had taken ze stool avay.

Macht nichts, I zink to meinself, 's isch mir egal, I am a provessional klavierspieler, ja. I lose dignity, I increase my fee. Zimple.

"Und now," I announced in mein best Zunday aksent, "Ladis'n'chentlmn, I vould like to play for you....

I pause dramatic.

".... Beethoven's Varsaw Concerto!"

I vait for applause. No applause. Filisteins!

I pause dramatic again.

"Unfortunately," I zay, vickedly, in mein second-best Zunday aksent, "he did not write one."

Vot a choke! Like Till Eulenspiegel, such a lustige Streich!


Zo. Fick 'em. I play Chopsticks instead.

And I zuddenly realise zat I am alone. Macht nichts. Who vants to listen to Chopsticks anyvay?

I sure don't.

Grandpa, there's a green van outside waiting to take you away.
Thanks, Sophie, would you like me to play something for you before I go?
No way!
That's my girl!

The Learning Plateau

Everyone experiences the learning plateau when learning a new subject, and it is specially true of language learning. Starting from zero, you make progress that you are aware of. It's a good feeling, but there comes a point - the "plateau" - where you begin to feel that, for all your efforts, you are not making the progress you made at an earlier stage. You are making progress, but there are several reasons why you have this negative feeling.
First of all, you are no longer dropping pieces of vegetable into a clear soup, where you can see every piece. You are adding pieces to a soup that has changed from a bouillon to a minestrone, so it's very difficult to separate the new bits from the old bits.
Secondly, it is much easier to devise tests which measure progress at lower stages of learning. It is no problem to separate, say, a beginner from an intermediate student, but much more difficult to devise test mechanisms which will distinguish, say, a good student from a very good student.
As this is a deeply boring subject, I will stop now, and ask you just to pause and admire Ebru's English Language Soup before going on to something more exciting, whatever that may be.

PS Today, I found out that I was a Rat. Funny how you can go through life ignorant of important truths about yourself!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Vive la différence?

When my daughter Sarah was not much more than a pair of scuffed kneecaps and a set of pigtails, someone asked me "What would you say to her if in a few years' time she came home and announced that she was going to marry a black man?" Now, me being a tolerant, unbigoted, prejudice-free, noble etc person gave what today I guess would be called a politically-correct answer. But there is no doubt that my true reaction deep inside me was "Don't do it!" and I spent a long time - and have spent a long time - working out why. And I will tell you why.
Quite simply, it is a hard hard business to make a marriage work. All sorts of factors create centrifugal tensions: money, children, in-laws, habits, ambitions, sex, and so on. If you are married, go on, tell me I am wrong. No, I am not wrong. So, every additional factor you add into the equation is another potential source of conflict. So, for example, marrying across race, religion, nationality or culture is adding a dimension, as is marrying someone much much younger or older than yourself. That is not to say you shouldn't do it, but it is important to be aware of what you are doing. Once you are aware, I guess your chances of making a good marriage - or a bad one - are just the same as everyone else's.
That is the answer I should have given. But, you know me, l'esprit de l'escalier. I am just a slow reactor. If I bang my knee, it's at least forty seconds before I cry "Ouch". But it's all academic, as my children - just like you and just like yours and just as I did - do what they like anyway.
Of course, the most devastating difference when you decide to marry is that one of you is a man and the other of you is a woman. Work through that.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Writer's block, or "Who gives a [censored]?"

Hands up all those who know what "writer's block" is. There you go, it's a universal phenomenon, whether you are writing your autobiography or a report for you boss. It starts with a blank sheet of paper, or in these days, a blank computer screen. The hardest word to write in the entire novel/report/autobiography is the first one. It's like putting the first footprint in virigin snow.
So, if you are like me, you take a really deep breath....and go and make a cup of coffee. Then you come back, determined to start, but first, you will just check your emails. That done, you really ARE going to start, but first, it might be a good idea to sharpen your pencils. That done, it's all systems go, but first, it might be a good idea to check your in-tray. OK, no more delays, this is it, we are STARTING. But first, didn't I promise to phone old so-and-so? Better do that, after all one shouldn't neglect one's social obligations. And so it goes, on and on and on. Meanwhile, the page stays inviolate. or unviolated, depending on the strength of your metaphors.
What's your problem? All you have to do is to press the first key to produce the first letter of the first word of your magnum opus. What's stopping you?
I will tell you what is stopping you. You are a victim of - and nobody has told you this - a syndrome known as "the best is the enemy of the good". You are so desperate to write a wonderful novel, or whatever, that you would rather write nothing than write something that is less than wonderful. So you sharpen your pencils for the nth time.
But listen, there IS a way out. You have to get up one morning, and, depending on your vocabulary and who is listening at the time, you have to say, loudly and aggressively: "[Censor] you, [Censor] everybody, [Censor] the whole [censored] world, I am going to write a really [censored] BAD BOOK, and I don't give a monkey's [censored] what anyone thinks."
And you sit down, gloriously defiant, and you start to write a bad book. Which, after all, is better than no book at all.
And it works. Believe me, it works. You might have to go back later and revise the first chapters, but you have overcome writer's block, you have made the first footprints in the virgin snow, and, as a bonus, you have an amazing collection of sharpened pencils.

More Munchkinalia

Mommy, is Grandpa coming for Christmas?
That's right, darlings, isn't that wonderful?!
I hope he doesn't expect a present, Mommy.
Eat your chopped egg and cilantro, darlings.

Mommy, is Grandpa American?
No, dear, he's English.
That's a dumb thing to be.
Well, I am English too, darling.
It's ok, Mommy, we forgive you.

Harry, eat your carrot.
I don't like carrot.
But carrot is good for you, dear.
I guess that's why I don't like it.
Hm, I think you've spent too much time listening to Grandpa.

Dear God,
I hope you don't mind me writing to You like this. Did you really make the WHOLE world in six days On Your Own, or did you have some help?
About Sunday: I don't blame you for taking a day off. It's a good chance to play with Your trainset too. If you got one. Which is what I will do too. If Grandad buys me one.....
Yours sincerely
Joseph Allsop, 7 years and 3 weeks.

Mein Gott, it rains dogs and cats!

Anyone learning a foreign language soon becomes eager to get a few idioms (fixed expressions) under their belt. The problem is that it is sooooooooo easy to ruin the effect by getting some tiny bit wrong. The Swiss boss for whom I worked for thirteen years was fluent in English, but, my goodness, he could fracture an idiomatic expression in the tinkling of an eyeball. Among his gems, bless him, was an exhortation that we should not "sit on our laurels", a warning that it would be very bad if we had to "start again from the scratch", and a statement that an interesting thought "has just stepped into my mind".
My favourite was from before my time, in fact in the first or second year after the founding of the school. One of his teachers, a lovely man called John Bagshawe, told me how he had gone to the boss with a request for an increase in salary. The response was on the lines that the school was new, times were hard, money was tight, so "This year, Mr Bagshawe, it is not possible." Pause, and then, brightly: "But next year: ..... out of the question!"
This post is not to say that you shouldn't learn idiomatic expressions, but it is just a cautionary reminder that you need to make sure you get them exactly right, and that you know the context in which to use them.
By the way, does anyone know the origin of the expression "raining cats and dogs"?

Monday, November 20, 2006

Unzip a banana!

I feel a bit like the man who one day discovered that he had been speaking prose all his life without realising it. Every morning I eat a dish or muesli on top of which I slice a banana. It seems now that I have accidentally been doing the right thing!
My thanks to Angit for sending the following to me:

Never, put your banana in the refrigerator!!!
This is interesting. After reading this, you'll never look at a banana in the same way again.

Bananas contain three natural sugars - sucrose, fructose and glucose combined with fibre. A banana gives an instant, sustained and substantial boost of energy.

Research has proven that just two bananas provide enough energy for a strenuous 90-minute workout. No wonder the banana is the number one fruit with the world's leading athletes.

But energy isn't the only way a banana can help us keep fit.

It can also help overcome or prevent a substantial number of illnesses and conditions, making it a must to add to our daily diet.
Depression: According to a recent survey undertaken by MIND amongst people suffering from depression, many felt much better after eating a banana. This is because bananas contain tryptophan, a type of protein that the body converts into serotonin, known to make you relax, improve your mood and
generally make you feel happier.
PMT: Forget the pills - eat a banana. The vitamin B6 it contains regulates blood glucose levels, which can affect your mood.
Anaemia: High in iron, bananas can stimulate the production of hemoglobin in the blood and so helps in cases of anemia.
Blood Pressure: This unique tropical fruit is extremely high in potassium yet low in salt, making it perfect to beat blood pressure. So much so, the US Food and Drug Administration has just allowed the banana industry to make official claims for the fruit's ability to reduce the risk of blood pressure and stroke.
Brain Power: 200 students at a Twickenham (Middlesex) school were helped through their exams this year by eating bananas at breakfast, break, and lunch in a bid to boost their brain power. Research has shown that the potassium-packed fruit can assist learning by making pupils more alert.
Constipation: High in fibre, including bananas in the diet can help restore normal bowel action, helping to overcome the problem without resorting to laxatives.
Hangovers: One of the quickest ways of curing a hangover is to make a banana milkshake, sweetened with honey. The banana calms the stomach and, with the help of the honey, builds up depleted blood sugar levels, while the milk soothes and re-hydrates your system.
Heartburn: Bananas have a natural antacid effect in the body, so if you suffer from heartburn, try eating a banana for soothing relief.
Morning Sickness: Snacking on bananas between meals helps to keep blood sugar levels up and avoid morning sickness.
Mosquito bites: Before reaching for the insect bite cream, try rubbing the affected area with the inside of a banana skin. Many people find it amazingly successful at reducing swelling and irritation.
Nerves: Bananas are high in B vitamins that help calm the nervous system.
Overweight and at work? Studies at the Institute of Psychology in Austria found pressure at work leads to gorging on comfort food like chocolate and crisps. Looking at 5,000 hospital patients, researchers found the most obese were more likely to be in high-pressure jobs. The report concluded that, to avoid panic-induced food cravings, we need to control our blood sugar levels
by snacking on high carbohydrate foods every two hours to keep levels steady.
Ulcers: The banana is used as the dietary food against intestinal disorders
because of its soft texture and smoothness. It is the only raw fruit that
can be eaten without distress in over-chronicler cases. It also neutralizes
over-acidity and reduces irritation by coating the lining of the stomach.
Temperature control: Many other cultures see bananas as a "cooling" fruit that can lower both the physical and emotional temperature of expectantmothers. In Thailand , for example, pregnant women eat bananas to ensure their baby is born with a cool temperature.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): Bananas can help SAD sufferers because they contain the natural mood enhancer tryptophan.
Smoking & Tobacco Use: Bananas can also help people trying to give up smoking. The B6, B12 they contain, as well as the potassiu! m and ma gnesium found in them, help the body recover from the effects of nicotine
Stress: Potassium is a vital mineral, which helps normalize the heartbeat, sends oxygen to the brain and regulates your body's water balance. When we are stressed, our metabolic rate rises, thereby reducing our potassium levels. These can be rebalanced with the help of a high-potassium banana
Strokes: According to research in "The New England Journal of Medicine, 'eating bananas as part of a regular diet can cut the risk of death by strokes by as much as 40%!
Warts: Those keen on natural alternatives swear that if you want to kill off a wart, take a piece of banana skin and place it on the wart, with the yellow side out. Carefully hold the skin in place with a plaster or surgical tape!
So, a banana really is a natural remedy for many ills. When you compare it
to an apple, it has four times the protein, twice the carbohydrate, three times the phosphorus, five times the vitamin A and iron, and twice the other vitamins and minerals. It is also rich in potassium and is one of the best value foods around So maybe its time to change that well-known phrase so that we say, "A banana a day keeps the doctor away!"
PS: Bananas must be the reason monkeys are so happy all the time! I will add one here; want a quick shine on our shoes?? Take the INSIDE of the banana skin, and rub directly on the shoe...polish with dry cloth. Amazing fruit.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings.....

Mommy, why does Grandpa grunt so much?
Grunt, dear?
Yes, like when he gets up out of a chair.
I don't know, dear. Ask him.
Grandpa, why do you grunt so much?
It's my way of scaring off lions and tigers, sweetie.
- sigh - I don't know why I bother, really I don't.

Sophie, tell Harry lunch is ready.
Harry, mommy says lunch is ready.
What're we having?
I don't know, for goodness' sake! Snails and worms and cat poo maybe.
Mmmm. Yummy!
- sigh - Boys are just soooooooo disGUSTing!

Dear God
I think it's amazing You made the world in just six days. My dad hasn't finished repairing the Camper yet and he's been at it three weeks already. By the way, did You manage to work on Grandad about the trainset? I'd really like it by Christmas so I can celebrate YOUR birthday too.
Yours sincerely
Joseph Allsop, 7 years and 2 weeks

Friday, November 17, 2006

Have you ever had one of those days.....?

What's in a name?

Three stories about surnames, all of which are true.

In Tsarist Russia, the Duma had no real power, but one of its tasks was to adjudicate on requests for changes of surname. They would listen to the petitioner, decide if a name change was justified, and, if so, would allocate a new name. One such petitioner, who was burdened with the surname which translates as "HardFart", pleaded his case so eloquently before the Duma that they decided in his favour and changed his name to SoftFart.

In Germany in the early years of the last century, numerous immigrants, many of them Jewish, applied for change of surname to something that sounded German. The fee for this was 500 marks. Shlomo Aniskovitch took himself to the appropriate department, where they gave him a new name. When he arrived home, his wife couldn't wait to find out what it was. "We are now Mr and Mrs Schleissloch", he said quietly. "Schleissloch??" screamed his wife. "You paid 500 marks for Schleissloch????" "No," he replied, "I paid 1500 marks. The extra 1000 was to get the first L .."

A young brave went to the tepee of the tribal elder whose task it was to name newborn children. "How do you decide on these names, oh Wise One?" asked the young brave. The elder explained how he always depended on inspiration from the world around him. "For example, if I see clouds scurrying across the sky, I might give the child the name Running Cloud." He paused and then added: "Anyway, TwoDogsScrewing, why did you want to know?"

Well, if the stories aren't true, they ought to be.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Houses on fire

I couldn't resist taking this picture a couple of mornings ago as I looked out of from my kitchen window. Most of the houses are white-painted, but in the first light of dawn, and especially given that angry sky, they were a fiery red that took my breath away. Minutes later, the light changed and the houses went back to normal. Most of the time, most of us at such photographable moments say "I wish I had my camera with me." On this occasion, I did. I stood on the parapet wall of the patio to get elevation and clicked away. I am glad my new neighbours didn't see me because I was in one of my more florid djellabiyahs, all a-flap in the morning breeze.

A Giggle of Geese

Our foreparents had a gay old time coining collective nouns: a gaggle of geese, a spring of teal, a wisp of snipe, a bevy of quail and so on. I thought it was time we brought the collection up to date, so here is my second offering for your delectation and, if I am lucky, your groans.

an alphabet of jays, a tangle of knot, a gargery of larks, a coven of merlins, a berkeley of nightingales, a chamber of nightjars, a suite of nutcrackers, a futility of nuthatch, a college of orioles, an evasion of ostrich, an ouch of owls, a library of pelicans, a tank of petrel, a phlock of phalarope, a pluck of pheasant, a stool of pigeons, a pteam of ptarmigan, a gasp of puffin, a rant of rail, a slash of razorbills, a blush of redstart, a pleasure of shags, an elevation of stilts, a delivery of storks, a lurk of wallcreepers, a design of wrens.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

We're off to SoCal!

My visit to San Diego is now confirmed. Ticket booked, insurance taken out, currency ordered, shoes polished. I will not tell you the exact dates because I don't want burglars and other rascals to find out and do wicked things to my house while I am away.
What I intend to do in order to protect my property is to instal 12 Rottweilers, 8 Dobermans, 2 Rhodesian Ridgebacks, a Tasmanian Devil (if it's not extinct by now) and a blown-up picture of Saddam Hussein (if he is not extinct by now). That ought to deter the scamps, scoundrels and scurvy knaves.
In the meantime, it's down to Toys'r'Us to find some suitable games and gizmos. They will be, of course, for Sarah and me. I might see if I can find something for the Munchkins while I'm there...
By the way, Balboa Park is about ten minutes' drive from where Sarah lives. Cool, huh?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

More Collectives

There is a book on this subject, entitled A Crash of Rhinoceroses. Sadly, the collective nouns for birds listed below do not appear. So, once again, we venture into the spoofery. My apologies to my Nearctic and Antipodean readers: I'll get round to your avifaunas in due course, unless, inshallah, you beat me to it.

a rancour of bitterns, a sentence of blackcaps, an envy of blackcock, a corrida of bullfinches, a curse of bustards, a delight of chough, a creak of crake, a rave of cuckoos, a fringe of curlews, a wick of dippers, a nullity of ducks, a duvet of eider, a picnic of fieldfare, a zip of flycatchers, a bother of godwits, a cling of barnacles, a dodder of greylags, a shnozzle of grosbeaks, a jump of harriers, a stew of hawfinches.

What I have done today

What I have done today
J Allsop, aged 70½

Made a chicken curry (to be reheated later. Yummy!)
Swept and washed the kitchen floor
Cleaned the cooker hob (properly)
Dusted the house to get rid of cobwebs
Vacuumed and polished the car
Vacuumed the Land Rover
Cleaned my workshop
Cleaned the shelving in the garage
Swept the garage
Cleared up all the fallen leaves down the side of the house
Wrapped the three garden chair cushions in black polythene and put them in the roof

It is three pm and I now feel aged 80½. I propose to take a break.

PS Who says that retirement isn't a fulfilling period in one's life?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A murmuration of starlings and all that jazz

If you have visited Fretmarks recently, you will have enjoyed the splendid photograph of a cluster of long-tailed tits being held by a ringer. It prompted me to think about collective nouns (also known as nouns of assembly) on the lines of a charm of goldfinches, an exultation of larks, a murder of crows and other Victorian coinages. During my CHOG days, we would huddle in the Ringing Hut during bad weather and pass the time inventing collective nouns. Here are a few of them, each pun worse than the one before. And, while you are about it, can you think up a suitable collective noun for long-tailed tits?
a gulp of swallows, an estate of house martins, a splinter of woodcock, a satire of swifts, a round of robins, a pastime of hobbies, a calvity of coot, a madness of ravens, a rage of crossbills, a minstrelsy of black terns, a lunch of sandwich terns, a kebab of skuas, a plunge of divers, a jib of cranes, a babble of chats, a grumble of grouse, a gluttony of gannets, a butchery of shrikes, a handful of tits.
Oh dear, aren't they dreadful?! That's what happens to ringers when they can't get their equipment erected. If you want to see proper collective nouns, please click here.

Feeding the birds

As the mild autumn weather gives way to chill mornings and cool days, the number of birds coming to the feeders in my garden continues to increase. The commonest at the moment are greenfinches (Carduelis chloris): yesterday I counted twenty. They really like the sunflower seeds. A close second are the goldfinches (Carduelis carduelis), with at least a dozen buzzing round the nyjer seed feeders. Other species are attracted by the excitement, the starlings being the noisiest and the bossiest. I know they are unlovely, but they are full of character. And of course, sparrowhawks (Accipiter nisus) regularly bombard the feeding station in the hope of catching a tasty breakfast.

A real bonus in the last few days has been the sight of a cock pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) picking its way across the lawn. This morning, I stood watching him for about twenty minutes, as if I had never seen one before.
Even in the field beyond, birds seem to become interested in what's going on, and it is not unusual for jackdaws, magpies and black-headed gulls to come down on the lawn to pick up scraps.
One day, when I am all grown up, I might stop frittering my days away watching birds, but, to tell you the truth, I don't intend to grow up. Ever.

Hallowe'en... the Eve of All Souls, 31 October, the following day being All Souls' Day. In my first year in Italy, I was startled to be told that 1 November was "Il Giorno dei Morti" - The Day of the Dead. Until a few years ago, Hallowe'en was moreorless unknown in Britain, outside of the Christian calendar. Now it has been hyped and commercialised, so that pumpkins and dressing up and "trick and treat" are now as familiar to our youngsters as they are in the States.
All of which is an excuse to post photographs of the San Diegan munchkins in all their Hallowe'en finery: the twins, Harry and Kiki, holding a suitable cat; and Sophie, the Sarah Bernhardt de nos jours, kitted out as, I am told, a mermaid.
Go on, indulge me, let the Old Scrote have his proud grandpa moment!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

"Sitting up like a citizen"

I just received these photographs from my son, Jeremy. It has provoked a serious attack of nostalgia. When I moved to Cambridge in the early eighties, I bought myself a Volkswagen Camper. Not the oldest version, the "split screen", but the bay-fronted version. The vehicle had already had eight owners and was venerable, to say the least. The camper conversion was, I think, a Danbury, but its main value was that it gave me a table and seat at which I could sit to eat and drink after a hard morning's birdwatching. Katy (from the registration plate KTY) was painted a bilious green, and flaked with rust, but I loved her (If a van is called Katy, I guess she has to be a she). I finally sold her for £50 to a lunatic who rebuilt her and took her to the south of France and back.
After two years without, I bought another bay-front, a white one this time, called - a bit of imagination failure here - Katy Two. After more years of great enjoyment, "sitting up like a citizen" and starting to sing as soon as I got behind the wheel, I sold her for £100 to a local farmer who wanted her reconditioned engine.
And now, mes potes, years on, Jeremy has bought himself one. Just look at it! Pristine, rustfree, spotless. This is what happens if a VW Camper spends its life in a dry climate like Australia, and latterly in New Zealand. I am envious. I have my Land Rover Discovery, of course, which can do two things the VW Camper cannot: it can go anywhere, and it can get up a decent speed if you need it. But there is something magical about the VW Camper. I know of no better way to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, lift the spirits and fluff up the kidneys.
But what really eats me up are the roo bars on Jeremy's camper. OK, I know we don't have a problem with kangaroos in the UK, but it would have been a real pose to have had roo bars on my two Katies.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Nine Weird Things About Myself

This meme appeared in HeartinSanFrancisco's blog. I have given the gist of each of her statements in inverted commas. I recommend that you go and read the whole posting on her blog: like all her postings, it is beautifully written and very thought-provoking. I have added my comments below each quote.

1. "I usually keep new clothes for a while before wearing them."
Me too. And not just clothes. If I buy bed linen or electronic gadgetry or a DVD or a book, days, weeks and sometimes months can go by before I pluck up the courage (or whatever it is I need) to open the wrapping and use the contents. I think I know why I do this, but it's so painful to admit it that I shall just put it down to my natural weirdness, ok?

2. "Most of my best friends have been four-leggeds. The only animals I fear are humans."
Almost true for me too. Near where I live there is a lane where people walk their dogs, as I used to before my old black lab Betsy died. I know most of the dogs, but not their owners. Anyway, it's more satisfying and less controversial to pat the dog than its owner. The animal category that has been most important to me is the two-legged feathered variety. Birds are the joy of my life and, one way or another, take up a great deal of my time.

3. "I don't drink because I'm allergic to liquor."
Not true for me, although I have long periods - months sometimes - when I go on the wagon. My tipple is red wine, and I owe it to my liver to abstain from time to time.

4. "My father cared little for me because I was a girl"
My father cared little for me, because.....well, I don't know why, except that he was already in his late forties when I was born, and had probably had enough of children by then.

5. "I never deliberately kill things. I will go to great lengths to catch and free an insect, but cannot bring myself to take a life. I do entertain homicidal fantasies about my next-door neighbor, though, as discussed earlier. When I clean, I remove cobwebs or not, as the mood strikes me."
Me too. I keep a plastic pot and a postcard so that I can extricate spiders from the bath or insects from the window pane. I draw the line, though, at saving mosquitoes.

6. "I have far too many houseplants."
Not true for me. I have a few cacti and succulents, but anything more delicate takes a delight in dying on me before I can so much as breathe on it.

7. "I fear haircuts more than dentistry or surgery."
Well, I used to detest going to the barber's until a very attractive young woman opened a barber's shop in the village. Now it is a pleasure to sit and be pampered by her while she snips at the few remain hairs on my head. I think the time is nigh when all she will need to do is to polish my pate.

8. "I don't wear polish on my fingernails, but feel naked without toenail polish."
Well, it may be bad for my street cred, but I don't use polish on any of my nails. Maybe I should wax my moustache, Poirot-style, so as not to be considered eccentric.

9. "I love extreme weather conditions, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornados. Thunder, lightning, wind and pelting rain make me feel more alive."
Me too. I love huge waves and thunderstorms. Apart from anything else, these natural phenomena are something the government can't control and can't tax. Although they are probably working on it....