Thursday, January 03, 2008

Triumph of hope over experience

“Hope springs eternal in the human breast,” wrote top poet Alexander Pope, who clearly knew quite a bit about optimism.
But optimism always needs tempering with reality, and with that in mind we proudly present our Top Six Things To Hope For But Not To Expect In 2008.
Losing weight. Everyone’s new year resolution. How long will it last? Not past Twelfth Night, judging by A Certain Person’s impulse purchase of a gigantic Morrisons’ meat pie (“They were reduced”) and plying your portly columnist with same.
The pies may well have been reduced, but at this rate the waistline is not and never shall be. Looks like M&S will just have to invent a new size of trouser.
Same goes double for pork scratchings. Yes, they taste nice. No, they aren’t healthy. Please. Stop. Buying. Them.
Film stars act their age. India Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. This year’s summer blockbuster, allegedly. Yes, Harrison Ford’s back, with his flipping great whip and floppy hat.
Now surely at 65 the Fordster is a little bit past it as an action hero.
Getting into tight scrapes with phobia-inducing creepy-crawlies is all very well when you’re in your prime but for goodness’ sake, he could be drawing his pension along with Sean Connery.
He can’t be doing it for the money, so who’s he trying to impress?
An end to all arguments (Part 1). Debate rages in the Chronicle’s letters pages and about the rights and wrongs of cycling on the pavement.
The cyclists accuse the pedestrians of hating cyclists. The pedestrians accuse the cyclists back. Everyone accuses car drivers of a string of heinous crimes, the least of which is the slaughter of the innocents.
We can’t stop it. There’s no point in asking people to see things from the other person’s point of view: the battle lines are entrenched and no one will give an inch.
But here are some facts. Cycling on the road is a life-threatening occupation. Cycling on the pavement is, strictly speaking, illegal. Pedestrians feel intimidated by pavement cyclists.
At the moment, cyclists are being forced into choosing whether or not to break the law for their own safety.
This is a bad thing, not only because in a rational society no one should have to choose which laws to obey, but also because the poor bloody pedestrian doesn’t have any choice about where to walk, short of scrambling through hedges and over walls to avoid the cyclists.
So what we need is a better system of cycle lanes, tighter controls on motor traffic, more tolerance all round.
Don’t hold your breath.
Traditional weather. What we could do with right now is a decent fall of snow, just to remind us that it’s winter. What we could do with in August is a nice bit of sunshine.
Will we get either? Unlikely, going by 2007’s miserable performance.
Watch this space for news of killer bees, orange frogs, mysterious malfunctionings of the air conditioning system at Chronicle Towers and general global-warming-related mallarkey.
(Actually, calling the air conditioning at the Towers a “system” is a bit like describing recent tactics of the England football team as “coherent”. Enough said.)
An end to all arguments (Part 2). Speaking of winter, a constant topic in the Dixon household is the starting and ending dates of the seasons.
One view (maintained stoutly by yours truly) is that winter begins at the winter solstice, spring is sprung at the vernal equinox, summer... You get the picture.
This leads to a certain amount of confusion about the status of Midsummer’s Day (which is actually when summer begins) but it’s a consistent and logically tenable position.
The other view (held firmly but not stoutly by the Other Half) is that spring begins when the leaves start sprouting, summer is when it’s hot (or not), autumn is when the leaves fall off the trees and winter is an indeterminate period stretching from early November until it’s time for spring again.
Answers on a postcard, please, before it comes to blows.
Bizarre newspaper stories involving animals. Mystery horses trampling our gardens? Golden pigs roaming the streets of Bath?
The year has started well, and can only get better. Now how’s that for optimism?
This column was first published in The Bath Chronicle on January 3 2008. Copyright Bath News & Media 200.

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