Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 12 July 2014

Billy Simpson: There’s a fine line between being hardy and foolhardy

Anyone who has ever taken a holiday by the beautiful North Atlantic will recognise this scenario. A bunch of people are splashing about in the sea giving the appearance of having a wonderful time. They shout to someone on the shore, “Come in. it's lovely.” And the someone jumps in. Surfaces. Screams “It's ******* fffffrrreeezzzing.”

As a former someone on the shore I have been fooled into jumping into water that turned out to be liquid ice and felt its sharp Arctic teeth bite into my extremities. And extremities don't care for that sort of thing. Then suffered the sneers of folk crying “Don't be a such a sissy”.

It is a lesson you cannot learn too soon. There is a fine line between hardy and foolhardy. Enthusiasts invariably overstate their case.

Not just about what constitutes ‘lovely' in water temperatures but in every aspect of life. Politics, crime, global warming. They cannot help themselves. Enthusiasts are not susceptible to logic.

They are propagandists for what they believe and enjoy believing. And hate what they enjoy hating. Misplaced enthusiasm is what starts wars. Gets Millennium Domes built. Encourages bankers to place wild bets on the American mortgage market to win ‘easy money.'

The Olympic Games are full of enthusiasts extolling the virtues of some of the most pointless activities imaginable.

Activities surrounded by sinister backroom pharmacists who sneak around with a bottle of wintergreen in one hand and a syringe of gee-up juice in the other.

Rival enthusiasms often clash. A couple of weeks ago two enthusiasms clashed at a railway halt in England when a lady, who is an enthusiastic anti-smoker, told off a couple of young thugs who were enthusiastically smoking. One of them pushed her off the platform onto the railway track. While I hold no brief for the young Neanderthals who committed the assault, I have to wonder what a ‘No Smoking' sign was doing at an open air railway halt that could not, by any stretch, be described as an enclosed space. The work of another enthusiast I expect. Some of the environmental enthusiasts for biofuels to propel vehicles may be shocked at a report in the New Scientist magazine expressing serious doubts about the sustainability of such fuel and that it may in fact be a threat to the environment and wreck the livelihoods of poor third world farmers while it's about it.

Apparently trashing the rainforests to grow biofuels is one of those ideas that looked good on paper but not so good when you do the maths.

SHARPER THAN A SERPENT’S TOOTH

A man and his wife were at a high school reunion and he kept staring at an inebriated lady swigging her drink alone at a nearby table.

His wife asked, “Do you know her?” “Yes,” he sighed, “she's my old girlfriend. I understand she took to drinking after we split up and hasn't been sober since."

“My God,” said his wife, “Who would think a person could go on celebrating that long.”

(Courtesy of M Smyth)

IMPERVIOUS

All of us could take a lesson from the weather. It pays no attention to criticism.

(Courtesy of B Lockhart)

RUN ROBBIE RUN

When an eyewitness described a young thief as looking a bit like a younger version of the actor Robbie Coltrane, New Zealand police stuck Mr Coltrane's photograph on a wanted poster and appealed to the public to report seeing a teenage version of him.

A dangerous precedent I fear. Villains are notoriously vain and might take violent exception to having a picture of Danny deVito stuck on their wanted poster.

In this litigious age, I fear writs would fly and criminals would claim massive compensation for hurt feelings and loss of self-esteem at being portrayed on a poster by anyone less photogenic than a Harrison Ford or a Hugh Grant.

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