Belfast Telegraph

What you all should've done this year was...

By Billy Simpson

I confess that one of the tricks newspaper columnists use to appear wise and all-knowing is to avoid predictions. Predicting the future is like picking winning lottery numbers. With just about the same chance. Commentators are forever giving advice to the great and the good and the politicians but we tend to keep it to "What you should've done is ..."

Should've is advice after the fact, which really isn't advice at all. It's a critique. If someone falls in a hole the should've advice is that he shouldn't've. Now, before the fact neither the faller nor commentator would have been aware there was a hole there to fall into. But after the fact we have the advantage of 20-20 hindsight and feel free to shower the victim with a ton of should'ves.

If only this 'should've' advice was restricted to newspaper columns, we could live with it. Unfortunately wives are even more adept at it than newspapermen. And when we get it we have an uneasy feeling about how the people we gave it to feel about us. Not a happy picture.

Daph is very much a 'should've' advisor. Come upon a delay at a roadworks and it's: "You should've gone the main road." Buy a new household appliance and she says: "You should've waited for the sales." Take her out to a restaurant where the food disappoints and she'll say: "You should've booked at that nice Chinese place."

A woman is aware how much this belated, pointless advice annoys a man, but gives it to him anyway. Which reminds me of the lady who said: "My husband died at 79. He led a wonderful life and never suffered unless I wanted him to."


"Marriages are made in heaven. But so again are thunder and lightning." - (Courtesy of W Shephard)


Regular readers cannot be unaware that, agewise, a spring chicken and I are at opposite ends of the scale. Anyone who remembers schools when the desks still had inkwells and the study incentive scheme was a bamboo cane, is not a recent arrival. I clearly recall what music sounded like before rock 'n' roll, with singers like Guy Mitchell, Kay Starr, Johnnie Ray and Lita Rosa.

So, if any of you are sensitive about the passage of years, look away now. I am about to share with you one of the Christmas presents I was given by my thoughtful wife. It is a book called Wrinklies' Wit, compiled by a lady called Rosemarie Jarski. Some may sting a bit:

"One of the advantages of being 70 is that you only need four hours sleep. True, you need it four times a day, but still." - Denis Norden.

"I still have a full deck. I just shuffle slower." - Milton Berle.

"One good thing about being old and having a failing memory is that I can enjoy the endless repeats of programmes like Inspector Morse, Murder She Wrote, and Midsomer Murders because I can never remember whodunit." - Larry Simpkins.

"The phrase they use, 'in living memory' - as in 'the worst floods in living memory' or 'the coldest winter in living memory' - just how far back does it stretch because at my age my 'living memory' goes back to a week last Tuesday." - Alan Coren.

"You know you are getting old when you're dashing through Marks & Spencer, spot a pair of Dr Scholl's sandals, stop, and think, hmm they look comfy." - Victoria Wood.

If you can identify with two or more of the above, welcome to the club.


Tried reading those Boxing Day end-of-year quizzes in the newspapers and realised I had no idea who most of the celebrities the questions were about were. Not watching reality TV shows tends to narrow your range of information. I did however enjoy most of the Cartoons of the Year by Matt in the Daily Telegraph. Though I confess I did feel a slight stab of recognition over the one he published at the time the Government announced an annual health MOT for pensioners.

It showed an old man sitting on the edge of a table while a doctor inspected his chart and enquired: "Is your body actually two write-offs welded together?"

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph