These tips used to be very popular in the 19th century. Indeed, I once came across the Collected Works of Lewis Carroll and when I delved into the non-Alice stuff, I found that even he was not above passing on hints. When you are writing a letter, he said, for heaven's sake do the envelope first. Anyone who is still writing letters when it's time to take them to the post will either not have left time to do the envelopes or will do them so quickly that they will be illegible, which comes to the same thing.
Sensible advice. I often wish I'd taken it. But I have added a corollary to that hint, Kington's Corollary, which goes like this: When sending a postcard home from abroad, stick the stamp on before you write the name and address of the recipient. Foreign stamps are often bigger than you expect, and will cover the first bit of the name and address.
Over the years I have devised a few more helpful hints of my own, and I am more than happy to bring them to you now.
1. We often get to the supermarket or shopping centre and find we have left our shopping list behind, don't we? But this need no longer be a disaster if we record the list on our telephone answering machine before we go out. Then, in case of emergency, we simply ring home and listen to our own dictation!
2. When we go to the doctor with our aches and pains, they have usually worn off by the time he can fit in an appointment. So when he says, "So, where does it hurt, or at least where did it hurt?", it's often quite hard to remember exactly where it did hurt. That's why it helps enormously to mark a pain with an indelible pencil ( a red cross might be the best idea ) while it is still there!
3. Isn't it annoying when you look through your family or holiday photos and don't recognise half the people in them - or remember which year it was! Here's the answer. From now on, when taking group snaps, get everyone to hold up placards with their name and the place and date on. That way, the caption will be in the photo !
4. No matter how well you think you recognise your car, we all get a moment of panic when we go into a large car park and realise we can't remember where we left it. Solution? Paint the top some very recognisable colour, or maybe with a Union Jack or pictorial motif. If yours is the only pink-DayGlo-roofed black car in the car park - no problem!
5. There always comes a time when the bottle of white wine we have opened is not quite cold enough, and it helps to put a few ice cubes in. Of course, this dilutes the wine - but not if the ice cubes are frozen white wine! That's why in my freezer I have an ice tray of white wine cubes ready. Of course, you might be in trouble if the warm wine is chardonnay, and the ice cubes are semillon - and that's why I have at least eight trays of iced white wine, all different grapes! This came in very useful the other day when we had completely run out of white wine, so what did I do? I simply melted a tray of sauvignon cubes!
6. Take your camera with you when you get your hair cut. Why? Well, when you go to the hairdresser, and he says "How do you want it?" and you say "Exactly the same as last time," and he says, "Oh - how did we do it last time?", just produce the photographs you took of yourself last time.
7. Arrange a private signal between you and your partner to indicate whether you are happy or not. Why? Simple. Everyone runs the risk of being kidnapped, whether in Chechnya, Romania or Colombia. After several months of custody, or even several years, it is normal for the captors to release a short video on which the hostage or hostages tell the outside world how healthy they are and how well they are being treated. If you are kidnapped, and allowed to make a video, you can say into the camera, "They are looking after us pretty well, all things considered," while making the secret sign which indicates that you are fed up. Of course, there's no reason why you shouldn't arrange other signs, such as, "Did you remember to cancel that bargain break weekend we booked in Chepstow?"
Do you and your family have little helpful hints like this? Send them to me for free and I'll make money by printing them here!