Miles Kington: Never practice jazz clarinet while sober

If he took more than a pint of beer during the evening, he would start making mistakes. What was unfair was that it didn't seem to affect the other fellows
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The Independent Online

Today, three little stories for our times.

1. Once upon a time the Devil came to a man called Nat and offered him all earthly powers in return for his soul when he died.

"All powers natural and unnatural?" said Nat.

"Of course," said the Devil.

"My soul to be delivered to you on my death, now matter how long or short the intervening period?"

"Yes," said the Devil.

"Done," said Nat. "First of all, I would like to claim eternal youth and immortality."

"Can't do that," said the Devil. "Then I would never get your soul."

"You promised me all powers," said Nat. "You can't back out now."

"Yes, but ..." said the Devil. "What line of business are you in anyway?"

"The insurance business," said Nat. "There's nothing you can teach me about small print."

"I would like to rethink the deal," said the Devil.

"Too late for that," said Nat. "You have made the offer verbally. That makes it legally binding."

Moral: Being all-powerful doesn't necessarily make you clever.

2. Once upon a time there was a man called Phil who played the clarinet in a traditional jazz band. The only thing that hampered his enjoyment of the music was that if he took more than a pint of beer or a large glass of wine during the evening, it would affect his fingers, and he would start making mistakes. What made it unfair was that when the other fellows in the band had their two or three pints, it didn't seem to have an adverse effect on their playing at all.

"Doesn't the drink affect you?" he asked the trumpeter one day.

"It relaxes me," said the trumpeter. "Anyway, I only use three fingers."

"You're lucky," said Phil. "It ties my all fingers in a knot."

"Then you should practise more," said the trumpeter.

"I practise a lot already," said Phil.

"Yes, but only when you're sober," said the trumpeter. "You should practise more with beer inside you."

Phil could not help admitting that what he said made sense. So he started drinking during his practice sessions, and although at first it led to a lot of misfingering, fairly soon he taught himself to take beer on board and play skilfully at the same time. This meant that when he went out to play with the band he could knock back a few pints as soon as he got there and play just as well as ever.

One day he noticed several police cars prowling the streets on the way to the pub where they played, and decided that just for once he would stay sober as a judge all evening, just like in the old days.

Unfortunately, he played the worst he had ever played.

What had happened was that while he had taught himself to play while under the influence, he had meanwhile lost the knack of playing while sober.

Moral: Don't drink and jive.

3. Once upon a time the head of a retirement residential care home decided to have a Christmas party for the residents and started looking through a list of the available local acts to see if any would be suitable for a festive gathering of the elderly.

He very much liked the sound of a group called "The Grumpy Old Chippendales".

So he rang their number.

"What is the act all about?" he asked.

"We aim to combine the bloody-mindedness of the grumpy old men tradition with the sexual daring of the Chippendales," said the man.

"So you are all quite old?"


"And you come on stage?"


"And take your clothes off?"


"Why not?"

"Because we think it's bloody stupid and we bloody well can't be bothered," said the man and rang off.

Moral: Ask a sensible question and you'll still get a silly answer.