Miles Kington: Why settle for a word of advice when you can have two?

The only safe course is abject repentance. Call it 'the worst moment of my life', and then ask your family's forgiveness
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The Independent Online

Today we have an advice column with a difference. For every problem, I am supplying two different solutions, each the opposite of the other.

This is based on the principle that, in life, we only take the advice we really want to hear. So if we are offered two opposite options, there must be one which is suited to our needs, or at least which will make us look good. Or, at the very least, sound more interesting than we really are.

Do you get the idea? Good! Here we go, then.

Is it a good idea to cull grey squirrels?

A. Yes. Grey squirrels are a nasty American import, destructive, rat-like and unwelcome. The sooner they're eliminated the better.

B. No. Grey squirrels are a shining example of Darwinian survival of the fittest. The reason they endanger the red squirrel is that the red squirrel is a feeble, inefficient animal which can't stand up for itself. It would be much better to cull the red squirrel as a species which is not paying its way. The grey squirrel is a success story. The red squirrel, like the panda and the polar bear, is a failure and a drain on public money, and should be discarded.

I was always taught to say "bored with" but now everyone seems to say "bored of". Which is correct?

A. Never on any account say "bored of". It is one of those lazy formations which mark out the lazy thinker. An even worse example of this is saying (and writing) "I would of" instead of "I would have". It is slovenly English by any standard, and it is up to those of us with standards to fight against it.

B. There is no logical reason why we should say "bored with" rather than "bored of". If that is the way the language goes, it is wasted effort to fight against the tide. After all, when Dr Johnson said, "When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life", he did not say, "When a man is tired with London, he is tired with life", did he? If "tired of" is all right, why not "bored of"?

When Ron Davies was caught misbehaving on Clapham Common, he said it was a "moment of madness". Mark Oaten, however, described his escapade with a male prostitute much more prosaically as "an error of judgement". If publicly disgraced, how should one describe one's misdemeanour?

A. The only safe way is to be abjectly repentant and call it "the worst moment of my life", then promise you'll never do it again and ask your family's forgiveness.

B. The only honest way is to go on the offensive and say, "It was the greatest fun I've ever had and I'd do it all over again tomorrow if I got the chance".

With Sven Goran Eriksson in mind, is it really so very difficult to tell the difference between a 'News of the World' reporter and an Arab sheikh?

A. Ja.

B. Nej men ...

What was all that about?

A. Just a bit of Swedish, to impress you. Yes, it is very difficult, especially if you have grown up in Sweden where there are no rich Arabs or News of the World reporters. It was a moment of madness. He was approached by a man he thought was a millionaire. Carried away by the delirium of the moment, uttered some intimate home truths. He is very sorry. It will never happen again. He has asked the FA's and the players' forgiveness.

B. Sven has a very mercurial Swedish sense of humour and was pulling everyone's leg.

Will England win the World Cup this year?

A. This is the best opportunity we have had since 1966. We have a settled team, great players, pride and a great record. Since we brushed aside Argentina last year, everyone has come to fear the England side. It is hard to see who can stop us.

B. Not a chance. We will, as usual, go out on penalties to an inferior side, probably Germany again, who will almost certainly go on to win. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth, except in Wales and Scotland, where people will buy each other rounds and celebrate. English supporters should enjoy the present period of confident anticipation to the maximum. This is as good as it is going to get.

If you would like a problem solved two quite different ways, just write in. Alternatively, don't bother.

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