Fact, fantasy, and the colour of teapots

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The Independent Online
Golden Rules Of Life, part 267.

At one end of knowledge we have scientific laws. At the other end we have proverbs. But in between there are a vast number of rules governing human behaviour that have never been codified. This is part of our ongoing attempt to list them all.

"Never make tea in a brown teapot."

Many old-fashioned teapots are coloured dark brown inside and out, which is the worst possible colour for a teapot. Not only is it very hard to see if the pot is clean inside or not, it is also impossible to see how much tea you have put in, assuming of course that you use tea-leaves. Tea-leaves are brown. Once inside a brown pot they disappear. If you lose count of how many teaspoons you have already put in, it is no use glancing in the pot.

You will see nothing. Nor will you be able to see if you have already put a bit of boiling water inside to warm the pot, and forgotten to pour it out again. Water is not dark brown but it is transparent, which comes to the same thing.

Suggested solution: either switch to tea-bags or rig up a small bulb inside your brown teapot that can be switched on to illuminate the interior.

Corollary: never use tea-bags in a white teapot decorated internally with small rectangles.

"When you lose your car keys, the first place to look for them is in the car."

When car keys go missing, people rush madly all over the house, looking in pockets and handbags, whereas they are much more likely to find them in the door of the car. This is because we tend to go out to the car and unlock it to load it, or let people gradually get in, and leave the keys in the door till we need them. Then, when everyone is aboard, and the last person has made the last visit to the loo before the journey, you start patting your pockets for the keys forgetting you have left them in the door.

I myself have left car keys in the car door while parked in big cities for an hour or two and come back to find them (and the car) still miraculously there.

Suggested solution: fix a little shackle to the underneath of your car and leave your keys shackled out of sight to the bottom of your car, where they will always be available and never get lost. When parking in town, always leave your car with its left-hand side to the pavement, so that if you do leave your keys in the driver's door, at least they won't be visible from the pavement.

Corollary: if you are looking for a car to steal and don't know how to pick locks, just wander the streets looking for a car with keys stuck in the door.

"There is nothing unusual about a personalised car number plate. ALL car number plates are personalised."

Every car number has a meaning for someone, though usually not the owner. If your car has the number 451 SGA, for instance, it may not mean anything to you, but the odds are that someone in some town living at No 451 St George's Avenue would pay good money for a swap. The only problem is in finding them.

Suggested solution: if you wish to have a car number plate exactly the same as your business, it is next to impossible to hunt down the right car. But it is is very easy to change the name of your company to the same as your car, and call your company, for instance, 451 SGA.

Corollary: all car number plates are impersonal to everyone except the owner.

"There is no such thing as fantasy football, except on the football pitch."

Fantasy football, the name given to the football version of dreaming up a world cricket XI, is the worst possible name for it, because fantasy is based on a dream of the future, and the way fantasy football is scored is based on what has already happened. A spectator at a live match is fired entirely by thoughts of what may happen between now and the end of the match, by whether his team may equalise or pull ahead, or whatever. But fantasy football is rooted entirely in what actually happens.

Real football is based on a fantasy of what may happen. Newcastle United supporters, for instance, are currently playing football at a very high fantasy level, higher than anything that happens in fantasy football.

Suggested solution: sell Alan Shearer back to Blackburn Rovers.

Corollary: there is no such thing as fantasy snooker.