The Albanian angle on time travel, restaurant menus and men in socks

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The Independent Online
PROBABLY the last record produced by the late, great Ronnie Scott was entitled "Never Pat a Burning Dog". Whether he knew it or not, this title was an Albanian proverb.

As regular readers will know, I am a great fan of Albanian proverbs, and I am bringing you another selection today. Albanian proverbs are rather different from ours. Ours tend to be rather practical and bad-tempered ("It's no use crying over spilt milk", for instance, or "Too many cooks spoil the broth") while Albanian proverbs are not in the least grumpy or reproving. They are not in the least practical, either - they sound like great truths at first sight, but on closer inspection turn out to be totally meaningless. Or do they ... ?

Anyway, let's stop thinking and start talking. ( Which is actually also a genuine Albanian proverb. )

Nobody ever saw a rookery built on telegraph poles.

All hymns have happy endings.

The art of the toastmaster: To exercise absolute power while pretending to be everyone's servant.

Why are men expected to leave the seat down but women not expected to leave the seat up?

Never have your back to the sunset unless you are waiting for the sunrise.

It was a historic day when man first went to the Moon, but not so historic as the day when he decided to give up going there.

A country with fewer than twelve scenic spots would be well advised not to produce its own calendars.

There are still such things as nursery rhymes, but no such things as nurseries. Perhaps the class system is fading after all.

If dock leaves really could cure nettle stings, one of the big pharmaceutical companies would have bottled it for sale by now.

Three things to avoid: yesterday's Sunday paper, envelopes saying You May Have Won $3,000,000, and medicine in the bathroom which you don't remember buying.

In most parts of the world gunmen sometimes murder innocent children, but only in Arkansas do innocent children murder innocent children. What the world needs now is a place where innocent children murder gunmen.

Three things to avoid: politicians' memoirs, things that arrive in brown envelopes and restaurants with cobwebs on the menus.

National anthems are never written by the kings and queens they celebrate. They just sound as if they are.

A woman who likes the sight of a man dressed only in socks has a very happy love life ahead of her.

Nobody ever played at Wimbledon dressed in black.

However good a king is, he is still only an amateur.

When studying a menu, never choose the dish with the most ingredients, unless you are very hungry; never choose the dish that mother used to make; never choose your own favourite dish; never choose something completely unknown; and never choose the same dish as your partner chooses. From the few dishes you have not eliminated, you can now choose one in the serene knowledge that it will lead to mild disappointment.

Nobody loves a capital city except foreign visitors.

If you ever go back in time using a time machine, do not start your journey on the twentieth floor of a modern apartment block.

Three things to avoid: a chatty clergyman, a woman holding two drinks, and anything that falls out of a newspaper.

From mighty acorns tiny oak trees grow.

Pimples must get very embarrassed by some of the unsightly teenagers who are inflicted on them.

All these quotations taken from the Great Book of Albanian Proverbs, 1998 edition.