Sunday, December 31, 2006

Better a flawed diamond than a perfect pebble

Better a flawed diamond than a perfect pebble

Financially this is perfectly obvious as even a diamond with a fault will be worth much more than a flawless piece of rounded stone, but taking it as a metaphor we can consider human personalities.

The ordinary person who abides by the rules and gives offence to no one is a worthy citizen but will probably be regarded as predictably boring. The rough diamond type who rubs some people up the wrong way and might not be too fussy about rule breaking seems exciting to most people. The heroes in most novels and stories are those who take risks and bend the rules to their advantage - the maverick cop is a recurring staple of TV.

But you bend the rules at your own peril - in real life the dodger usually gets caught eventually.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

More are slain by suppers than the sword.

More are slain by suppers than the sword.

Feasting in bygone days was an unselfconscious affair: people would eat till they literally burst. Henry the VIII died of a surfeit of lampreys as no one would dare to tell a king to stop being so silly

Today we have a constant stream of media information warning against overeating and what to, and what not to, eat and drink. Yet despite this cornucopia of good advice people are more obese than ever. How many people do you know who are digging their own graves with a spoon?

Death by a sword stroke was a reality for our ancestors so perhaps they liked to "eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow you might die" but as most healthy people can now expect to reach 90 it makes sense to pace yourself and avoid binges - enough is better than a feast.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

You must spoil before you spin well.

You must spoil before you spin well.

A few generations ago most of our maternal ancestors would have spun wool as part of their contribution to the family budget. This is where the term spinster came from as unmarried girls would be proving their worth to their parents and siblings with the very useful commodity of wool yarn.

The value of wool revenue in England was such that the Chancellor of the Exchequer sat on the woolsack. Our ancestors would have learned that the process of acquiring skill at spinning meant making many mistakes before proficiency was achieved. The basic principle of the saying applies to most human activities then and now.

Do not be afraid of making mistakes when tackling a new project as this is a part of the learning experience. "The man who never made a mistake never made anything".

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Keep no more cats than will catch mice.

Keep no more cats than will catch mice.

Being over-equipped for a task can be a waste of resources. The farmer who has too many cats will have a barn free of mice but a big bill for cat food.

How many of us have too many tools for the tasks we must perform? Too much time spent on education detracts from the time spent applying what we have learned and earning the fruits of labour. A businessman who over-invests will ended up with assets that produce no meaningful returns. A healthy athlete should be lean and fit, carrying no excessive fat or muscle that is not needed to reach optimum efficiency for their chosen sport.

Acquire the assets or tools you need and invest your time becoming proficient in their use and you will reap the rewards.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

A Diligent Scholar and the Master is Paid.

A Diligent Scholar and the Master is Paid.

This probably gives an idealised image of the schoolmaster of a bygone age, but proverbs should contain eternal truths, so what are they?

Job satisfaction is an important part of any occupation and the fruits of a schoolmaster's labours is a well educated, well rounded, young person equipped for life and able to be a worthy part of their community. These are noble ideals but no doubt many young people reading them will snort in disgust - old so and so only does it for the money!

Exceptional teachers are by definition exceptions but most will seek to help their students and gain satisfaction when they get a positive response. Teachers and pupils must work to learn and learn to work. Success will then come to all.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

A lean dog shames its master

A lean dog shames its master

If your dog's bones are showing it is likely that you are either cruel and negligent, ignorant as to the proper foodstuffs or very poor. Whatever, you really need to do something about it.

This old Japanese proverb tells us a lot more than that though. Apply the basic ideas to any walk of life or situation and it is teaching us the importance of looking after your responsibilities properly. If you neglect your children's education and it shows in bad behaviour it is to your shame. If your work is skimped and shows a lack of attention and care it reflects on you.

Do right by those you have a duty to or it will soon become apparent to your peers that you are not worthy of respect.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Lend your money to a city but never to a man.

Lend your money to a city but never to a man.

This is an old Japanese proverb that echoes the sentiments of "Don't put all your eggs in the one basket". Spreading your risk to allow for the fact that disasters and difficulties will always hit some members of a group is generally regarded as a good thing to do. Insurance works on the same principles of shared risk. Unit trusts were invented with the same idea - spread the risk of calamities amongst enough people, and for a small sum you get the opportunity of recompense when a loss occurs

On the other hand, if you are willing to take a risk and back a talented individual you might get spectacular gains that do not have to be shared with others. But if it goes wrong you might very well lose everything. High reward usually involves high risk.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The good seaman is known in bad weather

The good seaman is known in bad weather

In the romantic days of the old sailing ships when the tea clippers raced for home through mountainous and stormy seas this would have been a very powerful image for a universal truth: The true worth of a person is only really apparent when difficult times stretches them to the limit.

On the eleventh of the eleventh 1918 the Great War came to an end. It had killed and maimed millions of people but had also revealed the heroism and endurance of special individuals who had risen above the fear and carnage to perform heroic deeds of courage and valour. Many of them went unrecognised and unsung but their comrades knew and praised them.

Hard times bring forth heroes and heroes end hard times.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Every man is a fool or a physician after thirty.

Every man is a fool or a physician after thirty.

In youth we take good health for granted and often test our strength and stamina to their limits. People trek to the north pole, cross deserts, climb mountains and endure all manner of deprivations in pursuit of adventure or glory. We assume that the body will recover after a little rest and nourishment.

Perhaps today we might think that the age here should be forty, and in the near future fifty, but there comes a point in all lives when we realise that we are not invulnerable and really ought to look after ourselves a bit better. This is when we start reading the adverts on how to stay young and fit. Or we continue our mad ways and drink, smoke and overindulge in all lives' excesses and rush thoughtlessly to an early grave.

Who really regrets the wild times and excesses of youth? If we lived in cotton wool all our days, as a doting mother might wish, our lives would be insufferably boring; but those who have reached the age of aches and pains sometimes wish they had been a little bit more sensible when young, perhaps striven a little less for unimportant goals, and kept more in reserve for an enjoyable seniority. Basically you make your choices and accept the consequences. After all, science might find a cure for everything - one day!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

A good archer is known by his aim, not his arrows.

A good archer is known by his aim, not his arrows.

You can buy all the fancy equipment in the world but if you can't make use of it to get a result it is money down the drain.

Have you ever known a would-be artist who spends a fortune on brushes and paint and goes on course after course but still churns out rubbish? Spending money on equipment that you are just not talented to use well won't do you much good. If you have potential to develop a skill then work on it and find the training and tools that you really need. Flashy expensive stuff might impress the impressionable but anyone with sense will see through the glitz to the real or lack of talent that you have.

There is no point in flogging dead horses or buying them fancy saddles for that matter. If you haven't got what it takes find another activity where you might make the grade. Get your life on target.

Learn to aim your "arrows" here:

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Better an ass that carries than a horse that throws.

Better an ass that carries than a horse that throws.

Who would not wish to own a fine thoroughbred stallion full of fire and haughty pride? But if it always threw its rider you would not go very far. In life people are often attracted to the glamorous and showy - be it cars, careers or companions; but how many live to rue the day?

If we get above ourselves and desire the impractical we are often set for a tumble. The ass is an ungainly, ugly beast of burden but will patiently plod along in all sorts of adverse conditions getting you and your load to the desired destination. Similarly, if you are prepared to consider the practical and available goods in your life you might be better off in the long run rather than choosing the high maintenance, showy, expensive alternatives. "Cut you coat according to your cloth" is another way of putting it.

Darts with an Old West theme:

Sunday, October 15, 2006

If you have two loaves, sell one and buy a lily.

If you have two loaves, sell one and buy a lily.

We struggle to earn our daily bread, sometimes muttering to ourselves that "Half a loaf is better than none" when things are not too good. We seek inspiration to carry on when everything seems uphill from sayings such as: "Where there's a will there's a way" or "Rome wasn't built in a day". Through history humans have had a hard job getting enough of the necessities of life.

Today the pursuit of material possessions has become an obsession for many and they have achieved a lot more than two loaves. Indeed, obesity is fast becoming a major problem. This proverb is telling us that we need more than goods that satisfy the physical side - we need to find happiness in beauty. You can't eat a lily but when you are adequately fed search not for further consumable pleasures but seek satisfaction for the mind and soul.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

It is too late to cast anchor when the ship is on the rocks.

It is too late to cast anchor when the ship is on the rocks.

In other words take action before a disaster, not after. This is a recurring theme in proverbs and wise sayings - the importance of remaining alert and taking precautions to avoid the unpleasant consequences. "It is too late to lock the stable door when the horse has bolted" is much the same idea.

"A stitch in time saves nine". "Be prepared". "Have not your lamp to light before the dark". All tell us of the importance of foresight and preparation - know what you have to do and be sure and see that it is done because "There is no point in crying over spilt milk".

"There is no time like the present" - so no more excuses - do it now!

Improve your english

Sunday, October 01, 2006

If you run after two hares you will catch neither

If you run after two hares you will catch neither.

Most readers of this blog will never have chased hares and probably have no desire to do so, but probably all of us have pursued more than one goal at the same time and come unstuck through lack of time and resources.

Focussing on the most important objective and making secondary forfeits is often the road to success. Avoiding unnecessary distractions means greater economy of energy and less time wandering off the true path. Just make sure that the "hare" you are chasing is really the one you want and don't waste your life pursuing a goal that eventually turns out to be not worth the effort.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

He will burn his house to warm his hands

He will burn his house to warm his hands.

Very short term thinking might induce a lunatic to do this but how many times does the ordinary person do the equivalent through a lack of understanding?

How many politicians make it impossible for themselves to govern well by betraying their principles in order to win an election? How many men risk a good marriage in order to have a brief, unimportant fling? How many young men risk their lives in the pursuit of a passing thrill of daredevil excitement and end up dead or crippled?

This saying warns us of the folly of a short-sighted action that will gain a little advantage but cost greatly in the long run. We are being urged to show some forethought and judgement in our actions lest they cost us dear

Sunday, September 17, 2006

He that hath some land must have some labour.

He that hath some land must have some labour.

Most of us are descended from people who worked on the land a few generations ago. Some would have been farm owners and some labourers and they had to co-operate to produce the harvest so that everyone could eat. A small farm would be worked by a single family. After the industrial revolution vast numbers of people were forced off the land and had to find employment elsewhere.

A generalisation from land and labour leads us to the idea of capitalists and workers and how to generate income. Capital takes many forms: money, land, machinery, buildings and even mental capital i.e. a good education or skill. But the thing all of these have in common is that they need to be used.

This saying is reminding us of the need to put in the effort and use our assets to best advantage.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

When fortune smiles, take advantage

When fortune smiles, take advantage.

Have you ever fished a spot many times and some days you catch nothing others your first cast is rewarded, and you soon have as big a catch as you wished for?

Chance or good luck plays its part in human endeavours - when the time is right it is easy to succeed. As Shakespeare said, "Their is a tide in the affairs of man which taken at the flood leads on to fortune". Being in the right place at the right time is often the key to success.

However, a fisherman without the right tackle and some experience in using it plus the accumulated wisdom of years is unlikely to catch any supper - even if the conditions are fortuitously ideal.

So it is important to be prepared and wait for the right moments to come along - when fortune smiles, be ready.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

A dead bee makes no honey.

A dead bee makes no honey.
Well, that is pretty obvious so just what is this saying trying to tell us? Bees are renowned for their industriousness, and people who work hard are often described as being "busy as a bee". Hard workers are generally praised, and very popular with their bosses, but is it an entirely good thing? Japanese people are regarded as some of the hardest-working people on the planet but in their vocabulary we find a word - Karoshi - meaning to work yourself to death. Dead workers, like dead bees, are not productive. So, perhaps this saying is telling us not to overdo things. "Moderation in all things", says another proverb and "A little goes a long way" is another. The conclusion would appear to be that work is good but should not be excessive - too much honey is probably bad for you anyway!

Bees are good in the garden

Sunday, August 27, 2006

In much corn there is some cockle.

In much corn there is some cockle.
The corn cockle is a weed identified with the Biblical tares. No doubt our agricultural ancestors would have been satisfied with this statement at face value being happy to see a good yield even if the crop had a drop of weeds among it. They might then have gone on to observe that persons of outstanding ability often had flaws, faults and follies that went with their greatness and realise the generality of what they had learned in the cornfield. It is rarely in life that anything is all good there is usually a downside that you have to put up with in order to get the benefits. In a modern field the weeds might have been suppressed by weed killer, but we then have to worry about pesticides in our food. It seems that perfection doesn't exist this side of Heaven.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Labour as long lived; pray as ever dying.

Labour as long lived; pray as ever dying.
If you take this saying to heart you will always give of your best, knowing that effort today means reward tomorrow. People coming close to retirement might lose heart and wonder why they bother but this is likely to lead to depression and carelessness. Thus their standing with colleagues will diminish and much of the good work done in earlier years will be forgotten, and who knows, perhaps someone had them earmarked for an exciting opportunity in their leisured future.

For those who are religious this saying is probably easier to follow than those who see nothing beyond the grave. But we should all learn to think of the importance of the survival of the family, the tribe, the country, and the human race, and contribute to it as long as we can, knowing our work will be carried on by someone else. This way your declining years will still have hope and meaning.

"Pray as ever dying" suggest the importance of being prepared for the eventuality of demise and putting your affairs in order. Follow this saying and you will fade away gradually and without remorse, like a glorious sunset.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Tie the sack before it fills.

Anyone bagging corn or flour would immediately understand the wisdom of this saying as it is necessary to have enough slack to gather together to allow the cord to get a grip. A greedy person who filled his sack to the top would be unable to close it, and spillage and spoilage would leave them with a lot less. Our farming ancestors would smile knowingly on hearing this observation.

So, what wisdom has it to teach us today? In general we are being told of the folly of trying to grab too much and being left with less. An example from the world of the stock market is the advice to always leave something for someone else - meaning sell out before the market tops - that way you are guaranteed a buyer.

People who build up a business are advised to have an exit strategy and not to wait till they are about to retire and then desperately seek to sell, and find it is a bad time as demand is currently low.

It could also suggest the idea of stopping eating before you are full and therefore avoiding a bad stomach and the dangers of obesity.

This all boils down to giving yourself time and opportunity to bring any activity to a sensible close, and not be caught short.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

In excess, nectar poisons.

You can have too much of a good thing is the lesson here. Most children learn the hard way that eating too much makes them sick. Just being told by their elders is never enough - it is the actual experience that teaches the best lesson.

The above applies to most if not all areas of human life. How often do we read of the rich person who has inherited a vast fortune, and has a totally miserable life? The excess of wealth becomes a burden to them and they are not constrained by lack of money in indulging their follies in the way the rest of us are.

Tell people that something is good for them and they will overdose on it. Exercise freaks will run till they develop fractures or suffer heart attacks. The counsel to practice moderation in all things is an excellent one. Addictions are numerous - we have alcoholics, gambling addicts, drug addicts, sexaholics - anything pleasurable seems to lead some individuals to excess. This should act as a warning to everyone else. Enough is as good as a feast.

For over-indulging computers:

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Men given to tears are good.

There has been a traditional image of western men as macho "John Wayne type" characters swaggering dry-eyed through life with weeping frail women clinging to their strong arm. In fact pioneering women in the Old West were probably as tough as old boots with little time for copious weeping.

So, is crying for men sissy, or just a natural phenomenon that has its place and purpose? As little children, boys cry as much as girls in order to alert their parents to hunger, discomfort and pain, but as we grow we begin to get criticism. "Don't be a cry baby". "Big boys don't cry". We come to regard ceasing to cry as being grown up. But is it a good thing to stifle tears? Medical opinion would appear to be that over-repressing emotions can lead to stress and heart attacks.

It seems that it really all depends on the type of crying - babyish whining in a grown man or woman is unbecoming, but real emotion expressed in a few tears communicates genuineness. Most adult males are moved to tears by severe emotional onslaughts such as the death of a close friend or relative, and, generally speaking, women are probably more given to expressing their feelings with tears.

Does this mean that a man who cries more easily than average is effeminate, or even cowardly, as some might imply? Well, this blog was inspired by Sir Winston Chuchill and he was regularly in tears. Now, who would say that someone who was involved in most of the wars of his century, took part in cavalry charges, rescued wounded soldiers from the Boers, escaped single-handedly from prisoner-of-war camp, and finally became the great hero who defeated the Nazis, was effeminate?

Strong men can have strong emotions and a few tears show how genuine they are. The important thing is that tears should not stop a man from doing his duty. Who cares if a hero's eyes are full of tears as he saves the day - better a wet-eyed saviour than a dry-eyed skulk.

Help with writing:

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Love makes passion, but money makes marriage

This old French proverb" L'amour fait rage, mait l'argent fait marriage" could be the gold digger's favorite saying but it makes a lot of sense. In days gone by in the western world (as in some eastern countries today) marriages were contracted for mutual advantage of the families involved - love came by chance if at all.
Some people say that all the secret passages in old castles were not so much for escaping your enemies but were mostly used by those in lovelorn marriages slipping off to their lovers. Today most people fall in love and worry about the practical problems later. Marriage for many is a non starter.
If we were perfectly balanced people our reasoning half would insist on putting the practical foundations of life in order first i.e. job, steady income, place to live, before allowing emotions any freedom, but most people want love to spring into their lives uninvited and to carry them off in a torrent of passion with fate left to take care of the nitty-gritty. Nice work if you can get it!

Love story:

Sunday, July 16, 2006

You may gape long enough ere a bird fall into your mouth.

Looking and wishing will not get you very far if you really want something you need to put in the effort to get it. Too many people spend their lives waiting for something good to happen and end up disappointed. So how do you get going? Shakespeare said "There is a tide in the affairs of man, which, taken at the flood, leads on to success". Getting you timing right is essential for most enterprises: "Sow when dry, set when wet" our agricultural ancestors would murmur, or note: "The early bird gets the worm". Lessons from nature are all around us and from time to time someone crystallises them into a saying or proverb. Stay alert, be active seek wisdom and one day you might discover your own proverb, to be passed down the generations. Standing gaping will not get you very far.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Knowledge is a treasure, but practise is the key to it.

To anyone struggling to play a musical instrument this is painfully obvious. The treasure houses of knowledge are usually very well fortified and to gain entry and enjoy the good things within takes time and regular effort. People are not born wise, "you cannot put a young head on old shoulders". Nowadays with the Internet knowledge is everywhere and available at the click of a button but in order for it to be of any use it is necessary to be selective and to work regularly at absorbing facts and methods into the mind. Only then will you have the key to unlock the treasure chests of knowledge and gain the many benefits of attainment.

Know the USA

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Those who make best use of their time have none to spare.

A lack of time seems to be a modern complaint - we have romantic images of a bucolic past when everyone had loads of time to chat with neighbors, potter in the garden and leisurely chew on a straw. This old saying appears to suggest otherwise - for busy people lack of time has always been a problem.

Another saying "Work expands to fill the time allocated to it" is supposed to be a practise of the lazy who will dawdled and delay until the last minute and then complain of a lack of time. So there appears to be two types of people who are short of time - the over workers and the under workers - but how does the ordinary individual with a balanced approach to life cope with time management? Do proverbs give us any guidance?

Well how about: "Don't bite off more than you can chew"? Keep your workload to sensible levels and learn your limits and try to work within them.

"Don't put off till tomorrow what you can do today". Work efficiently and don't let small tasks accumulate. Try to deal with them as they come up if possible - visiting the same task twice is a waste of time.
"Lost time is never found again" This we all know but is a reminder to use time effectively.

"Where there's a will there's a way" Many an individual has pitted their wits against a problem when all others have passed it by and eventually they have succeeded but the cost in time is usually great. Be determined but be wary of pigheadedness leading you to horrendous time costs. Even if you do succeed will it be worth it?

"Time and tide wait for no man" This being so it is essential to be like the Boy Scout and "be prepared" so that your precious time is used as it should. Having to go back to base because you have forgotten a tool etc. wastes everybody's time.

"Time brings roses" Most worthwhile things take time and we need to cultivate patience. Waiting for something can be agonising, especially for the young who are often wishing their time away, but whilst waiting for a main event try filling in the gaps with something useful. Having an improving book to hand helps to use spare moments productively as they come up.

Time destroys all things" As we grow older we realise that our time is limited and we often wish we had spent it more wisely - there seemed so much of it when we were young. Change is constant and we see the things that were an important part of our life fade and disappear. Time never stands still and where there is time there is change.

"Time is money" This saying is a rod for our backs. Self-employed people soon realise the truth of this and it can drive some people to wreck their health whilst it spurs others to wealth achievement and fulfilment. Don't let it become your master.

Time is the great teacher. How often do we wish we had known something when we were young? Some lessons are painfully learned over a period of time and the realisation that, if only you had had the right instruction much of the pain could have been avoided, can be quite bitter.

"Time is the rider that breaks in youth". This is much the same as above - with the passing of time we experience and learn often from "the school of hard knocks".

"Time tries truth" Things we believed in passionately in youth can seem less certain with age and experience. Mass movements that enthral a generation can seem clearly flawed to the next one. With the passing of time and new perspectives apparent certainties crumble to dust and blow away on the wind of knowledge and understanding.

"Time passes, sayings endure" This is surely one to end on. Use your time wisely - you only get one allocation!

Time saver:

Sunday, June 25, 2006

He that counts all costs will never put plough to earth.

Our agricultural forebears would have known the literal wisdom of this observation. Today it might apply to starting a business where looking at all the things that might go wrong would put you off. At some point it is necessary for most undertakings to assess the risk and be prepared to accept that though there is a reasonable chance of success a possibility of failure exists. No enterprise is a sure thing we must have a little courage and accept the costs and problems that come along.

Due to time pressures this blog will change from daily to weekly.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

None so well shod but they may slip.

You can take all the right precautions but the unexpected can take you by surprise. This sounds like an advert for insurance and it is an awareness of unlikely accidents that presumably motivates most people to consider a suitable policy. In the modern world where we rely on our computers this leads us to think of the importance of keeping good backup. Expecting the unexpected constantly could drive a person to a nervous breakdown so common sense is required. The worst rarely happens but some sensible precautions can give peace of mind.

Friday, June 23, 2006

A whet is no let

This is a saying our agricultural ancestors would have understood. Stopping to sharpen the scythe with a whetstone increases cutting efficiency and boosts production. How many times in our lives do we struggle on with the equivalent of a blunt scythe? An old computer with a clogged hard drive or out of date software reduces our production in the same way great granddad might have hashed away with his blunt scythe. Taking the time to review your working efficiency and improve it could mean an overall gain. So don't swear at your tools - find the equivalent of a whetstone and make them sharp again.

A whetstone?

Thursday, June 22, 2006

A beard well lathered is half shaved.

Literally this is perfectly true as anyone who has had to shave without soap will testify. Here we are being counselled to follow the Boy Scout motto of "Be Prepared" The importance of good preparation in all walks of life cannot be over stressed. If you acquire the correct information, clean and sharpen your tools, have all the materials you need to hand, and work to a methodical, well thought out plan, any job should go smoothly and efficiently. This applies in the practical world as well as the realms of intellectual endeavour.

Record keeping helps efficiency:

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The dog gnaws the bone because he cannot swallow it.

A first sight this seems so obvious that it is hardly worth stating but as usual with proverbs there is more to it than meets the eye. When a job, task or problem is too great the thing to do is to break it down to its component parts and deal with them bit by bit. Another saying echoing this idea is "Don't bite off more than you can chew". If you have ever been confronted by a mountain of work and left it alone because it seemed so overwhelming you need to learn to "gnaw" at it. Each part is probably fairly easy and with a regular systematic approach the job will soon be done. As the Scots say: "Many a mickle maks a muckle."

Keep track of your bones?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

He that is too secure is not .

This is a warning against complacency. If everything in your life is going along quite happily you forget that there are many dangers and difficulties lurking in the background. A spell of excellent weather leads to an assumption that the next day will be the same as the last. If your old reliable car has never given any trouble you get to assuming that it will always start. If there has never been a burglary in your neighbourhood you stop thinking of the possibility. It is therefore a good practice to give some thought to things going wrong and be prepared for the eventuality. It doesn't do to go over the top and worry about every little thing - sensible precautions looked over regularly will bring peace of mind and more real security.

Looking after your PC:

Monday, June 19, 2006

A friend's frown is better than a fool's smile.

When someone smiles we take it as a sign that they are well inclined towards us and this usually makes us happy. Frowns have the opposite effect. Smiles are encouraging, frowns discouraging. A fool's smile might therefore encourage us to do the wrong thing and a friend's frown might discourage us from the wrong thing. Recognising life's cues and signals and judging them correctly helps to sort the successful from the failures. Good advice, even if it isn't what you want to hear, is better than bad advice or encouragement which is going to lead you astray. So when your friends frown pay heed or the fools will end up laughing at you.

Designed to make you smile:

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The fool wanders far, the wise man travels.

To get where you want to be it is a good thing to know the route and to plan your journey. Aimless wandering might enable you to stumble across a suitable place but it is a highly inefficient method. Journeys are not just travel across the globe, we make many journeys in life: from birth to death, from ignorance to wisdom, from poverty to riches, from loneliness to love. This proverb tells us to be methodical, find a "map" and seek good counsel before embarking on any of life's journeys. Having noted all that, a life without a little aimless wandering would perhaps be a bit boring; after all some of the best discoveries in science and elsewhere have come by chance but the prepared mind can spot their value and take action.

For garden jouneys:

Saturday, June 17, 2006

He that stumbles and falls not, mends his pace.

This is all about learning from experience. Most young people who have passed their driving test will have a scary moment - perhaps cornering too quickly and losing control. This, at worst, can result in a fatality but hopefully it is just sufficient to give them a good fright from which they learn a very real lesson. Humans, as well as other animals, tend to learn from actual examples - does anyone ever understand that fire burns just by being told? Metaphorically people can "burn their fingers" in many ways: rash stock market investment, dangerous sports, failed business ventures, soured relationships - an endless list. The important thing is to learn from experience and grow wise before a real disaster gets you. If you stumble, mend your pace!

Improve the pace of your PC

Friday, June 16, 2006

Light your lamp before it becomes dark.

This Arabic proverb echoes the basic idea of many other sayings that urge us to be prepared for eventualities. Try fumbling around in the dark for your flint and tinder and you would soon understand the wisdom of this. Good planning and preparation are essential for a well ordered life. "Have not your cloak to make when it starts to rain" covers the same idea. Like all proverbs it has other depths of meaning. On a spiritual plane we are being cautioned to prepare ourselves for death whilst the light of life still burns. On a practical level this might lead you to make a will so that your wishes are followed rather than leaving a mess for expensive lawyers to sort out. "A little forethought saves much afterthought" so make a habit of lighting your lamp before it is dark.

"You are nearest to God in a garden"

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Fall not out with a friend for a trifle.

Have you ever fallen out with a friend over a silly argument and found yourself in a vicious spiral? When love turns to hate it can be particularly venomous. If you see that this is about to happen it might pay you to consider apologising if you were at fault and even if you were not it could be better to make a sacrifice and accept the blame in order to protect a friendship that is worth preserving - that is a heroic thing to do. The power of Christianity and other great religions often comes from an innocent taking the sins of others on their shoulders - that is true courage and will eventually win respect.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A disease known is half cured.

If you know what you are dealing with you can then spend energy on hunting the solution. This applies in medicine but also in other walks of life where problems must be solved. In an exam many students who know the answer cannot give it because they don't understand the question. Focus your attention on getting a clear grasp of any problem that confronts you and with that squarely in mind you will begin to see where to look for answers.

Cure your PC problems:

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The lower millstone grinds as well as the upper.

The top dog in any organisation might think that he is the most important person there but without his subordinates he would be impotent. This saying is reminding us that most successes are made from team work and all levels of an group contribute to the overall achievement. It encourages mutual respect for the participants of any combination of peoples for a common goal. So don't grind your workers underfoot learn to grind together and there will be plenty of flour for all.

See how your PC grinds:

Monday, June 12, 2006

The eye is bigger than the belly

No, this is not describing a circus freak show from a bygone age, we deal here with the human instinct to overindulge. Everyone learns in infancy that cramming in too much food results in sickness and pain but do we learn? Usually for a while we are wiser but the temptation slips back in as the memory of painful spewing retreats. Over indulgence is not confined just to food - humans, given the chance, will drink to excess, gamble to ruination or accumulate wealth to obscene unnecessary lengths. The problem is we don't know when to stop. The acquisition instinct seems to be powered by our imaginations and sense of insecurity. Self-discipline is a desirable trait to develop but most people seem to need pain or fear to remind them of the folly of overdoing it. "A little of what you fancy does you good" but don't let your eye get bigger than your belly.

For an overindulgent PC

Sunday, June 11, 2006

To spare at the spigot and let run at the bung.

Carefully measuring off wine at the tap whilst it is has an unchecked, leaky bung is an obvious folly but how many times do we do the equivalent without noticing? Are you penny wise and pound foolish? Do you fuss a lot with minor detail and ignore major problems lurking in the background? The general who prides himself on the appearance of his troops but neglects to train them in their core skills will lose the battle. The businessman who constantly counts his money but neglects to get customers in and sell will go bust. There is a need to keep things in proportion and take an overall view of your activities. Are you focussing on the right areas? Are their growing problems developing in the background? By all means be spare at the spigot but watch out for that leaking bung!

Are you leaking PC power?

Saturday, June 10, 2006

The last drop makes the cup run over.

This is a variant on "The last straw breaks the camel's back" and reminds us that everyone has a breaking point. Some people boil over at the least irritant and some patiently put up with hassle upon hassle but eventually they too will snap. Recognising a looming problem before it actually occurs is a good life skill - a wise person will take action before the storm breaks. If you are on the receiving end, giving some kind of signal that you are being put upon and that you are likely to do something about it will alert a sensible manager or spouse etc. who might then change their ways. If you are the source of someone's irritation consider heading off trouble by thinking ahead and mending your ways before the last drop makes the cup run over.

If your PC's near its last drop:

Friday, June 09, 2006

No point in crying over spilt milk.

You can't scrape it up and put it back in the pail! All you can do is resolve to be more careful in future. There are many life situations where things go wrong and there is nothing you can do about it. Some people waste too much time grieving over loss when it would be better to direct their energies in a more positive manner. It would not be human just to shrug and get on with it. We seem to need some expression of grief or anger when things go wrong. After all, is there any language that hasn't got some swear words - expletives that help to release tensions and communicate to others the strength of our feelings? Perhaps the saying should be modified to: "No point in crying over spilt milk, just have a good swear and get on with life"!

For dealing with your spilt milk!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

There are as good fish in the sea as ever came out of it

Environmentalists and conservationists might take issue with this old saying in our age of over fishing and depleted stocks. This is a variant of "There are plenty more fish in the sea". Often used to console a jilted lover, this is an encouragement for people to stop wailing about loss and get back to putting in the effort to replace what has gone with something as good or better. "Men should not wail their loss but cheerily seek how to redress their harm" covers much the same idea. An earnest counsellor might add "Where there's a will there's a way" or "Think positively". After all "Nothing succeeds like success!".

Don't moan about your PC - do something!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Don't bite off more than you can chew.

Stressed out? overworked? Sound familiar? Perhaps this saying applies to you. Taking on more than you can cope with is a constant temptation. Perhaps you are a working mother juggling work schedules and school runs and ending the day exhausted. Perhaps you are self-employed, running your own business with a need for 25 hours in the day. The answer might be to sit down and examine everything you do and start looking for time efficiencies. If you are the obliging sort and always try to help others perhaps you need to learn to say no. Working yourself ill brings no one any benefit - you have a duty to look after yourself. Just say: "Sorry, I've already bitten off more than I can chew!".

Garden Memories

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The cow must browse where she is tied.

We are all limited by our circumstances. In theory humans have freewill and can make their own choices but often we are tethered to a situation by an invisible rope. You could leave your boring job but will you find an alternative? You could abandon your restrictive family ties and emigrate to a new land but will you be happy? Brave or foolhardy souls will sometimes cut the ties that hold them and run off to pastures new. Sometimes they prosper and create envy in those locked in to their situation. Other times they come to grief giving some reassurance to the stay-at-homes that despite its shortcomings staying put is the best option. You makes your choice!

Garden Journal etc..

Monday, June 05, 2006

A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.

Literally true and an encouragement to get off your butt and get on with it. Procrastination - finding excuses to avoid starting something - is a human trait. If we leaped enthusiastically into every situation we would be exhausted therefore making choices is important. However, if we are too indecisive we can end up like Shakespeare's Hamlet, all thinking and no action: "To be or not to be, that is the question. Whether it is nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them." You have to make your decision and then take the first step on what might be a long road - so "put your best foot forward" and off you go.


Sunday, June 04, 2006

The dog that trots about finds a bone.

This is an old Gipsy saying and in a nomadic lifestyle where food and useful things have to be sought this makes a lot of sense. It is an encouragement to put in the effort and seek what you need. Success rarely comes to those who sit and day dream about it. The mind that seeks a discovery must be active and hunt for solutions. The songwriter who wants a hit must be busy about his writing and making contacts - ferreting out the news and discovering the facts. The businessman must do the same - anyone looking for success must "get on their bike". There is also a suggestion that just by getting about, even if you are not actively seeking, there is a reasonable probability you will come across something worthwhile.

Bury your bones here!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Always at it wins the day

This is an old proverb which might have modern connotations not thought of then. Basically it is saying that persistence and hard work pays off in the end. Many people dream of success and then go out and buy a lottery ticket - they might be lucky but it could be a very long wait. The most certain way to success is to apply yourself to a situation that has potential, learn everything you need to know and put in steady hours for as long as it takes. Most people prefer the easy options and most people have to either get lucky or be content with their daydreams.

Friday, June 02, 2006

All's fair in love and war

This must have been an excuse for many a wicked deed. People in love can verge on the irrational and might do things they would never ordinarily contemplate. Doing something unethical could of course rebound on the doer if the loved one (or rival) found out and didn't like it. In war there are rules and conventions but if they are ignored and you are on the losing side you could pay dearly. Love and war are strongly competitive situations and this saying indicates the intensity of an involvement that brings out the best and the worst of those concerned.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Good kail is half a meal

Kail or kale is a hardy vegetable that supplies many vitamins and is good for health though not all that palatable to many tastes. It was once a standard crop in Scottish gardens where it stood up to the climate well and gave its name to a homely style of writing "kailyard". This saying seems to tell us that the basics of life can usually be got but the luxuries require more effort. It also suggests not despising the ordinary, perhaps echoing the saying, "Never despise the bridge that carried you over".

Keen gardeners might like to look at this:

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Grasp all, lose all

This is a warning not to be greedy and try to get everything. In the stock market wealthy investors say "leave something on the table" meaning sell out before a market top. If you stay too long looking for the very top price the market can suddenly drop and you lose all. In other walks of life examples can be: being too possessive in a relationship and getting dumped; demanding too high a pay rise and being made redundant; setting you prices too high and attracting no customers.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Great and small makes up a wall

This is particularly appropriate to the country craft of building stone walls or drystane dykes. The mason skilfully places the naturally shaped stones together using different sizes to bind together and form a solid and lasting structure. People come in all shapes and sizes and we often find fault with what we have inherited in our physical make up - too tall, too short too dark, too fair, too fat too thin We all want to be perfect but is their such a thing? If we were all the same it would be very boring. Nature is very wise and makes us all different for a purpose - so that we can come together in groups and teams each helping the other with specific abilities derived from our inherited characteristics. We are stronger as a multitalented group. Interlocked we present a strong "wall" to all the storms and trials of existence - whether we are great or small we are an important part of the whole.

Monday, May 29, 2006

A bad workman blames his tools

It is of course a fact that some people will blame their failings wherever they can and this saying has some validity, yet anyone who does practical work soon discovers the importance of good, well maintained tools. So a saying such as "a good workman is highly critical of the state of his tools and makes sure he has the best" would be quite appropriate! It could be that this saying was originated by disgruntled employers whose miserly nature meant their work people had to make do with rubbish equipment. A good workman with bad tools will struggle to do a good job; a bad workman will do a bad job even with good tools - and probably damage them in the process!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

A rugged stone grows smooth from hand to hand

How many times have you heard someone referred to as a "rough diamond"? People can acquire smother manners and ways of coping as time and experience knock off the rough edges. When young we tend to be opinionated and definite in our views willing to annoy others in our self-righteousness. With time and experience we learn that things are never that simple there is always shades of grey where we thought it was black and white. The rock that stands up to the sea does not go unchanged. Time modifies all..

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Least said soonest mended

Most people talk too much because they wish to express their emotions. Humans are not governed by logic and calm, cold thinking; we tend to distrust those who seem to have too much of this trait. But learning when to shut up and move on can be a useful way of avoiding the "opening your mouth and putting your foot in it" scenario. "Look before you leap" and "Only fools rush in where angels fear to tread" are the watchwords to accompany this saying. Learn to walk away and leave your antagonist flabbergasted.

Friday, May 26, 2006

A bad Jack may have as bad a Jill.

If a man is bad tempered and drinking a lot he might just be a foul natured person but this saying suggests that perhaps his wife could be part of the problem. Is it her nagging or slovenliness that is making him moody and driving him to drink? How often have you observed that many couples appear to deserve each other? This is advice for men and women to consider their own faults and how they might affect their partners. Learning to make allowances and a willingness to compromise might reduce the queue at the divorce courts.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Don't look a gift horse in the mouth

To anyone unfamiliar with horses this saying might seem a bit mad but the informed know that examining a horse's teeth gives a good indication of its age, health and value. It therefore follows that to examine a gift immediately for its value would be rather boorish. More generally this is advice to appreciate the advantages and good things of life without worrying about the details too much - enjoy a good thing while you can.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Strike whilst the iron is hot.

In the age of the horse this saying would have required no explanation as most people would have watched the blacksmith at work. Taking action at the right time is important to the success of any enterprise. As Shakespeare put it: "There is a tide in the affairs of man which, taken at the full, leads on to success". In the stock market the experts stress the great importance of timing. People with good judgement and experience usually have an edge over others as they know the right time to start and finish, to buy or sell, to plant or harvest. They know when the situation will yield to appropriate action.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

A barley-corn is better than a diamond to a cock

What would you rather have if you were dying of thirst in the desert: a bucketful of water or a handful of diamonds? It's a no-brainer. Value is relative. Learning to discern what is the most important and relevant of the many choices you have in life helps to separate the successful from the failures. Good judgement is one of the hallmarks of the winner personality.

Monday, May 22, 2006

A danger foreseen is half avoided.

This echoes the sentiments of "look before you leap" and the Boy Scout motto: "be prepared". Other sayings such as "meet trouble half-way" and "a little forethought saves much afterthought" are telling us the same thing; and judging by the number of them many people must have come to the same conclusions: Stay alert and look ahead. Obvious, really, isn't it? But how often do we do the exact opposite and "rush in where angels fear to tread". Wisdom does not come easily and we usually don't learn till "the school of hard knocks" teaches us a lesson or two

Sunday, May 21, 2006

April showers bring forth May flowers

This is deceptively simple - a statement of an obvious bit of weather lore but look a little deeper and it is telling us that what we may not like can be the cause of something good. Difficult times can and often do lead to better times so we must put up with difficulties and look forward to the good times. Nasty medicines can be the means to better health. Saving can lead to prosperity. Hard work can create the funds for a good holiday. Tears at parting can be the precursor to the joyful sunshine of return.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

A beggar can never be bankrupt.

Would this really be much comfort to a beggar? Alliteration always seems to give a saying a bit of authority. People who have a lot to lose have a lot of worries but if you are poor you might sleep better. The rich man contemplating financial disaster or about to take a major risk might quote this out of bravado but only to focus his mind on the consequences of failure.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Our appreciation of the opposite sex is fairly subjective: one person's great catch is another's total reject. There are probably people who would be acknowledged to be "beautiful" by most observers where their features are of a certain regularity and proportion but often the person we personally find beautiful does not conform to the ideal - we love them for their faults and say things like, "beauty is only skin deep". There is a matching type for all of us and finding that good match is the true aim of the lover everywhere.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Don't get between a dog and his bone.

The practical truth of this is obvious if you want to avoid being bitten. The dog is programmed to protect that which is most important to it. In general life situations recognising another's property, rights or territory can help you avoid damaging confrontations. Respect the rights and interests of others and expect them to do the same for you.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Run your profits cut your losses.

This comes from the world of investment where investors have discovered the wisdom of getting out of a bad situation early and sticking with the good. It can be applied to other life situations like dumping an unsuitable friend and working to keep the good ones. A good job is worth persevering with a bad one will never get you where you want to be. The difficulty sometimes is making a judgement as to what has potential and what does not. Obviously "flogging a dead horse" makes no sense but what if it is just sleeping? With horses you could ask a vet or a knowledgeable friend. In other life situations it can help to get good advice from a reliable source - don't let your ego get in the way.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A bad excuse is better than none at all

Often said sarcastically but perhaps a lame excuse will lessen the likelihood of a row than the blunt statement that the reason you didn't turn up was because you couldn't be bothered. It all depends on the person you are dealing with.

Monday, May 15, 2006

You must crawl before you can walk.

This of course applies literally to babies and it is good counsel for beginners to learn the basics first. Very often failure to progress in a subject or training is because the early stages have not been fully absorbed - you must build on secure foundations. Remember: "Rome was not built in a day".

Sunday, May 14, 2006

A bad shift is better than none.

To the modern reader this might seem to have something to do with promotion at work but "shift" here refers to a shirt. It is another proverb encouraging people to make the most of something even if it is less than perfect. Similar to "half a loaf is better than none", it reminds us that today in the developed world we can take things like clothing for granted unlike our not-too-distant ancestors who found it a struggle to afford a decent "shift".

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The good a man does is oft interred with his bones - the bad lives for ever.

The good a man does is oft interred with his bones - the bad lives for ever.
Unfortunately people are more likely to remember a slight than a favor. Politicians who fall from grace are remembered for their calamity rather than the positive work they might have achieved. We tend to get an adrenaline buzz from wrong doing that makes events memorable - murder mysteries are more popular entertainment than stories of someone doing a good deed.

Friday, May 12, 2006

A bad bush is better than the open field.

Making the best of a bad job or contenting yourself with what you have or even being grateful for small morsels is the idea behind this saying. We all grumble a bit and feel we have drawn the shorter straw on occasions but you have to get on with life no matter the disadvantages or injustices. Where there's life there's hope.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

A bad padlock invites a picklock.

This a counsel to look after your property and be suitably security conscious. Most thieves are lazy opportunists and will go for the easy chance. It can be applied more generally as advice to keep your guard up and deter your opponents by looking strong and capable. Competitors will exploit your weaknesses so be prepared and cover the chinks in your armor

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

It is not always May.

If only it were - spring is bursting out and the dreary days of winter are fast fading from memory; birds sing, people fall in love and to be alive is joy unending. Our lives also have their seasons and the zest of youth is a veritable May. Sadly it does not last and we move into busy summer, fruitful autumn and then the snows of winter. This proverb reminds us of the need to "make hay while the sun shines". "Lost time is never found again" so you must use the energetic days of youth as fully as your circumstances permit. It also alerts us to a best time for doing things, but it does not last - so get on with what you have to do while conditions are suitable.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

If at first you don't succeed try try and try again.

Perseverance is nominated by most successful people as the primary factor in their achievements - their enemies probably retort: you were just lucky. But common sense tells us that more than one go is usually required to achieve something new. Budding authors usually experience many rejections before success arrives - all the time they are learning and improving. Athletes, no matter how naturally gifted they might be with excellent physique, need to train long and hard to get anywhere. It is also important to have good judgement and not waste your time on something that definitely wont happen - persevere but avoid being pigheaded

Monday, May 08, 2006

Seeing's believing.

Since language began the older generation has been telling the younger what they should and should not do - but do they ever listen? The fact is that that we rarely understand from words alone. Does any child really understand what "don't touch - that's burnie" means until they have actually been burned, hopefully in a minor way. So much of Grandma's wise words never sink in till some experience makes you aware of their good sense. If you are "on the ball" you will try to combine what people tell you with what you discover by trial and error - the trick is to wise up as fast as possible before a major mistake gets you.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Most really good things in life take time.

We live in an age of instant gratification but some things take time. Planting a seed and waiting for the bloom requires patience. Sensible investment is usually a long-term affair. Love, for some, might be at first sight but good, strong relationships grow steadily and build on solid foundations of trust and dependability. Many proverbs confirm this: "Patience is a virtue". "Rome wasn't built in a day". Can you think of any more?

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Cometh the hour cometh the man.

"It is always darkest before the dawn" says one well known proverb and in times of crisis we look for a capable leader. Nobody suitable seems to be available but when the situation reaches critical it can stir the sleeping abilities of their hero to burst forth and shine. The ordinary seeming individual will find strengths within and rise to the challenge. Such as William Wallace, Oliver Cromwell, George Washington or Mahatma Gandhi.

Friday, May 05, 2006

The grass is always greener on the far side of the hill.

Have you ever stood looking at a far view and wondered what lay beyond? All our ancestors were nomads - stopping briefly in one spot and moving on. Packing up the tent and following the deer herds was a lifestyle for countless generations. This proverb is often used to counsel young people that though the attraction of elsewhere might seem superior to what they know - it very often isn't.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

What you never had you'll never miss.

Our expectations lead us to want things which perhaps we would be as well without. If you lived in a small village, in times gone by, the many attractions of the big, glittering city would not attract you because you would not know that they existed. Once an awareness is created we feel we are missing out. It is wise to remember that "all that glistens is not gold".

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

A little of what you fancy does you good.

This is often used as an excuse for indulgence but there is some truth in it. It is important to enjoy your food and a little of the kinds that are fattening etc. won't do much harm and might cheer you up. It can be applied to many life situations but beware that it can be a prelude to overindulgence which does you harm.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

In for a penny in for a pound.

This is about total commitment expressed in old UK money terms. It is when you decide to "go the whole hog" in any situation. It's most likely origin would be the world of investment where people might decide to "bet their shirt" and "go for broke" or perhaps it was an excuse originated by gambling addicts to justify "throwing it all away". The alliteration seems to add some validity to the expression but other proverbs such as "look before you leap" and "only fools rush in" come to mind. A proverb with a bold statement usually has a corresponding one with the exact opposite sentiment. It all boils down to "use your common sense" and "don't believe every thing you are told".

Monday, May 01, 2006

Don't put all you eggs in the one basket.

This could conjure up an amusing image of a wise peasant staggering around with dozens of baskets with a few eggs in each, but it is quite a sensible strategy in many walks of life. It is often applied to investments where you are advised to spread your risk so that one company failing doesn't wipe you out. It can also be applied to relationships - encouraging the idea of having a number of friends in case one lets you down. Having more than one job skill can also be useful when your principal employment is slack.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

There's no place like home.

Old familiar haunts are easier to relax in as your brain has already sussed them out and feels secure - less chance of something nasty lurking about. Your home should be a safe and secure refuge from the stresses and perils of the world - a bolt hole, a den, a personal castle. Here you can put your feet up, relax and recharge your batteries ready for another exciting day in the great outside.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

First impressions count.

Firsts and lasts tend to stick in the memory hence the advice to make a good first impression. Job interviews, dates, first day at a new place is the time to be prepared and put your best foot forward. It is also the time when you are most likely to be nervous but with a "little forethought you can save much afterthought". But if it does go wrong don't be too worried, "to err is human, to forgive divine".

Friday, April 28, 2006

Handsome is as handsome does.

You might be the best looking person around but if you are a jerk people will soon find you out and see that you are less than perfect inside. The plainer person who proves themselves a good and reliable friend becomes beautiful in the totality. This is a warning against being taken in by appearances rather than looking for character.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Put your best foot forward.

It can be tempting to give less than your best effort because we all have an inbuilt tendency to conserve our energy. It is very easy to get into lazy and slovenly ways but we never know when someone potentially beneficial to our lives might come by and judge us on what they see. So it is best to keep your standards as high as you reasonably can, though common sense tells us that stressing yourself excessively and worrying all the time about performance could ultimately be counterproductive.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Count to ten.

If you wish to avoid unnecessary rows it is recommended you count to ten before replying to a provocative remark. This gives you time to think and check any natural impulse to retaliate that might just escalate into a major confrontation. By calmly walking away your opponent can be left looking foolish.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Every cloud has a silver lining.

A dark depression descends on your life, despair, gloom, misery fills your horizons - so where is the silver lining? you wonder. Be positive, the smart people tell us, so how do you do that when the Heavens are tumbling in on you? The first thing is to analyse your situation - is it really as bad as you think? Is their a wise friend or convenient stranger you can unburden yourself too - someone who has experienced the same problems and has come through? The marvel of the Internet is that you have the whole world to communicate with - there's bound to be someone with similar problems. So don't despair, there is always someone worse off than you and plenty of potential help. Many people's success in life resulted from a reaction to a period of adversity - fight till you drop, never give up. Sir Wiston Churchill, the inspiration for this blog, faced Britain's darkest hour with resolution and utmost determination - marching on to a shining victory. So can you.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Oppose not rage whilst rage is a its force but stay a while and let it waste.

Staying calm when others are slagging you off can be a good strategy. They are not likely to listen to reason and anything you say might provoke further irrational torrents. Save your best arguments till they have spent their energy and released their frustrations, only then will they be more amenable to quiet persuasion.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Half a loaf is better than none.

Starving people don't have to be told this. Compromise is often necessary in many life situations and it is rare to get everything you want - sometimes that is for the best. Those who always get the whole loaf might end up obese.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Patience is a virtue.

Impatience leads to rows and hasty actions that can cause accidents. Learn to stay calm in difficult situations and don't always think the worst of someone's actions - they might be having difficulties of their own and your hasty reaction could make matters worse.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Man's best friend is his dog.

No doubt many will rush to agree with this. Who else but your favorite mutt will give you a lifetime of unquestioning devotion no matter what any human thinks of you? Dogs have a natural sense of duty to the pack leader and want nothing more than to be your best friend and companion - and the occasional juicy steak.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Revenge is a dish best served cold.

How many times has someone done something to infuriate you and your reaction has simply made matters worse? The old advice of counting to ten before reacting can save you from a serious breakdown in relations. "If you give them enough rope they will hang themselves" goes another old saying indicating the wisdom sometimes of not hitting back immediately. If you do have to take defensive retaliatory action it is best done when you are calm and rational.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The early bird catches the worm.

This might literally be true but the early adopter can also be the one who is landed with the problems - there might be an angry farmer waiting with a gun. The bold rush in and sometimes carry off the prize; the cautious wait and see how the bold have faired but might lose the advantage as the price of delay - you makes your choice!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

As the sapling is inclined so the tree grows.

Early influences can shape the rest of your life: good parents, healthy environment, skilful teachers will give the optimum chance for a person fulfilling their potential. Damage in youth can grow and multiply as the years go by. Parents must be like good gardeners and give their offspring the right conditions for growth and development; but we are all subject to the vagaries of Nature and no matter the good intent things can go wrong.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Great minds think alike.

If great minds are those that understand the true way of things it is logical to suppose that they will arrive at the same conclusions - there is one truth, and a multitude of mistakes for the less talented to "discover".

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Manners maketh man.

Someone might look great and be accomplished but if they are boorish and ill-mannered they will not win friends and influence people. Only the super-talented and very rich can get away with it. The ordinary person is more likely to be acceptable if they have an agreeable disposition and pleasant manners.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Fortune favors the bold.

This has echoes of "who dares wins" and "faint heart never won fair lady" and is pointing out that you have to try - otherwise you will never succeed. Just be wary that you tend to hear of those who succeed but history forgets all the failures.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Lost time is rarely found again.

The trouble with time is that you can't save it up and use it when you need it. It is therefore important to use the time that you have wisely. Learn to be efficient and plan your activities so as not to waste any of this precious commodity.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The end justifies the means.

Attributed to Machiavelli the 15th century Italian statesman who advised princes on how to go about their business. It is sometimes used as an excuse for doing something wrong by pleading that the outcome will eventually be benificial.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Faint heart never won fair lady.

This can get you into trouble if you take it too literally. Girls like to be admired and pursued don't they? Just make sure the particular one you fancy is in the mood.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The pot calling the kettle black.

Originating in the days when cooking was done on an open fire that covered the utensils in soot. Used when you criticise someone for a fault when your own is as bad or worse. It is always easier to see fault in someone else whilst ignoring your own shortcomings.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

An apple a day keeps the doctor away.

Apples contain vitamins and minerals highly benificial to health as well as helping to clean the teeth so this is a wise old saying.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Liars have need of long memories.

Telling lies can get people out of a tricky situation in the short term but later events could expose the lie if they have forgotten the circumstances that were implied by it.

Friday, April 07, 2006

People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

The literal truth of this is obvious but it applies to many life situations. If you provoke people in a verbal attack make sure you are not vulnerable to retaliation. An awareness of people's tendency to indulge in "tit for tat" should alert you to the folly of damaging the interests of others without considering the consequences.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The grass is always greener on the far side of the hill.

We are rarely satisfied with what we have and wonder if others have it better. A nomadic instinct pervades all peoples and we have an urge to nibble and walk. Distant prospects are enhanced by our imagnings and draw us on.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Devil looks after his own.

We all know the person who seems to break all the rules and get away with it. Perhaps they do, perhaps they don't, but perception is sometimes more potent than reality. This saying dates from the time when people had strong religious convictions and they were puzzled as to why some people appeared to get away with wrongdoing - hence the put-down of the Devil looking after them on Earth but hinting that they would get their comeuppance in Hell.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Neither a borrower nor a lender be.

If you are up to your ears with your mortgage and have just lent your least trustworthy acquaintance your loose change you know the truth of this saying. Prudent people avoid unnecessary debt. Very much a case of "look before you leap".

Monday, April 03, 2006

Make haste slowly.

You all know the scenario: something needs to be done in a hurry and you go so fast you make mistakes. Learning to pace yourself and find the optimum speed is not easy. Try not to get flustered - keep cool, calm and collected. "Controlled panic" might sum it up!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Stolen fruits taste sweetest.

It is a true fact that something a little illicit gives an adrenaline boost. Ask anyone on a strict diet! This might be counter-balanced by feelings of guilt surfacing later. Often applied to a secret romance

Saturday, April 01, 2006

The man who never made a mistake never made anything.

Many people are put off trying something new from fear of making a mistake whilst others leap into action, crying: "Fortune favors the bold" and "Who dares wins". Sometimes they succeed spectacularly but they can also come a cropper and are then told: "Look before you leap". It probably all boils down to individual nature: some of us are born cautious and others bold.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Do unto others as you would be done by.

We are quick to find fault and condemn those who annoy us but how annoying are we to them? The Scottish poet, Robert Burns, wrote,
"I wish the gift the Giftie gies us
Tae see oorselves as others see us."
Correct your own faults before criticising others

Thursday, March 30, 2006

A cobbler's son is aye the worst shod.

If you are too busy pursuing your goals and ambitions you might neglect those around you. Try to find time for those who really matter.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Charity begins at home.

Giving to others less well off than yourself is seen as being a good thing. We all feel for the truly poor and needy. But if you are too soft-hearted and giving you might end up as a needy case yourself, and that is not wise. You should look after your own first and when you are strong you are better able to help others.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

He who hath his quarrel just is thrice armed.

Knowing you are in the right will stregthen your resolve and determination not to be beat. The dishonest person has to struggle with the knowledge that they are wrong and could be found out at anytime.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Laughter is the best medicine.

This is pretty obvious we all enjoy a good laugh and doctors can explain how it relaxes and improves health. Perhaps they should prescribe joke books rather than pills! When you are feeling stressed and life is getting you down take some time out and enjoy a good comedy.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Look before you leap.

This is good practical advice to anyone in the habit of jumping off walls but applies to many life situations. It is an encouragement to consider the consequences of your actions. What you do today will affect how you are tomorrow.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.

Often chanted by school children in response to verbal bullying - it lets the bully know you are contemptuous of their attack. Focus on the real problems in your life and ignore the froth.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

A friend in need is a friend indeed.

When you really need help you often find out who your real friends are and who just hangs around. Help others where you can and don't be too proud to accept help when you need it.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Be prepared.

This is the motto of the Boy Scout movement founded by Baden Powell who was influenced by the traditional methods used by Native Americans to train their youth. Good preparation and foresight improves your operational efficiency. Think ahead and your problems will be half-solved before they arise.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Eavesdroppers seldom hear good of themselves.

We all like to know what others think and say about us but would we be pleased if we found out? Most of us have failings and our peers soon cotton on to them but they accept us just the same. How many times have you said something about a friend that they probably wouldn't like to hear?

Monday, March 20, 2006

Let bygones be bygones.

Keeping grudges alive can make people bitter and twisted, it is sometimes better to let them go and move on - forgive and forget.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

While it rained, two bad men were friends.

When external circumstances are difficult people, even enemies, tend to band together to face the common threat. Cooperating with a rival might be tough but it could prove the best survival strategy for both.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours.

This can be an invitation to cooperate or a thinly veiled warning. It is usually better to get on with people but doesn't do to let them take advantage.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.

A major source of inefficiency in business and elsewhere is not attending to something at once if it is feasible to do so. If something can be dealt with immediately then it is cleared from your agenda and eliminates the need to remember to do it later.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

From little acorns great oaks grow.

The long-lived, gnarled, sturdy oak is an impressive tree but like everything else it had to start somewhere. Anyone struggling to start a business from scratch can find comfort in this metaphor. Time, patience and endeavor will build a mighty empire to parallel the tree you planted to commemorate its launch.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

A little of what you fancy does you good.

We are surrounded by advice from the media as to what we should eat or not eat, or drink or breathe - often contradictory. This saying tells us not to be over-concerned as most foods and other pleasures will not harm if excess is avoided. By making us happy they contribute to our well being.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Save something for a rainy day.

This is not advice to buy a brolly! At an elementary level it tells us to save money for when we might need it, but also applies to situations where having a reserve of energy or non- material resources could be important. When life is difficult it is sensible to have potential back-up from friends you helped in the past.

Monday, March 13, 2006

When in doubt - ask!

Men are particularly bad at struggling on with a problem when it would be easier to ask someone who knows the answer - the persistence of the hunter, perhaps. Women are often better at asking - especially if there is a knowledgeable man around! If you don't ask you don't get.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Trial and error wastes time, try thinking first.

How many times have you ripped open the packaging and attempted to use a new gadget by trial and error only to give up and have to stop and think - hopefully before breaking it. You might at least have read the instructions. Having a sensible well-thought-out plan of action can save a lot of frustration in most walks of life.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow may never come.

This should not be taken as an invitation to excess... well not all the time, the occasional indulgence will do no great harm. What we are learning here is the folly of being over cautious. Everyone knows stories of misers who have constantly scrimped and saved, lived in rags, and died worth millions. Life should be enjoyed according to your temperament.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Gluttony is a sin.

We live in an age of excess: obesity is a worry for millions; garbage dumps overflow with the detritus of our feasts. Our ancestors lived from hand to mouth winning their food from Nature with hard toil and sacrifice - they earned the occasional feast. We can saunter down to the nearest mega store and fill our trolleys. Now we need to learn self-discipline and to be content with enough.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

That which costeth a man something he values.

People who have it easy do not appreciate their good fortune - hence the spoiled, rich, kid syndrome. The person who has suffered and struggled their way to success really knows what they have achieved and the true value of their gains. Wealth, good health, education these goals are obtained with difficulty by some and they alone know their true cost.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Easy come easy go.

This is often used as an excuse for imprudent spending but few of us find our cash easy to earn. Perhaps it explains why bank robbers are always lavish spenders. If you want to avoid money worries this is a saying better not practiced. On the other hand, if you are looking for a good time...

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

There is many a slip betwixt cup and lip.

How often have you thought that something was "in the bag" after a lot of effort only for it to slip from your grasp at the last moment? It doesn't do to relax until an objective has been successfully completed. Failure at the eleventh hour is really galling; learn to follow through and leave celebrating until after you have won.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Look for the silver lining.

Life is full of problems that at times seem to be overwhelming but it is rare for a situation to be all bad. Be positive and an opportunity can come out of a difficulty: getting the sack can be the spur to starting your own business; splitting with your partner can lead to finding a better one, or give you more time to go fishing! Do not let a bad situation grind you down - look for the silver lining.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

It is an ill wind that blows nobody any good.

Disasters happen - this is a fact of life - but one person's disaster can be another's opportunity. This is not being callous just recognizing reality. A landowner's tree crashes down and wrecks his shed. This creates work for a woodman and a shed salesman.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

A nod is as good as a wink to a blind man.

"There are none so blind as will not see". Sometimes the truth of a situation is clear but we refuse to recognize it. We cling to outdated ideas and attitudes for fear of leaving our comfort zone. Anything new is a risk but there comes a time when we have to see the light and accept change.

Friday, March 03, 2006

If a little does not go much will not come.

This is an old, Chinese proverb reminding us that you have to put something in to get something out. This applies in most, if not all, walks of life. Investors must risk some money to gain. Businesses must invest to get profits. Farmers must fertilize their fields. In a relationship you must be prepared to give in order to receive.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

He who laughs last laughs longest.

We have all been humiliated by failure or mistake. Unkind people laugh and jeer but if you are made of the right stuff you claw your way back, get to the top of the heap and can then relax and smile at your former taunters as they lag far behind. Success is sweeter after failure.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Rome wasn't built in a day.

Anything worthwhile takes time: students toil at their books without salary for years in order to achieve a career goal; apprentices live on low wages to fulfill their ambition to master a trade; artists starve and struggle to create masterpieces. If it's worth the gain it's worth the pain.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Slow and steady wins the race.

Aesop's fable has the tortoise win a race with the hare because the hare was so complacent he stopped for a nap. This proverb gives us comfort when we are in competition with a superior opponent - if we keep our nerve and proceed steadily they might slip up. It also cautions us not to hurry a job and risk botching it.

Monday, February 27, 2006

A rolling stone gathers no moss.

Most people at some time dream of becoming a gypsy and wandering romantically through the countryside in a wagon. This saying warns us that a settled, steady existence is the most prudent for growing affluent. Perhaps the traveler is the wealthier in terms of relaxed enjoyment but not in worldly goods. You make your choice...

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Don't flog a dead horse.

The story of most great achievements involves periods when someone kept going against all the odds. People mocked, explained why it couldn't be done, dismissed it as lunacy - but tough, determined individuals don't give up and eventually triumph, don't they? If the idea really is a dud you must at some point admit defeat and "cut your losses". It is all a matter of judgment and probably a little bit of luck.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

We don't usually set out to be bad but it is easy to slip into wrong ways. That little extra drink, just one more chocolate and we'll start the diet tomorrow, and then tomorrow. But tomorrow is a day that never comes. It is not enough just to want to do the right thing, you must exercise disciple and determination to achieve your goals.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Have not your cloak to make when it starts to rain.

This is another variation on the "be prepared" theme. Thinking ahead means we can foresee likely problems and have the means to cope with them at hand. Putting some money aside means ease of mind when the inevitable bills hit the mat. "A little forethought saves much afterthought"

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Many's a mickle maks a muckle

This is from Scotland and helps to confirm the Scottish stereotype of being very careful with your money :-). A mickle is a small amount and a muckle a large one. Saving regularly will build up a tidy sum. Other life tasks that might seem daunting like starting on the garden or writing a novel will yield to regular small steps.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The mould of a man's future is in his own hands - Francis Bacon

Why sit feeling sorry for yourself when by effort and application you can change your life for the better. Go to college, study for a degree or learn plumbing, start a business, write a book. You might not be a great success but at least you have tried. "Do it now, son" a workmate said to Billy Connolly the Scottish entertainer when he was a shipyard worker. Billy took his advice and is now a wealthy estate owner whilst many of his former workmates are on state benefits.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Good business is business with profits to both sides.

You might think it clever to outsmart a business opponent but for long term relationships building trust is best. Everyone needs to eat and that means earning money in today's world. Let the other guys have their share and they will want to do business with you again.

Monday, February 20, 2006

If all the year were playing holidays, to sport would be as tedious as to work.

This is a quote from Shakespeare. How often, when hard pressed at work, have you dreamed of winning the lottery and enjoying a life of idleness and ease? The great bard warns us here that you enjoy leisure because it is a contrast to work. Without a spell of industry we will not get the same satisfaction from our time off. A good balance between work and play is best for everyone.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Even the wisest get bitten but only the foolish get bitter.

It is not possible to go through life without experiencing difficulties. Bullying, being ripped off, hurtful words or blows - who can avoid some harm. As the American poet, Longfellow, put it: "Into every life a little rain must fall." The important thing is not to develop a victim mentality; you must fight back and restore you self confidence and pride. As the song says: "Pick yourself up, dust yourself down, and start all over again".

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Lost time is never found again.

Boredom is when you have time and nothing to do; if only we could save this unwanted time and use it when we are hard pressed. It is important to use our limited life spans as wisely as possible. Good time management means a more efficient life and better balance of the competing demands of work and play.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Time and tide wait for no man.

In the great scheme of things as individuals we are of little consequence. No matter what our earthly achievements we must still be at the mercy of the fundamental facts of existence. King Canute couldn't hold back the tides and neither can we. The lesson here is to act at the proper time. Don't put off till tomorrow what you can do today.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Look before you leap

If you don't you might end up "jumping from the frying pan into the fire". This is advice to be cautious and think first before taking major decisions. It contrasts with "he who hesitates is lost" and shows that in some cases you just can't win - ponder for too long and the bolder person grabs the prize but it might prove to be a booby prize that the timid person avoids.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Nothing succeeds like success.

We all know someone who seems to have the Midas Touch of turning everything to gold. Good foundations and preparation as discussed before gather a momentum which helps to keep success going. Everyone likes to be associated with the up and coming star. When you get a lucky break try to keep it going.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

It is always darkest before the dawn.

When we are facing prolonged difficulties this saying can help us to keep going that bit longer. There are many stories of last minute success when people have been on the point of giving up. Columbus only found America by pleading with his unhappy crew to try for one more day.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Well begun is half done

If you start off right and prepare properly most jobs will continue well. For example when building a shed it is important to lay the foundations accurately so that the sides and roof will fit properly. Skimping on the planning and tools will tend to cause problems to grow and worsen. "Be prepared" is a good motto. Another proverb "Make haste slowly" contains the essence of many a rueful conclusion as a botched job is contemplated.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The willing horse gets the work.

It is always easier to get an obliging person to do something than a truculent one but this can lead to exploitation, and before long it can result in: "the final straw that breaks the camel's back". If you are willing and eager then people will want you to work for them but make sure you are not overworked.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

All that glitters is not gold

We are often attracted to something or someone with superficial qualities. It doesn't last; we discover no true value. Compare it with: Beauty is only skin deep. We should not be fooled by external appearances. The Poet, Robert Burns, put it: "Rank is but the guinea's stamp, the man's the gowd (gold) for a' that."

Friday, February 10, 2006

He who dares wins.

This is the motto of the elite British fighting unit the S.A.S. It echoes Shakespeare's: "Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt." Our worries and indecision can prevent us gaining but caution and good judgment is required as another proverbs illustrates: Only Fools rush in where wise men fear to tread.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Where there's a will there's a way.

It is very easy to give up when confronted with a problem but perseverance will often lead to success. Be determined and a solution to your difficulty will usually appear. This proverb echoes the sentiments of another: "If at first you don't succeed - try, try, and try again". The Scottish King, Robert the Bruce, had tried six times to free his country from occupation and failed. Whilst hiding in a cave he saw a spider try six time to bridge a gap and said, "if it succeeds in the next try I will fight again." It did, and he went on to drive out his enemies.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Make hay while the sun shines.

Our ancestors mainly lived by tilling the land and keeping cattle. Hay could only be cut and dried if the weather was good. Nowadays not many of us need to make hay but we do need to be prepared for events that are dependent on circumstances. Have some spare cash for the sale bargains, or ask the boss for a rise when he is in a good mood.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

A Stitch in time saves nine.

Not so long ago people had to make do and mend. Clothes were more expensive and had to be repaired with needle and thread. If a tear is caught quickly it doesn't rip further. So the wisdom here is to tackle a small problem at the outset before it develops into a bigger one. Put another way: "nip it in the bud". It is often applied to people's relationships: saying "sorry" quickly can prevent a lengthy quarrel developing.

Monday, February 06, 2006

A nimble sixpence is worth a slow shilling.

This is an old English proverb. The sixpence and shilling are UK coins from pre-decimalisation days. A sixpence (known as a "tanner") was worth half of a shilling (a "bob"). This proverb is telling us that a shopkeeper turning over a lot of small items can do better than when selling a few more pricey ones. There is also a subtext implying that a little guy who is smart and quick can compete with someone bigger but not so nimble witted. A small innovative business can run rings around an old slow-changing big one. Compare the story of David and Goliath in the Christian Bible. Or even Tom and Jerry in the Disney cartoons!

Blog Archive