WE are all looking for a code to live by. And now there are none. Oh, there are books. One of the less joyful aspects of getting older and wiser is that whereas, once, you walked into a massive bookshop and thought, "The answer lies in here somewhere", now you know that it does not.

Oh sure, there’s a large self-help section. But the key word there is “self”. That’s kind of narcissistic. A code has to be more than that. It’s about how to deal with the world, not how to deal with yourself. It’s some kind of ethical guide, probably involving self-control, compassion without getting fleeced, courage, decency and steadfast hygiene.

Once, we had the Bible, but it’s full of contradictions and gore. Recently, in a doctor’s waiting room, I picked up an illustrated guide to biblical stories for children. Ye gods! It was horrific – all massacres and horror. I’m surprised that, with our new politically correct Christianity, we haven’t banned the Bible.

Other aspects of the Bible are similarly unsatisfactory. The supernatural stuff is hokum. And turning the other cheek just means getting that one punched too.

There are other religions, of course, such as Buddhism and Taoism, but they’re too passive. Under Buddhism and Taoism, we’d still be going to work in carts pulled by yaks. Indeed, there’d be no work, no wheels, and yaks would just sit about in fields, idly meditating like the humans.

No, religion doesn’t make the cut. In its absence, we have political correctness, which has inherited the millennia-old tradition of chastisement. History repeats itself, not just as tragedy and farce, but as psychology.

Today’s PC brigade are psychological successors to the Spanish Inquisition and witch-hunters, who similarly thought themselves morally superior, and operated with the backing of the ruling ethical ethos of the day.

So, what else is there today? My wittering hitherto has in fact been prompted by the drawing up of a checklist to “build character” issued by the Duke of Edinburgh’s award scheme. I applaud this initiative, though its 25 recommended activities are a mixed bag.

Valid suggestions to young persons include spending time in nature, giving vegetarianism a try, dressing for yourself not others, and volunteering in the community. However, there are downright irresponsible suggestions too, such as engaging in politics, travelling and, worst of all, going dancing. The only mercy is they didn’t tell people to take up cycling.

About getting a Saturday job I am ambivalent. I worked six days a week, before school for five of them, and look how I turned out: unemployable.

Besides, suggestions do not a code make. In the end, I think you have to make your own code, drawing from such sources as you can. Mainly, I’d say that making oneself a combination of John Wayne and Bertie Wooster would do for men (I cannot speak for women because I don’t understand them).

Wooster might seem surprising, but his noblesse oblige, while noxious in its privilege, was admirable in its sense of duty, yea, even unto being resigned to marrying Madeline Bassett (from which fate providence, or at least Jeeves, saved him).

Speaking of providence, I don’t think we should throw out the old religious stuff entirely. From Taoism, we could take shutting the heck up, from the New Testament being quite nice and, from the Old Testament, massacring all the children of unbelievers and rival tribes.

It occurs to me that, if I could pad these out a bit, I might get a book out of them. Available soon in all good self-help sections.

Stripped of script

MY general sense of ambivalence about life, the universe and everything deepened this week with news that iPads are killing off pens.

I should really welcome the death of handwriting. I’ve probably told you of how, at primary school, we had a handwriting class and, when the teacher came round gently correcting the pupils’ efforts, she came to me, took one look at my work, and immediately started battering me about the head until she was hauled off by two jannies.

I exaggerate, but not much. I grew up to have handwriting that suggests I’m a psychotic crank, which again is something of an exaggeration, but not much.

So I ought to say: a fie upon all handwriting. Yet, something in me mourns the death of this ancient craft, more akin to carving runes on a tree than pressing wee electric buttons. Some of the magic will go out of life.

I’m still never without a reporter’s notebook on the premises though, these days, it’s just used for shopping lists and recording moments of philosophical insight: “An empty dishwasher cleans no spoons.”

My shorthand remains better than my longhand and, though neither is legible, at least they’re kind of … organic.

Steak bake quake

ARGUABLY, a decent code of behaviour would include: “Avoid fast food.” But a decent code has to be practical, without featuring such unreasonable demands.

Recently, when I tried writing down – by pen in my reporter’s notebook – reasons to carry on living, I could only think of: “A fish supper.” I also like an occasional sausage roll and, when I’m next back in the city, intend making the most of its amenities as follows: 1 Buy Greggs vegan steak bake as pudding after sausage roll. 2 Buy more £15 chinos from Asda.

One item of fast food I’ve never taken to is the Cornish pasty. I think it’s the detectable presence of swede or turnip, root vegetables placed in the soil by Satan himself.

But, this week, Greggs was run out of Cornwall, after locals took against its pasty slices and described the popular bakery chain as “Satan’s franchise”. How devilishly unfair.

Scientists have proven that Greggs improves the quality of life in any area where it opens a shop (for clarification: not “scientists” and not “proven”, but you get the gist). And, in denying the lieges a vegan stake bake, they’ll soon find that tourism from Scotland slows to a trickle.