YOU have to be discreet. That is my homework for you this week. I was going to say “you have to be discreet in these current times”, but I believe it’s a lesson learned by even early humans.

In Beowulf, it’s said approvingly of someone: “He guards his word-hoard well.” The Norse or Icelandic sagas, dullest words in recorded history, are largely about the need for cunning.

A key aspect of cunning is watching what you say. In the past, you could be killed for what you said, unlike today when you can say what you like. Joke.

But, while discretion may be associated with cunning, it may also have the positive function of protecting you. Better to be a man of mystery than an open book. Or an open text. Most of you, even you boys at the back, will know the advice: “Think before you speak.” Well, today it is: “Think before you tweet.”

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This week, a study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology an’ That reported that many social media users are so eager to share news online that they don’t check first if it’s true. They want to be first, which is also a deplorable aspect of newspapers.

Those of you with an interest in current affairs – such a lot of nonsense – will have seen that Matthew Hancock, health minister for Englandshire during the Covid unpleasantness, has been undone by his WhatsApp messages, which reveal someone more concerned with his career than the deaths of decent ratepayers.

I’ll be quite candid with you here and confess I’m not clear what WhatsApp is. From screenshots in the public prints, it just looks like texting. After a few seconds of extensive research, I gather that it is texting in select, closed groups. Or is it emailing? I’m not doing any more research. At any rate, I’ve warned you before about joining groups. That way madness, dancing and marriage lie.

Indeed, it occurs to me now that I was once invited, not so much to join a group, as to get on WhatsApp to start haggling with a lawyer when trying to draw up my will.

We never got round to it, as it turns out I had far too much money for them to deal with and, as things stand, the state will be quids in if I conk out tomorrow. About five quid in.

Though I never joined WhatsApp, on paper – so to say – I couldn’t see why normal email would not suffice. I’m guessing WhatsApp is meant to be more secure. How’d that work out for you, Matt?

Meanwhile, on Twitter and whatnot, I just don’t see why people feel the need to communicate their opinions to all and sundry. I’d never do that.

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Of course, I do email or, more rarely, text from time to time, and have noticed how we’re all under an obligation to say something funny. Hancock and his aides were always at it, helping them to buddy along with each other.

But humour is a minefield, a little devil on your shoulder ever urging you to say something ill advised. “Sorry for the loss of your wife. Lol.”

One of many things that annoy me about me is that, on the rare occasions when I encounter anyone else at all now, I babble like a deranged brook.

I’m aware of it and, often, before an important social event, such as going to the shop for milk, I’ll tell myself beforehand: “Don’t start blabbing about such and such, you utter goon.”

And, as soon as I get there, I start blabbing about such and such. Often, it’ll be about some chronic aspect of my life, such as why nothing ever goes right and why God hates me so much. Fundamental questions, reaching deep into my soul, and I’m seeking solace from a Co-op till jockey.

But at least the spoken word may be forgotten and is not recorded. Writing things doon is different.

Never write anything doon, readers. It’s a maxim I have followed devoutly throughout my career in


Social injustice

ONE of the great evils of the past, socialising, has now been found necessary if life in old age is to be prolonged, yea, even unto chronic disability and loss of marbles.

According to researchers from Sichuan University, in Chinashire, socialising every day more than halves the risk of over-80s dying in the next five years. Every day? Could anything be worth that?

Anecdotal evidence in my ken – ken? – suggests that famous recluses often live to grand old ages. True, these folks (being famous) are all as rich as Croesus, which I sometime think is a big help in life.

So, my plan is this. (1) Make – win – a lot of money. (2) Sit in the hoose. (3) Socialise once or twice a year. (4) Say each time: “Thank God that’s over.” (5) Live for a very long time.

My progress chart shows me flatlining along (1) before rising regardless to a plateau on (2), (3) and (4), then falling back to (5), the final, fatal flatline due to take place some time in the course of the coming century.

A black and white issue

Good news from the natural world: killer whales are dying out around Scotland’s shores. Although they often live to an ill-deserved old age, they’re being pushed into the history books where they belong. The sadistic monsters have their friends, of course, but decent ratepayers will delight in seeing the back of them.

Martian millipedes

Folk are seeing fossilised creatures such as sponges, crabs, sea spiders, scorpions and, of course, translucent millipedes on yonder Mars. It’s not the usual moon units saying this but yer actual scientists, or at least some of them. Even if there is life on Mars, it’ll be rubbish. No conversation, ray guns or anything.

Lunar time

Space experts are calling for yonder moon to have its own time zone. Many countries are planning to bung themselves thither in the hope of a fast buck. Having their pocket watches all set to the same time would help co-ordinate the destruction and ensure agreed start-times for the inevitable wars.

Calling the tune

Thirteen minutes is the optimal time for music to have effects such as relaxation, sadness and focus, according to the British Academy of Sound Therapy. Happiness takes nine minutes. My research suggests it only takes a minute with prog rock. Dance music takes 30 seconds to make you vomit.

The grin mile

Smiling helps you get jobs and look more attractive and likeable, according to researchers at the University of Toronto. However, in my experience, it’s not wise to do it on the streets when on your own. I smile all the time, mainly out of fear, and I find that it makes people look at you peculiarly.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.