There once was a guy who wanted to know what two plus two was equal to. He could remember the answer he had been given at school but he wondered if it really was as simple as the teacher had said. His next door neighbour was a mathematician so he thought maybe he should be able to dispel any doubts he had.

He asked the mathematician, “What exactly is two plus two equal to?”.

“Four”, said the mathematician.

“Are you sure?”, he said.

“Absolutely”, said the mathematician.

“All the time?”, asked the guy.

“All the time”, reassured the mathematician.

The guy went away feeling happy with the answer he had heard.

However, as the days passed he began to think more deeply about the mathematician’s answer, maybe it would be a good idea to get a second opinion.

He knew accountants dealt with numbers so surely an accountant would know the answer to his question so he went down the high street until he spotted an accountant’s office.

He asked the accountant, “What exactly is two plus two equal to?”.

“Well, round about four”, said the accountant.

“Are you sure?”, he said.

“More or less”, said the accountant, “but anything between three point six and four point four is near enough”.

“All the time?”, asked the guy.

“Well, sometimes it might be a bit less or more than that but most of the time between three point six and four point four”.

This was not the answer he had hoped for, which troubled him a little. After pondering over this he thought it might be good idea to see a lawyer.

He asked the lawyer, “What exactly is two plus two equal to?”.

The lawyer sat up and looked around the room. He walked quietly to the door, opened it sharply and then looked out down the corridor. After he closed and turned the key in the door he stepped over to the window and pulled the curtains closed. Then he returned to his chair, put his hands together, smiled and asked, “What exactly would you like it to equal?”.


Once upon a time, many years ago, in the East, there lived an Emperor. He was a very wealthy and happy man. He had six hundred wives who had borne him many children and he loved them all. All his children were girls and so he had no heir, which was perhaps the one thing in life which disappointed him. So imagine his surprise and delight when, one day, one of his wives presented him with a new-born son.

Over the years he watched his little boy grow and became increasingly devoted to him. Just before his son’s fifth birthday he took him to one side and said, “Son, you are the joy of my life, I cannot do enough for you. What would you like? Say what you want and you shall have it”.

The boy replied, “Daddy, I’d like an aeroplane”.

So the Emperor, who was not stuck for cash and not wishing to do things by halves, bought Delta Airlines.

As his son grew the Emperor loved him all the more and when his sixth birthday approached the Emperor took him to one side and said, “Son, you are a delight to behold, nothing is too much for you. What would you like? Say what you want and you shall have it”,

to which the boy replied, “Daddy, I’d like a car”.

So the Emperor, not wishing to do things by halves, bought General Motors.

The boy grew bigger and stronger each day and ever-more wonderful in the eyes of the Emperor so, before his son’s seventh birthday, the Emperor took him to one side and said, “Son, you are the apple of my eye, you cannot imagine the happiness you give to me. What can I give you? Say what you want and you shall have it”.

The boy replied, “Daddy, I’d like to see a film”.

So the Emperor, not wishing to do things by halves, bought the MGM studios and the rights to all the films produced there.

Nearing his son’s eighth birthday the Emperor took him in hand and said, “Son, you are an inspiration to us all, what can I do for you? Say what you want and you shall have it”.

The boy had been watching western movies for the previous year so it should be no surprise that he replied, “Daddy, I’d like a cowboy outfit”.

So the Emperor, not wishing to do things by halves, bought Halliburton.

Bicycle curves do not sag.

Bicycles don’t care if you have ridden other bicycles.

You don’t have to take a shower before you go riding.

You can go cycling at any time.

You can borrow your friend’s bicycle.

Bicycles don’t insult you if you are a bad rider.

If you say anything bad to your bicycle you don’t have to say you’re sorry before you go riding again.

When you go riding the bicycle wears the rubber, not you.

You can keep cycling until you are sore.

If you get a new bicycle you don’t have to keep sending money to the old one.

It’s uncertain which of the three schools of thinking, creationist, intelligent design or natural selection, if any at all, would claim John Darwin, the undead canoeist, as the final proof of their theory, maybe no one at all, as he doesn’t seem to do much credit to any of them.


It is a while since we last heard of Mr. and Mrs Darwin but on Thursday, 13th March 2008, a hearing was held at Leeds Crown Court at which they both entered pleas to the various charges brought against them. Mr Darwin pleaded guilty to seven charges of obtaining money [possibly as much as £250,000] by deception and one of obtaining a false passport and not guilty to nine other charges. Mrs Darwin pleaded not guilty to all of the charges brought against her. That’s the dry bit of the tale over with, and summarised here in this article on The Times website.


There has been much speculation about the whole story but in particular around the possible motivation. As might be expected, the investigative journals of the world have been digging deep to see what insightful nuggets of muck can be found. One novel theory as to why he gave himself up to the police is that by so doing he would force his wife into giving herself up, but this has is its variations – and drawbacks. The first story, posited by the Glasgow Daily Record, is that he believed his wife was being unfaithful to him but The Sydney Morning Herald goes further than this saying that Darwin believed his wife was about to leave him for another man and leave him penniless, further details here. While this may be plausible, doesn’t it seem a little OTT to put yourself at the mercy of the fuzz, especially after committing a string of frauds, just to stop your spouse having an affair? Would this fit in with Darwin’s previous patterns of behaviour? If other stories are to be believed he regularly indulged in affairs himself so would he be bothered if his wife did the same. Maybe, but maybe not. Does this fit in with the initial story heard last December when he entered a London police station? To all intents and purposes he seriously expected to get away with his amnesia story, although a moments serious thinking might have told him otherwise.


The News of The World has another story to tell, not of any planned scheme but of a penpal affair between Darwin and a female prisoner – someone had to find a seamy element to this sooner or later. How he met up with someone else while behind bars is left unexplained but if this is correct it will not be the first time he has been involved with other women or confused reality with fantasy as shown in this article in the the Daily Mail.


Guessing from these stories and allegations it would seem that John Darwin is more comfortable in a fantasy world than in the real world. Maybe he himself realises this and is looking forward to a long stir of porridge, it could be just what he needs to avoid getting himself knotted up in further harebrained antics. Or perhaps, as an ex-prison officer, he is feeling a little homesick and wants to return to more familiar quarters. Who knows?


But to return to the initial question of this article, if JD were presented as the ultimate proof of the theory of life then intelligent design would come a very poor third in the race JD having displayed a total absence of IQ, natural selection staggers home in second place after failing miserably to do its job in eliminating a seriously weak link from the gene pool and on the basis of all the stories and fantasies involved in this tale Creationism wins by a mile.

I was clearing out some storage space recently and dug up a stack of ancient magazines. Before committing them to the recycling bin I had a quick glance through a few of them and came across this little gem. I’m not sure exactly when I started cycling, but I know I was still at school, and I’ve been doing the same with varying degrees of enthusiasm ever since – although I suspect I need to do more if I am to avoid ending up like the subject of this verse –

I used to ride a bike

All motorists get up my nose
But the type I most dislike
Is the one who has to tell you
That he used to ride a bike.

He approaches you at lunch stop
With a loving sort of look,
You try to hint you’re resting –
But tact’s not in his book.

Oh, the cafés where he used to stop.
The characters he knew.
The distances he covered.
He rode twice as far as you.

He’s over thirty now, of course
(his waist looks forty-two),
So he’s had to pack it in for good –
But how he envies you!

All cyclists need protection Lord,
But one thing we implore –
Protect us most of all from bores
Who’ve swapped two wheels for four.

© Bill Tordoff

[towncryer.gif]A few years ago the district of Užupis, in the city of Vilnius, declared itself to be an independent republic. A President and bishop were appointed, four flags were designed [one for each season], and a suitable constitution was duly drawn up. The 41 rights which form the constitution are engraved on mirrors, attached to a wall on Paupio Street. In addition, it has a palace, an army [of 12] to defend it and a National Day [1st April], which may give some idea of just how important this shabby little area has become. More details here and here and probably the most thorough in-depth analysis just here.

Here is a translation of the terms of the constitution –

Everyone has the right to live by the River Vilnelė, while the River Vilnelė has the right to flow by everyone.
Everyone has the right to hot water, heating in winter and a tiled roof.
Everyone has the right to die, but it is not a duty.
Everyone has the right to make mistakes.
Everyone has the right to individuality.
Everyone has the right to love.
Everyone has the right to be not loved, but not necessarily.

Everyone has the right not to be distinguished and famous.

Everyone has the right to be idle.
Everyone has the right to love and take care of a cat.

Everyone has the right to look after a dog till one or the other dies.

A dog has the right to be a dog.
A cat is not obliged to love its master, but it must help him in difficult times.
Everyone has the right to sometimes be unaware of his duties.
Everyone has the right to be in doubt, but this is not a duty.
Everyone has the right to be happy.

Everyone has the right to be unhappy.

Everyone has the right to be silent.

Everyone has the right to have faith.

No one has the right to violence.

Everyone has the right to realize his negligibility and magnificence.

Everyone has the right to encroach upon eternity.
Everyone has the right to understand.
Everyone has the right to understand nothing.
Everyone has the right to be of various nationalities.
Everyone has the right to celebrate or not to celebrate his birthday.
Everyone shall remember his name.
Everyone may share what he possesses.
No-one can share what he does not possess.
Everyone has the right to have brothers, sisters and parents.
Everyone is capable of independence.
Everyone is responsible for his freedom.
Everyone has the right to cry.
Everyone has the right to be misunderstood.
No-one has the right to make another person guilty.
Everyone has the right to be personal.
Everyone has the right to have no rights.
Everyone has the right to not be afraid.
Do not defeat.
Do not fight back.
Do not surrender.
How does this grab you? I read this many years ago and it was relatively old even then, but the down to earth style and content is as impressive for me now as it ever was.  It has a brutal honesty about it which makes it unsuitable reading for the romantics or faint of heart, as it rips away all the sickly saccharine images of love and romance which we get bombarded with.

Not a rose or a satin heart,
I give you an onion.
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
It promises light, like the gentle undressing of love.

Here. It will blind you with tears, like a lover.
It will make your reflections a wobbling photo of grief.

I am trying to be truthful.
Not a cute card or a kissogram.
I give you an onion.

Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips, possessive and faithful, as we are,
For as long as we are.

Take it.
Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding ring, if you like.

Its scent will cling to your fingers,
Cling to your knife.

Carol Ann Duffy

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