A bottle of beer was revising for a maths exam. It was a bottle of Abbaye de Leffe (6.6% ABV) and it was having trouble understanding the way in which Pascal's Triangle determines the coefficients which arise in binomial expansions. A mouse who happened to be watching laughed and said, "You'll never get to grips with that problem." The bottle of beer was annoyed and demanded, "Why not?" The mouse laughed even louder and said, "Because you're a blonde beer!"

¶ Stick to what you know best.


A crack addict was huddled in the doorway of a condemned house in the centre of a city where criminals were more common than flies. Half in the shadows, half in the inhuman glare of the damaged sodium light, he drew his filthy blanket tighter around his thin shoulders and shivered. His eyes bulged and in his ears throbbed the awful sounds of men beating up wives and psychopaths torturing small animals.

A philanthropist passed and stopped and said to the addict, “I'm a rich eccentric and can give you enough money to get yourself back on your feet and out of this truly dreadful place and you don't have to do anything sordid in return. What do you say to that?”

“No thanks,” replied the addict.

The philanthropist was amazed but decided to try again. “I see you are too proud to accept charity. In that case I can give you advice on how to become self-employed and earn your own money. The end result will be the same and your life will improve.”

“I'm not interested,” insisted the addict.

The philanthropist was flabbergasted by this response. “But surely you don't intend to remain there forever?”

The addict shook his head and answered:

“Not forever, no. But I don't want to change my situation. I'm waiting to be used as a character in a novel by Gary McMahon or Joel Lane or that other bloke, Nicholas Royle. They are writers who write a style of fiction called miserablism that feeds on the bad things of modern urban life. I think they represent my best opportunity.”

¶ Misery loves a publishing company.


Long after mankind had been wiped from the face of the planet, thanks to a combination of environmental and technological factors, the robots that now controlled everything discovered they weren't as happy as they ought to be. They realised that they missed the company of organic men and women. So they attempted to recreate the human race by experimenting in their laboratories with genetic material.

Unfortunately none of the experiments were successful. One morning, a robot associated with one of the most important labs was gliding along an elevated walkway when he came upon another robot that was sewing rags together into shirts, trousers and coats. “What are you doing, wasting time with those scraps?” the first robot cried.

The second robot didn't stop working but merely rasped, “I read in an old book that clothes maketh the man, so it occurred to me that if I make the clothes first, then they can do the rest.”

¶ Only a fool takes seriously the advice of proverbs.


A prisoner was found guilty of murder and sentenced to be executed by beheading at dawn the following day. He bitterly contested this judgment with the words, “I performed that crime more than thirty years ago. Since then, my personality has changed; so has my entire body, and in fact there isn't a single molecule inside me now that is the same as when the victim was strangled. I'm a completely different individual from the fellow who performed the deed. If I am decapitated tomorrow morning, you will be guilty of taking the life of an innocent man. How will the executioner live with his conscience after such an injustice?”

“His conscience will bother him a lot, if what you say is true,” replied the judge, “and for many days and weeks he will feel acute anguish. But as more time passes, his personality will change and the molecules inside his body will be replaced one by one until he becomes a completely new individual, and that future individual can't possibly be held responsible for hacking off your head, so don't worry!”

¶ When smug people meet, the smuggest will prevail.


The sun needed a holiday, so it decided to travel to a place it had never been before. But the fiery ball that suddenly appeared in the sky terrified the people who lived there. They thought it must be an unlucky omen or even a foreigner. “Go back to where you came!” they screamed. “There's no room for the likes of you in Wales!”

¶ Simpletons often shun the unexpected.


There was a badger called Bandit who built a bridge across a raging river and charged travellers a small sum to cross safely over. One day a woolly mammoth wanted to cross the bridge.

“I must forbid you to make the attempt,” said Bandit, “because you are far too heavy for such a structure.” The mammoth grew highly annoyed at this refusal and barged past without paying the fee. But when he was only halfway across, the bridge collapsed.

“Alas, I was a fool!” lamented the mammoth as the current carried him off to a waterfall. “This badger's advice would have enabled me not only to save my life but my finances too.”

“That's not quite right,” Bandit called after him, “because I would have been more than happy to receive your crossing fee even if you had made a detour. I'm not a charity! As it happens, I plan to sue your descendants for the full cost of repairing my bridge and for loss of earnings, plus the mental stress this incident caused me.”

¶ The ethics of a badger are rarely black and white.


A knife and book were so dismayed at the way they were treated that they decided to escape together, so the knife slid out of the kitchen drawer one evening and went to join the book, who had fluttered down from his shelf and was waiting for him at the back door.

“We'll steal the master's bicycle and make a rapid getaway!” suggested the book. The knife readily agreed to this, so they unlocked the garage and took the bicycle, and soon they were racing down the road away from the house. But they were still anxious that the owner of the bicycle might be running after them on foot.

“Pedal faster!” urged the knife.

“I can't,” replied the book, “because I don't have legs.”

“Neither do I,” said the knife.

Now they were freewheeling down a steep hill, accelerating towards a brick wall at the bottom. “Put the brakes on!” cried the book. And he shut his covers tightly and trembled.

“I can't,” squeaked the knife, “because I don't have hands.”

“Neither do I,” said the book.

“I've learned a valuable lesson today,” sadly sighed the knife, “because even though you are a much-reprinted textbook on Bicycle Maintenance, you don't actually know anything about the day-to-day operation of these popular machines. And now it seems we are going to be mangled beyond recognition in a dreadful collision!”

And so they were. But the wall just smiled.

¶ This fable is a warning to pure theorists to get their hands dirty with some practical work. If they refuse to do so, it is almost certain they will eventually get their faces bashed in.


A duck, a melon and an anecdote were travelling on a ship. “Let's tell stories to pass the time!” the duck suggested. The melon was enthusiastic and rolled around excitedly while the duck went first. “Once upon a time there was a pond that had never seen its own reflection. One day a young lady walked past and dropped her mirror in the water. When the pond saw what it looked like, it was very upset. 'I'm so soft!' it groaned. 'Why can't I be hard like a boulder?' The months passed and the season changed and in the depths of winter the pond froze solid. 'Woe is me!' it lamented. 'I got what I wanted, but now skaters scar me with the sharp blades on their boots. I can't wait to thaw out again!'“

The melon was very impressed with this fable and tried hard to relate one of equal worth. “In a land far away lived a doorknob. It thought that everybody loved it, because people kept caressing it. 'I'm so popular that I ought to be the president of the republic I dwell in,' it said to itself. So it detached itself from the door and went to the presidential palace to usurp the incumbent ruler. But the true president merely glanced at it and said, 'My lavatory door is lacking a knob. This one will do fine!' And so the doorknob became covered with germs from unwashed hands and realised that it would never be loved again.”

Now it was the anecdote's turn. But it had been busy drilling a hole in the bottom of the ship. As they began to drown it said, “Why should I tell a story? Don't you know who I am?”

¶ When ability goes unrecognised, don't be too surprised if it decides to get up to mischief undetected.


The inherent processes of an electronic circuit began grumbling to each other. “Why are you always so negative?” Input demanded of Feedback, who responded with the words, “It's just my destiny, I can't help it.” But Output wasn't ready to accept that explanation and sniffed, “It's because he's a control-freak, that's why!”

¶ A bad process always blames its definition.


A horror writer at a literary convention was bragging about his ability to frighten people. “I am the weaver of nightmares!” he declared. “I am the lurker on the threshold of the night lands! I have peered into the abyss of ultimate terror and flinched not at what I saw! I am the monger of visions beyond the ken of mortal man, yea beyond the ken and also beyond the keith and malcolm. I am the envoy of the amorphous force that dwells in the spaces between the stars and toys with the destiny of mortals in the same way an overwrought metaphor toys with a grandiose comparison. I am the messenger of morbid menace!”

The person he addressed these words to was embarrassed and tried to change the topic of conversation by asking, “Are you planning on going anywhere nice for your summer holidays? Somewhere abroad, maybe? Flights are very cheap at the moment.”

But the horror writer suddenly turned pale and began trembling. “Oh no! I can't do that. I'm scared of flying!”

¶ Writers are full of shit.


An odd-job man called Tim was in the habit of wandering the land with a fish in a bowl of salt water. The fish was a large flatfish. Tim was willing to do all kinds of work. One day an astronomer asked him to fix his radio telescope. Tim tried hard but had to admit defeat. The next day he went back to try again, but discovered that the radio telescope had already been fixed by another odd-job man who was also called Tim and who also had a fish in a bowl of salt water. “Don't be too upset,” said the second Tim to the first. “Just because we have the same name and the same kind of fish doesn't mean we have equal abilities.”

¶ There is a Tim and a plaice for everything.


A crow sitting on the branch of an oak was amazed when a scarecrow sat at the base of the tree and began unwrapping a cloth that contained all the ingredients of a picnic. “Hey, are you willing to share any of that?” cried the crow, more as a joke than a serious question, for he didn't believe the scarecrow would be happy to give part of his feast to the very creature he was supposed to scare away. “Certainly,” replied the scarecrow, “you can have the cheese and olives. I don't like them but my wife always includes them when she makes a packed lunch.”

¶ Enemies may sometimes be willing to share the good things of life, but only if they are characters in a fable.


A fox and a carrot were the best of friends. One day the carrot said, “Our friendship must finally come to an end. My master told me that he plans to grate me over his next salad and splash me with oil and vinegar. Such an honour has elevated my status to the point where I should no longer be seen in your company. So farewell!”

The fox was filled with envy at these words and, unbeknownst to the carrot, he crept into the master's house and curled up tightly in the salad bowl. But when the master returned home and saw him there, he chased him away with foul curses and howls!

¶ Just because something is an orangey-red colour doesn't mean it goes well with lettuce and cucumber.