The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 11 (February 1, 1936)
The Spice Of Advice
The Vice in Advice.
On this earth There's no dearth
There may be a drought
Or a famine about,
A slump or depression,
Or other digression,
We will bet
That Tom, Dick or Jack
Will ne'er find a lack
Advice is almost the only commodity one can rely on getting free and freely. Of course, dear reader, this statement does not apply to the variety for which you pay doctors and lawyers and suchlike purveyors of deliberated diagnosis and authenticated opinion; for, when you are reduced to actually paying for advice, you are desperate indeed and probably need it.
We refer to the brand of undeliberated liberation which is so easily given and so seldom taken.
This world teems with people so taunt with a superfluity of good advice, which they are too wise to use themselves, that they have to transfer it to their fellows, or burst.
Thus we meet the fellow who prefers to offer his thirsty friend sound advice on the art of drinking rather than offer a drink; thus the farmer who is able to spend nine-tenths of his day advising his neighbour how to put in posts and potatoes, bring up calves and crops, lay down ensilage and eggs, build barns and bank balances, eradicate weeds and weasels and do all those things which he himself has left undone!
Yeas and Neighs.
Thus the human race-goer's guide! The man who knows all there is to be known about race horses—and more! The financial adviser of the turf whose “yea” and “neigh” is given so freely. The marvel is that he has not been decimated by his own poison gas. For, how often does he poison the hard-earned opinions of his fellow punters by shattering their faith in honest conviction and proved performance? How often have we heard those words so sadly spoken, “I intended to back the winner but Snag advised me to put my money on Botfly”?
And how often have we lost a hatful by failing to back Uncle Willie because some fiend in human guise advised us to put our shirt on Aunt Agatha?
Aunt Agatha may be quite a ladylike horse, but unless she can manipulate her extremities in such a manner as to create a hiatus of horseflesh between her and the winning post, no advice in the world can reinstate our faith in the horse as the true friend of man.
And, skipping lightly from horses to horse-radishes and suchlike subsidiaries of the soil, we meet the agricultural adviser or fence-popper who bobs up when you are trying to convince the wife that you are gardening.
Like an ostrich you bury your head in the hole you have dug for the dahlias; it is useless; he recognises you by the patch on your pants. Vain it is to pretend that you are so intent on tracking a caterpillar to its furry fastness in the heart of a cabbage that you do not see him. Even if you lie in the geraniums making noises like a wound-up wireworm or a woolly aphis which has come unravelled, he spots you.
Advice has been accumulating in him all night; the pressure on his dome is tremendous. He must rid himself of it, or take it himself—and no itinerant adviser has ever been known to take his own advice; the recoil would kill him. His wife, of page 61 course, never listens to him; she lost faith in him the day after she took his advice and married him. And so he must go forth to tell somebody how to do something.
“Planting dahlias?” he says.
You make a noise like a broken-winded sheep and try to sit on the tubers. No good!
“ But, my dear fellow,” he bleats, more in pain than in anger, “you are not going to put them in like that?”
You were, but now you know that you are not. Instead, you plant them, as directed, with their eyes turned in and their whiskers on their chests—and twelve months later you dig ‘them up to see why they didn't grow.
Then there is the car adviser who can solve any problem about any car —except his own—which he always sends to the repair shop for renovation. Let you but lift the bonnet and twiddle the plugs to see why she makes a noise like an egg-beater and he is on you. He loves to advise on cars; there is so much about cars which fairly shrieks for advice. The sight of a car's “innards” incites him to a fury of practical advice. He elbows you off your own engine. Before you can say “Henry Ford” he has disarmed you of spanner and pliers and has unscrewed everything unscrewable; he has also uncoiled everything uncoilable, unsprung every spring and hit everything in sight with a hammer. He wades round, up to his ankles, in the dismembered bits of your engine. He holds a carburretter in his teeth, a cylinder head in each hand, and his pockets are full of tiddley bits. Until dark he tells you exactly where the trouble lies, and then he packs all the bits into your tool box and goes home.
The Bridge Wrecker.
No, gentlemen! An adviser never kicks his wife's shins under the table. His revenge is more subtle than that; he simply goes on living.
But he is at his best when the hand has been played and the agony of post-bridge arithmetic is over. The problem of how five claims to four aces can be substantiated is still rankling when he gets in his first punch.
“Now, look here!” he says, grabbing a fist-full of cards and squirting them in all directions. “If you'd led the two to dummy and taken it with your queen and thrown away your four and not trumped your own trick and led to strength through weakness and not reniegged and kept your ace until you'd played your king you would have gone down by only five instead of six. If—–”
“Good heavens!” says somebody. “Who would have dreamt that it's half past twelve?”
And then, while the ladies retire to put on their hats and coats until 1.15 a.m., the host wrestles with his conscience as to whether a host would, under certain circumstances, be justified in slipping rat-exterminator into a guest's whisky.
And so, take my advice—–. But, no! You never will.