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Throughout Denmark there is not one person over 10 years of age who cannot read or write.

The Nelson Evening Mail, September 4 1906

There is a whale whose voice is too low to communicate with other whales.

Seatbelts do not statistically improve your chances of surviving a car accident.

London’s Mithraic temple is buried deep beneath the new European headquarters of Bloomberg, the financial information company.

Aeneas and Euclid are both in limbo.

The name Lezard is not a Basque name.

One human male ejaculation contains enough sperm to impregnate every fertile female in the Western world.

All traditions must start somewhere.

Bell’s whisky doesn’t make you want to drink Bell’s whisky

Daniel O’Donnell will go live on Facebook from his show in Branson, MO, today.

We have no choice but to believe in free will.

The administration of Nobel Peace Prize-winner Aung San Suu Kyi has charged dozens of Burmese civil-society activists under a law that restricts criticism of the government.

The nation is divided over the John Lewis Christmas ad.

Clichés are piss.

Mortality 101 – or; Catullus at the graveside

The Oldie runs my poem for the Armistice commemorations.

For The Oldie

I ink, therefore I am

On the choice and acquisition of my one and only tattoo.

For The Oldie


The average salary of professors at Dublin University is £530.

The Nelson Evening Mail, March 14 1907

The persecution of Christians is now worse than at any time in history.

Toto’s ‘Africa’ is one of Myleene Klass’s all-time favourites.

The Hillsborough disaster is still in the news.

Simon Bolivar, a Venezuelan military and political leader, liberated Colombia.

The quern performs best when the grindstone has been pitted.

Not everything in life is a $20 jerk-job.

In the ten years of the ‘Cultural Revolution’, the Chinese population increased by 200 million.

Kevin Spacey has always been gay.

Quite a few forests have no trees to speak of.

Orlando is a thoroughly disconnected short novel by the famously unreadable and wildly overrated Virginia Woolf, whose long-suffering husband was a colonial civil servant in Ceylon.

The odds on a white Christmas have been slashed to 2/1.

Nobody ever sits in a badly-lit cellar holding the day’s newspaper for a camera without feeling fear.

Legoland Windsor is full.


The Queen won a first prize for bantams at the King’s Lynn Fur and Feather Society’s show.

The Nelson Evening Mail, January 6 1909

In LA there is a chess set designed for the East India Company, featuring Sikh soldiers vs Afghans.

Among a certain kind of people, being ‘passionate about Israel/Palestine’ is usually a substitute for having any actual political thought.

During WWII, in Germany, a Django Reinhardt record was worth 2kgs of butter on the black market.

A sailor has a tattoo of a swallow for every 5,000 nautical miles he has travelled.

Sam Lewis Craft has been named the Rain Men Player of the Year.

Alfred the Great of England believed that a thorough grounding in the liberal arts was essential for those called to exercise judgement and authority.

A South Benfleet millionaire has revealed how she earns £1,472/hr.

A town in Iceland has painted 3D zebra crossings in an attempt to slow down speeding cars.

Bobby Kennedy had an affair with Marilyn Monroe, then had her killed by Communists.

Truth is harder to bear than ignorance, and so ignorance is valued more.

Brett Dean’s new opera, Hamlet, contains precisely zero tunes.

The Fuegian word ‘mamihlapintafoi’ means ‘(two people) looking at each other, hoping that either will offer to do something which both parties desire but are unwilling to do’.

In 2017 over half the people living in absolute poverty work for a living.


All over China temples have been turned into schools with surprising alacrity.

The Nelson Evening Mail, July 26 1906

The owl of Minerva flies only at dusk.

Though rare, there have been exactly 201 documented cases of spontaneous combustion.

J Sainbury plc is cutting 2000 Human Resources employees.

The collective noun for brown anchovies is a ‘finish’.

Typing and playing the piano can wear your fingerprints away.

Actors cheers each other up by exchanging bad reviews.

When a ship sinks, the crew are released from their oath of loyalty to the captain.

Translator and poet Paul Celan committed suicide in 1970.

It’s Van Month this October at Renault.

Just because it’s in the Guardian doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

The men of Crete are mostly fair, very tall, sometimes gigantic.

It looks very much as if Everton will be looking for a new manager in the morning.

Without George W Bush there would have been no President Trump.

Chinese food (after Jung Chang)

Ancient Chinese proverb

The most capable woman cannot make a meal without food.

Chinese Communist Party saying

A capable woman can make a meal without food.


Only about three in every hundred amateur novel-writers find their way into print, except at their own expense.

The Nelson Evening Mail, January 22 1907


The erection of a verandah is a useful way to extend one’s living quarters.

Seven American states observe Abraham Lincoln’s birthday as a public holiday.

There is only one Tunumiisut-French grammar.

Anne Watson has just moved to university here, and right now really needs money to live. She is willing to go on a date – and has massive breasts.

There is a shark that can live for 400 years.

In 1945 the Soviet Union took the side of Chiang Kai-shek against the Chinese communists.

What in Britain is called the Special Relationship, in Germany is called treason.

Working-class people swear a lot.

At birth, a baby’s focal distance is not much more than 20cm.

In a recent survey, atheists and agnostics knew the most about religion. In second place were Mormons; third Jews; and then all other forms of Christianity.

Barack Obama is Irish.

The revolution will not be printed in Comic Sans.

The word ‘acrylic’ does not benefit from repetitive translation.

We were soldiers, once

How I went from Oxford choral scholar to British Army squaddie (in just under a dozen years).

For The Oldie

Turning Japanese stomachs

Confessions of a Mask
by Yukio Mishima

Penguin, 170pp, £8.99

Born two years after the Great Earthquake of 1923, in ‘not too good a section of Tokyo’, Kochan is a sickly child, brought up by stultifying parents and a morbid grandmother.

His first reliable memory is of the ‘night-soil’ man, and he immediately becomes obsessed with tragic lives, particularly in story books: anybody who is ‘fated for death’.

He is furious upon discovering that his favourite doomed knight is actually Joan of Arc. But after seeing a performance by a female magician, he begins to dress up in his mother’s clothing – and by adolescence he is committed to playing his ‘part’ upon life’s stage, ‘without ever once revealing my true self.’

Kochan is a literally and literarily pained young man, quoting Wilde, Huysmans, and sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld. He edits a Hungarian fairy tale to make the hero’s grisly end more realistic.

He quickly realises his interests are not merely aesthetic. He is aroused by the sight of marauding priests, sweating soldiers, sea-bathers, male in-laws. He stashes away images of (thin-ish) wrestlers and samurai as other boys would hide their porn mags.

Aged 12, he jerks off for the first time – over a picture of Guido Reni’s St Sebastian.

He falls in love with the school jock – ‘because of him I cannot love an intellectual person’ – and falls back out again some pages later, having got an envy-boner at the sight of hairy armpits.

He struggles, naturally enough, to blend in, since he has no idea what other boys are even thinking. (In his defence, mind you, he’s at the sort of pretentious, rigid school where grabbing other boys’ cocks is viewed as a normal playground pastime.)

His anaemia is counterbalanced by a raging blood-thirst. He daydreams, elaborately, of his family being obliterated in an air-raid; of tying a class-mate to a pillar and then stabbing him; of slaughtering ‘many white slaves of Arabia, princes of savage tribes’. He has long-since been enraptured by his own death.

A schoolfriend’s sister appears to provide the social cover that he’s needed. The approach of war looks set to grant him what he wants: ‘some natural, spontaneous suicide’.

A tough and compact piece of literature – in the manner of a JG Ballard, say, or Anthony Burgess – the most surprising thing about Confessions of a Mask is that, for all its euphemistic delicacy (‘inversion’, ‘bad habit’, ‘big thing’), this boundary-pushing novel was published only four years after Japan’s atomic cataclysm.

It is also plainly autobiographical. But as an exercise in personal catharsis, alas, it did not do the trick. Two decades, several dozen books, and three Nobel Prize nominations later, Mishima launched a one-man para-military coup, and wound up disembowelling himself. At least one biographer suggests that this was his intention from the outset.

For The Amorist