Never shag a gift horse when it’s down
The only books I ever saw in my younger brother Dave’s hands were Asterix comics or novels he was forced to endure for year twelve English.
Twenty years on still sees him cautiously ask if there’s a movie available whenever any discussions about books arise. Despite this, he’s forged a successful career as a town planner and seminar speaker. He is required to attend and actively participate in more than his fair share of council meetings, committees, objection hearings and conferences and throughout his adult life he has discovered that his lack of reading means that he is living a parallel life when it comes to using common phrases and old sayings.
Unusually however, this has not made him an object of scorn but as someone who has breathed new life into these hackneyed cliches and nuggets of so-called advice. For instance he’s recently worked out that Faye Acrumbly is not a malevolent committee member always mentioned but never seen but is instead someone who is actually working under the official title of ‘Fait Accompli’ and already done what she set out to do. She’s organised, is Faye.
Dave often feels as though his good project proposals and ideas get ‘Nipped in the butt.’ One’s backside may not be quite as delicate a descriptor as ‘bud’ but is certainly a deviation that most of his colleagues can understand and empathise with, especially during annual performance review time. Admitting to being caught ‘butt naked’ during a quick change by his car after an early morning surf during a week-long seminar on the coast makes a fair bit more sense as well.
We have a lively discussion over his use of the phrase ‘Six of one, a dozen of the other’. When told by his know-it-all sister that it’s meant to be ‘Six of one, half a dozen of the other,’ he merely rolls his eyes, shrugs and shoots back with, “Not where I work or live. Since when have things proved to be even-handed or consistent?” Fair point.
Doing something ‘on the spare of the moment’ makes him seem well-planned and organised rather than impetuous: a boon, apparently, in the local council planning domain. ‘Spurs’ would be far too aggressive and less team-oriented when it comes to trying to educate and cajole greedy property developers or overly-ambitious architects about the importance of considering environmental sustainability, preservation of streetscapes and planning laws. He thinks quickly on his feet, does Dave.
Neither of us know the origin of ‘Never the twain shall meet’, and he prefers using ‘Never the train shall tweet.’ He doesn’t have time for Twitter or SMS and prefers to spend his time commuting doing other stuff like stare out of the window, chatting to his mates or working on his laptop if he gets a seat – anything other than get a good novel out and start reading it.
Like a fool in a china shop, he rarely beats around the buses when getting to the point is concerned. "Why can’t I toot my own horn?” he asks, “For all intensive purposes, if you don’t toot your horn these days, you’ll never get let into the traffic flow, and as for not being able to have my cake and eat it too, that’s just pointless and cruel.” Being gracious in defeat is all very noble, he admits, but being gracious in the sheets ensures that he continues to have a happy and lasting marriage.
He starts warming up to his clashing cliches. ‘Don’t count your chickens by their cover,’ is a perfectly reasonable thing to say in his view. “Don’t remember my year eight agriculture class? I chose the white chooks for my project and they ended up pecking each other’s feathers off.”
Given his lack of love for literature, it makes sense that chickens are going to be selected and judged far more frequently than book covers in his unique world. Still, he refuses to ‘give up the goat,’ says he’s proud of being a ‘country bunkum’ and hopes he can remain analogous when it comes to being able to criticise his profession and the people he works with. “I’m all for following my dreams but only if they involve supermodels and beer and not the one where I turn up nude to my nanna’s house.”
To be fair to my lovely young brother, he’s invented a pretty effective one of his own. No holes barred, it perfectly summarises the ridiculous amount of stress we place on ourselves and sanctimoniously say to others: ‘Put your best foot forward, nose to the grindstone, head down-bum up, back to the wall, shoulder to the wheel and keep your eyes on the prize.’ If you can manage that, every stitch in time won’t gather any pesky moss or spoil your broth.