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  • Philip Bryer

The A-Z Guide to Life - Part 1



I think most of us would agree that ambition is a good thing. Striving to reach goals of whatever kind is a natural instinct, it’s probably why the human race is where it is today (alright, don’t blame me, it could be worse). It doesn’t have to be financial or career-related, we might have aspirations to play a musical instrument, learn a foreign language, or simply to be a nicer person. Although if it’s in your nature to want to be nicer, then you’re probably nice enough already.

My current ambition is to finish this opening section. After that, for people to enjoy reading it. But this won’t involve approaching you with a purposeful, no-nonsense stride, grasping your hand, shaking it firmly, smiling engagingly, and looking you straight in the eye before beginning a well-rehearsed sales pitch. Also, I won’t be shoving J.K. Rowling and Lee Child out of the way in my attempt to win you over.

I’ll be ambitious in my own way, you do it your way. But for God’s sake, don’t be an arsehole about it.


You don’t have to venture very far to hear people blaming America for most of the woes of the world, and moaning about American people. Big, bad America. Big, loud Americans.

Well, speaking personally, most of the Americans that I’ve met have been big-hearted, friendly, warm and funny. And, for an English person, refreshingly open.

As for America, people are entitled to their opinion – however woolly and wrong-headed it may be. I have though lost count of the number of times I have interrupted someone’s castigation of Bush or Reagan or Walt Disney or the Feds or whatever, to ask them where they’re going on holiday. Surprisingly, for people with such anti-Yank sensibilities, the answer is often Florida, or California, or New York, or they might express a wish to see New England in the fall, or drive Route 66. Funny that. These same people are the ones who can be heard opining in a superior manner that, “The Americans don’t do irony.” From which we must presume that they’re not only hypocritical about their travel plans but that they’ve also never seen a single episode of Frasier, or Seinfeld, or M*A*S*H or a Coen Brothers film, or….I could go on, but let’s not make this a simple yet extensive list of American TV and film comedy. Perhaps these USA-naysayers don’t have televisions. This might also explain their ignorance about current affairs.


I took up vegetable gardening a few years ago and I haven’t been so interested in Brer Ant since I was a horrid little schoolboy.

The appearance of ants in my vegetable patch always piqued my interest and I tried to see where they were heading so that I could identify the nest and fix them good by pouring something unpleasant into it. The trouble is that they seemed to head in all sorts of directions, busy little beggars they were, and I could never track down Ant HQ.

Now, despite the fact that something that busy is probably not to be trusted, and however appalled I was by the sight of a bunch of them carrying off a poor centipede, I decided to leave them alone. Perhaps they are a force for good in the garden, I have read such things. However, the Internet being the Internet, I have also read the complete opposite. I am also suspicious about the returns I am getting in carrot plants when weighed against the seeds I’m sowing, and suspect the ants of setting up their own subterranean carrot farm.

Arena Rock

Music and concrete. Not natural bedfellows. Unless you’re looking for a substance in which to inter the complete works of Robbie Williams for all eternity – or at least the half-life of concrete. Better make that reinforced concrete.

There’s nothing like a rock concert in a soulless arena to make you feel, well, less than enamoured with the whole experience.

Every rock fan drinks lager, apparently.

Other presumptions by the people who run these dustbins are that all rock fans like to have multiple opportunities to buy a load of overpriced tat (although I still rather wish I’d bought the ‘Nick Lowe Bought Me A Drink’ t-shirt which was being flogged at one of his concerts - not an arena show, though).

Rock fans aren’t particularly bothered about the easy availability or cleanliness of toilets.

The quality of the sound isn’t in the least bit important, and if you’re sitting at the sides then craning your neck around so you can actually see something is a completely natural position for the human frame.

The sight of a clutch of pony-tailed, middle-aged blokes wearing ‘Bruce Springsteen’ t-shirts bought on previous tours and perhaps part of a game of early adopter one-upmanship, sipping lagers in the concrete abyss of the unlamented and dreadful old hole that was Earl’s Court tipped the scale for me. The mantra is now an unwavering one – Arena rock, don’t bother.


It is true that in their journey through these pages the reader will encounter the word ‘avoid’, or variations upon it.

This is the first instance.


Sometimes unavoidable. Often unwinnable. Arguments can be over and done with more quickly if you swallow what’s left of your pride and cede the last word to your spouse.

Art Galleries

Unparalleled venues for wandering around, stroking your chin, and looking knowledgeable about things of which you quite probably have no knowledge at all. If questioned by anyone, pretend to be a foreign visitor and have some waffle prepared about historical significance or forgeries. If they persist, pretend your English isn’t up to it, and leg it to another floor, or in extremis, another gallery.


The name of the inventor of aspirin is the subject of some dispute. It might be A, it could be B, possibly A and B, or even C. There is much discussion on the web, and quite honestly I can’t make head or tail of it all. So let’s just say that aspirin was developed in the laboratories of German drugsters Bayer AG.

Aspirin, a wonder drug that changed the world, and Bayer AG are rightly proud of this and make quite the hoopla and fuss about it. Bayer AG were also responsible for another wonder drug which changed the world, heroin. They tend to keep quiet about this one.


The humidity has dropped and it may even be more summery than the summer was, the kids have gone back to school, you don’t have to start worrying about Christmas for a while yet, the trees are a lovely colour, and October’s a fine time for a holiday overseas.

Autumn – the best season.


It’s one of the 7 Deadly Sins, what more can I add to win over the casual reader? Nothing. All I can suggest is that said casual reader moves on to the B’s where things get much more interesting.


If you have enjoyed this brief excerpt from the A-Z Guide to Life, the whole thing is available as a PDF from the Donate button on the homepage. For only £5.00.

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