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Having a go at it

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Like most of us I have, over the years, scratched deeply at the surface of a number of mind-improving activities, courses, sports, and hobbies. My leaning bookshelf, the only result of "Be Your Own Carpenter in Twenty Easy Lessons," bears testimony to the breadth and variety of the branches of the Tree of Knowledge I have endeavoured to cut off. From 'A' -- the Principles of Accountancy -- down to 'Z' -- Elements of Zoology, with pauses in between, I have tried to be what all the course advertisements referred to as "one of the select few who will be leaders in your community" or, as my brother would observe in his crude way, a "sucker for a sale."

The courses I recall best have always been those in which the word 'easy' has appeared. The Principles of Easy Automobile Maintenance ("Never be stuck/Don't leave it to luck"), The Classical Guitar Made Easy, Easy Judo for Beginners, and the languages -- German (and Italian, Portuguese, French, even -- so help me -- Japanese) in Thirteen Easy Lessons. And here I would ask why always thirteen, and why always "easy." I wish I knew.

Incidentally, the more percipient of my readers will note the Socratic touch to my selection, a combination of athleticism and aesthetics, which that gentleman said was the sign of the complete man. And I would like to add that at last I know who it was who offered him the hemlock.

If there has been any recurrent theme in my mind-bending lurch through life, it has been that of languages. I don't know why this is so but I suspect that it was of feeling of guilt engendered by my upbringing, which occurred in those days when any honest Englishman expected the world to learn his language and be proud to do it. (This thought, incidentaly, never applied to Americans who, it was understood, did their best with it and were more or less intelligible.)

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