Things That Keep Me Up at Night

By Richard Boughton

“I’m one of those people,” writes Stephen King in his most recent novel, “who doesn’t really know what he thinks until he writes it down.”

I can go a step further than that, because I’m one of those people who doesn’t really know what he thinks even after he’s done thinking it. My mind seems to have no sense of informed taste or selection, but jumps instead at every bit of passing information like a fish that can’t see the difference between a tasty fly and a speeding bullet.

It seems that the dumbest things strike me as somehow significant or mysterious. They get into my brain and clatter about like marbles in a tin canister, interrupting a focus on matters more worthy of attention, or indeed needful of the same.

Why, by way of example, are most females so fond of the colour pink? The normal answer should be “who cares?” – right? What difference does it make? But no, I must look the thing up, get to the bottom of the matter, no matter how insipid the question may be.

I learn through the internet that “scientists” believe this female attraction to the colour pink arises from prehistoric times, when the role of the woman was that of a food gatherer. Since berries are sort of pink (so the scientists claim), the colour was ingrained into the woman’s psyche so that she would seek out and gather up things that were pink, and therefore (hopefully) berries. In due time, of course, this berry-gathering pastime petered out and yet the biological, genetic fixation remained.

So next time my wife hankers after that pink purse, or those pink shoes, or that pink Mercedes, I will know what she’s really on about. Berries.

Another thing that strikes me as curious (and keeps me up at night) is this whole idea of global warming. Here we have a shaky theory that has been turned in the space of a decade or so into a matter of popular lore – and this despite the objection of a number of eminent scientists who say it is no more than a hoax. Norwegian Nobel prize winner Ivar Giaever, for example, states that “Global warming is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientic fraud I have seen in my long life.” So why do we continue to believe? How does a falsehood so robustly persist? Who is behind it, and what is the plan, really?

This leads me to the whole question of tobacco use being harmful to one’s health. It says so on the package, right? And therefore it must be so. Yet statistics gathered from around the world would seem to show that very often the rate of lung cancer in heavy-smoking populations, such as those in Turkey and Egypt, is far lower than the rate of lung cancer in countries where fewer people smoke. Now what’s that all about? What’s really going? What shadowy, conspiratorial group is out to kill King Tobacco, and why?

Why were 40 planes needed to bring Barack Obama to Bali? I mean, when my wife and I moved from America to Bali we brought along 13 boxes of various stuff, and I thought that was a lot at the time. But 40 planeloads? How is it possible? Yes, I realise some of the planes were burdened with larger sorts of items, such as armoured personnel carriers – and I understand there was no need for my family to bring along any military vehicles – but still, if I had known we could have brought 40 planes of stuff, I might have included a few extra bits and pieces. My piano, for instance. My wife’s Marcos-like collection of shoes. Two or three old girlfriends. My two dogs and my two dogs’ dogs. As it turns out, we were really quite Spartan. And I guess that’s something to be proud about.

Another mystery concerns the bug in my motorcycle helmet. I cannot find this bug on careful examination of the helmet, nor does it make its presence known when I am stopped at a traffic light or travelling at low speed. No, this bug only appears – and always in my ear – at high speed or in heavy traffic when there is no opportunity for me to free a hand or stop the bike. Naturally I ask myself how this can be. Coincidence is one thing, but this seems beyond that. I reckon it’s some kind of fate or bad karma, a little bit of purgatory on Earth.

Lastly I will mention the matter of the petrol in my motorbike. Through two years of experience I have found that the bike will run just about forever when the gauge is on empty, and yet when I fill the tank, the petrol disappears with alarming rapidity as if through a hole in the bottom. But there is no hole. I’ve checked, many times. I conclude, therefore, that the best course in the future will be to keep the gauge well into the red.

Richard can be contacted via

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Practical Paradise

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