The Old Grumpies: Say what you like, and a proverb’ll back you up...


At our recent meeting we started with the usual comments and grumbles about the weather (too hot) people cycling on pavements (still an offence and still no police action) traffic lights on the Rochdale Road out of Todmorden (mercifully now removed) and Hebden Bridge getting publicity about a Burlesque Show which was said might cause “gender difficulties”.

We thought they were there already.

Then a member arrived late and said “better late than never” to which the member sitting in the best chair, with his hands in the biscuit tin, replied: “Yes, but the early bird catches the worm.“ When someone then said: “Always remember that the second mouse gets the cheese,” we started out on a morning of proverbs, maxims and sayings which seemed to be contradictory in some cases and confirmatory in others to our way of thinking.

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder” clashes with “out of sight - out of mind” and “too many cooks spoil the broth” with “many hands make light work”. “Look before you leap” clashes with “he who hesitates is lost”.

But we all liked the one that said: “housework can’t kill you - but why take the chance?”

The discussion following reached both high and low levels.

The low was when someone asked who could finish off these proverbs: “A bird in the hand is….? And “Cold hand …? But improved when Socrates was mentioned and who could argue with “real knowledge is to know the extent of ones ignorance”.

Our resident cleric did remind us of “The Proverbs” in the Bible where you could read about the Wisdom of Solomon although there was a hint of sexism and severe chastising of children in his words (Solomon, not the cleric).

There was much arguing about the source of many of the famous quotations that were shared between Confucius, Shakespeare, Buddha, Oscar Wilde, Winston Churchill and Wayne Rooney. We had it on good authority that it was the latter who said that “a woman’s mind is cleaner than a man’s because she changes it more often”. He probably got that one from a Christmas cracker.

One or two proverbs were subtlety directed at certain members although “brevity is the soul of wit” probably flew over the head of our resident windbag but we all knew why a certain member said that “a good tale is none the worse for being told twice”. We agreed, but had to add that in the fifth telling it has lost most of its impact.

We puzzled over what Confucius meant when he said that you should “never give a sword to a man who can’t dance” and we assumed that the proverb “it’s an ill wind that nobody blows good” was referring to Scottish bagpipes. There was universal agreement that “great minds think alike” applied to us and “empty vessels make the most noise” applied to many people we know.

There was confusion over the popular saying “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” when someone said it was “do unto others before they do it unto you “ We did think that we could improve one or two with a little addition and when we heard the classic “never put off until tomorrow what you can do today”. Someone added “Because if you do it today and like it, you can do it again tomorrow”.

And seen outside a shop was a sign that said, “God helps those who help themselves… but we prosecute”. It was also remarked that if “ignorance is bliss” then there must be a lot of very happy people.

Rather sheepishly a member recalled the occasion when at a party he quoted to a young lady that “there’s many a good tune played on an old fiddle“ to which she replied “I very much doubt that you posses a Stradivarius”. He never used that one again.

Although we call ourselves the Old Grumpies we do agree with Shakespeare who said “with mirth and laughter let the old wrinkles come” and the proverb which is supported by recent research (yes, we know) that “being cheerful keeps you happy. It is a slow death to be gloomy all the time.”

We concluded that there is a proverb or saying out there which will satisfy almost any philosophical concept you happen to have at the time. Just choose the most suitable.

The ones that we thought applied to us were “people who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do” (although that’s true, we do have problems trying to remember a lot of it) and finally “young men think old men are fools. Old men know that young men are”.

Luckily you are “only young once”.

Need we say more?