We all need expert help at times. My favourite instruction manual has got to be “How to Attach a Space Shuttle to a 747 Aircraft.” It’s right up there with “If you cannot read English, do not use this product.” Which is useful advice before attempting a Space Shuttle assembly.
Constantly reading the Highway Code won’t teach you how to drive a car, of course, even some driving instructors can’t manage that, any more than cookery books will turn you into a Michelin Starred Chef, although the judges were rendered almost speechless by my Marmite Halloumi. “Incroyable!” was the word I think I heard as they left, with a sound like the clattering of escaping feet in The Goon Show.
In a world of ever-increasing complexity, books which guide and explain have never been more popular, or indeed more all-embracing in their subject matter. You might, at a pinch, want to start with “The A to Z of Breathing” — I always thought it was restricted to In and Out — before advancing to The Official Life Instruction Manual — is there now such a thing as unofficial life, and does it attract a lower level of taxation? I must investigate that.
If you are into self-analysis, or any sort of analysis, you may want to purchase “The Emotion Thesaurus: From Anger to Zen.” You see what they’ve done there? Place it on a shelf beside “The Negative Trait Compendium”, that might help with your outbursts of anger. (At the price, perhaps.)
Some purchases come with practical or even lifestyle advice. There is a leaflet for an Ikea product that advises you to throw away one of the parts — a rare example of instant planned obsolescence — plus I have read chopstick instructions that simply said “Good Luck!” And received junk mail that warned me not to wear white socks with black shoes. As if I would.
Some sarcastic sewing machinist in a clothing factory once added her own advice to the label of a black hoodie: “Lawyer up and delete your Facebook account.” And can the author of “How to Avoid Huge Ships” really be called Captain John W. Trimmer, forever trimming the sails of his yacht? Yes, he can, and is.
The Honda Motorcycle Instruction Book is full of valuable safety hints, such as “Go soothingly on the grease mud, as there lurks the skid demon.” Probably useful in winter when the slippery slope ice demon is lurking as well.
How can a seeker after comprehensive knowledge possibly resist purchasing a book called simply — but intriguingly — “Instructions”? We are told it may save us from being eaten by wolves (buy a house further from the forest?) and also how to “Remember your name.” Reading that, I suspected it might be for old people, but saw the reading age was 2-6 years.
Anyway, what could such a book possibly teach a man who knows how to fix a Space Shuttle to the side of an aircraft? (It’s “Black Side Down,” by the way.) Next stop, Mars. If I can find a book to tell me how to get there.