My fortieth birthday brought me a pile of book tokens from kindly relatives, which allowed me to head out and purchase two of the finest reference works ever published on these shores.
I refer, of course, to Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, a real door-stop of a work listing the origins and meanings of many of the phrases and idioms used in our everyday lives.
And the Viz Book of Top Tips.
Brewer's has everything you'd ever want from a reference book, from lists of saint's days, to entries on Doris Karloff (see Something of the Night), Sodom and Gomorrah ("Sodom was known for its exquisite pottery until your ancestors rolled in"), Teletubbies and Captain Scarlet. The only dictionary you can read cover-to-cover, only to emerge, stinking, three days later to wonder what happened to your brain and why there are bibles in existence that omit the word "not" from the seventh commandment.
But the Viz book is funnier, and contains such important nuggets as:
Always fart into the rings on top of your gas cooker. This will turn back the gas meter, and save you pounds over a period of time.
And the bad taste classic:
Anorexics. When your knees become fatter than your legs, start eating cakes again.
Wise words, indeed.
However, and changing tack somewhat, I can't help thinking that Brewer's entry on Famous First Lines in Fiction needs jazzing up a bit:
Brighton Rock: "Hale knew, before he had been in Brighton for three hours, that they meant to murder him. Such was the life of a football manager."
The Hobbit: "In a hole in the ground lived a Hobbit. Then, some bastard did a tomato-laden turd on his head."
Lolita: "Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. Come upstairs and listen to my Gary Glitter albums."
Peter Pan: "All children, except one, grow up. And welcome to my weblog."
There. Fixed it.
And now: You! (I understand this might involve actual work. In which case, I'd advise you to make something up. Nobody will notice. Trust me.)