Dear Professor Poor: small woody shoots have suddenly begun to appear on my lawn – any idea what could be causing this? Glen, Whitby.
My mother swore by a sprig of parsley held in the cleft of the mouth for everything from Nervous Stomach to Climbing Fever and she lived to the ripe old age of 56 before fever claimed her.
Dear Professor Poor: I’ve been feeling lacklustre lately, should I consult a physician? Phil, Dartford.
They say dolphins can sniff out cancer. It seems unlikely, but why not give it a go? Or if there are no dolphins are available, why not consult your local fishmonger. He may have some pointers. Or flounders. I knew a man, let’s call him Duncan. He was afflicted in manhood with cancer of the lap. It then moved up his whole left side. He was the size of a pitta bread when it was over.
Dear Professor Poor: I’m eco-conscious and wonder about the environmental damage that dry-cleaning causes – do you have any thoughts on the subject? Helen, Whitstable.
I was cursed myself by a local dry cleaner after disagreements over the most apt method of removing hummus from a lapel. She was of Eastern European extraction and in the same week my mother died and Stevenage were knocked out of the Sherpa Van trophy tournament, so I know she was up to something Wiccan. It was only after a boxed-set of Birds of a Feather, some Terry’s All Gold and an apologetic dance that the whole sorry saga ceased. Now we are the best of friends and have even considered entering a corn maze together.
Dear Professor Poor: I fear my husband may be the Medway strangler. His dungarees are frequently flecked with blood and I’m not allowed in the attic. Am I being paranoid? Kathy, Medway.
Wasn’t it Aeschylus who said, “Who is the King Shag Corpse? / Have you been to the English Deer Park?” Run to him.
Dear Professor Poor: I currently have a bit of an old gas guzzler, but I’m thinking of switching to an electric vehicle. Thoughts? Barry, Tenby.
Cars can be a slippery mistress. I had a companion – let’s call him Duncan. Cars were his be all and everything. He died. Rectal cancer. There was talk in the family of a car shaped plot, but in the end they felt being driven in a hearse would be enough to satisfy him in death.
Dear Professor Poor. I have one testicle that is larger than the other. Should I worry? Jasper, Fleet.
Christ, there are some things you should keep to yourself. There’s that clinic in Switzerland where they gas you humanely, though I doubt that even they would touch you with a barged pole. During my first marriage, I often planned out my own life-taking. My favoured choice would have been to march, nobly and humbly, into an English winter sea, perhaps Broadstairs or her nautical sister Ramsgate, with some kind of children’s choir trilling through that song from Cats, until the pain stopped forever. Feel free to steal my idea.
Dear Professor Poor, I’m having trouble stripping some woodchip. Tips? Biff, Grinstead.
My marriage to the first Mrs Professor Poor was punctuated by meals and hot beverages being flung about with vigour. I noticed that part of the lounge wall, which became known unaffectionately as ‘the stain’, behaved differently when various substances were applied. Bovril, though ghastly, seemed to take the flock off a treat, as did the wife’s risotto, though I have no idea which active ingredient caused the dissolvement. Her risotto recipe was a closely guarded secret which she will take to her (expected) grave – though there was biscuits in it, I am quite sure of that.
Dear Professor Poor: I will be in Stevenage at the weekend, could you recommend a good vegetarian restaurant? Pauline, Leicester.
One good way to irritate wait staff is to hurl your cutlery onto the floor with a modicum of violence. The women who work there (and they increasingly are women these days) will be forced to replace the items without judgement. After the sixth or seventh time, their faces are a picture. Priceless.
Dear Professor Poor: I find that I cannot make an emotional connection with my newborn daughter, what can I do? Elaine, Poole.
I’ve also found that wait staff are quite troubled by anything vomit connected. If you can prepare some fake vomit (I vacuum pack my own using Irish Stew – Kibblemanns is a fine brand) or can induce yourself to vomit at will, either before, during or after the meal, the wait staff will be forced to respond, usually with firm frowns intact. I whiled a happy afternoon in Chester this way – I believe that particular waitress is still on sick leave compo.
Dear Professor Poor: I’m getting married in October but just want a small wedding. Is there a tactful way to announce this and avoid annoyance by those not invited? Fiona, Dundee.
I’m sorry, but only trash are wed in the autumn months. I apologise for the language but there it is – trash. The men have work enough to do at harvest time with ploughing and the attention to crops. Weddings and so forth just add an unwarranted distraction and also alienate those workers who have failed to mate – leading to disaster amongst the furrows. Crows and vermin will soon litter the fields and the Harvest Festival will be less than festive indeed. Why not wait until the winter when spirits need reviving or in the spring when Christ was risen? No, your pointless and gormless behaviour has all the hallmarks of a harlot. Be gone.
Dear Professor Poor: I’ve noticed my memory is failing me more and more these days – I’m clumsier and often forget the most obvious things, even the names of my children. Should I worry? Henry, Bloxwich.
Do you have any pets or other animals that you could pass the blame onto? It sounds cruel, but they probably wouldn’t be aware that they’re being punished for your indiscretions. I used a parrot belonging to the first Mrs Professor Poor as a plausible alibi in a frivolous fraud and hotwiring case brought against me by a major county council and would have had a successful acquittal if the damn thing hadn’t started talking.
Dear Professor Poor: my boyfriend wants to take our relationship to the next level, but I’m not sure I’m ready – any advice? Trudi, Harlow.
The first Mrs Professor Poor favoured a technique known as ‘The Gondolier’, I won’t trouble you with a description but rest assured the results were harrowing.
[Professor Poor is the currently visiting professor of architecture (coving, pelmets and cornices) at the University of Trent.]