The affordable education loan option
London - You may not have heard of Eric “Mean Melin” Melin, Doug “The Thunder” Strook, or Britain's very own Thom “Wild Thing 37” Wilding, but they were the top three contestants in this year's Air Guitar World Championships, held in Oulu, Finland, under the motto, “Make Air, Not War”.
Many people, of course, poo-poo the air guitar. They say it's nothing but a load of overgrown schoolboys jumping around a stage, thrusting their groins at the audience and wiggling their fingers in an orgy of faux-frottage that puts even Miley Cyrus's twerkish masturbations in the shade. But they are wrong.
For researchers from Cambridge, Oxford, King's College London and Royal Holloway have studied student musicians at the Guildhall School of Music and the Royal College of Music and concluded that leaping and gyrating around the place, playing the air guitar, could be a genuinely inspirational activity. It's the fact that they're not actually working at their real instruments that frees musicians' imaginations. And, the boffins added, singing in the shower gets their creative juices flowing, too.
As a thriller writer, whose living depends upon being able to summon up exciting stories to order, I'm relieved to discover that there really is a genuine benefit in apparently pointless activities. Whole days, even weeks can go by as I mooch about, wasting my time on daytime TV or Candy Crush Saga while I wait for my brain to deliver.
This piece, in fact, is being written as a deliberate distraction from the plotting of the two final acts of my next novel. So I can quite understand why musicians might benefit from swapping the hard grind of practice for the fun of a pretend performance. But there's a catch. Researchers point out that playing air guitar has no musical merit whatever, in itself. An imaginary fretboard is not, in the end, the same as a real instrument. That's why Eric Clapton is a gazillionaire rock legend and Eric “Mean Melin” Melin is not. And why, when I've spent far too long seeking inspiration in idleness, I do in the end have to sit down at my Mac and write the bloody book.
Irrational belief in the NHS
Every nation has its own articles of faith that seem bizarre to the outside world. America, for example, still thinks that civilians have a right to own and use deadly firearms. Every year, 30,000 of them die from gunshot wounds. Yet there is no possibility of passing laws that would seriously limit gun ownership.
But Americans are not the only people whose faith persists in the face of all factual evidence. In the UK, an estimated 42,000 hospital patients a year die of liver failure brought on by dehydration. Another 13,000 died needlessly in just 14 hospital trusts. (Both figures from NHS sources). According to the Royal College of Paediatricians, 2,000 children a year are killed by inadequate care.
Yet vast numbers of Britons still believe the NHS is the best health service in the world. And woe betide anyone foolish enough to point out the evident truth that they're wrong.