Column subject licked 

This image comes from the Seattle Municipal Archives, via Flickr.

By Peter Matthews 

Anyone know what a devious lick is? Sitting at the dinner table this evening I mentioned that my deadline was rapidly approaching and I had yet to settle on a subject. Hidden in the avalanche of irrelevant and often downright mischievous suggestions under which I found myself was the term ‘devious lick’. So, despite the fact that, as yet, I have no idea how I am going to relate it to my environmental brief, I have decided to go with it.

Jimmy Carr the English comedian is a bit of a comedic technician, in fact he has written a book about why jokes work and why we need them. Amongst others he makes the point that the joke can only happen in your head. That is to say that if your reaction to reading the phrase ‘devious lick’ was to imagine a dodgy character in a crowded subway getting up to no good and thereby deriving his nefarious jollies – that reaction was down to you – not the phrase. As you may have guessed that was my first mental image upon hearing the phrase. Sorry about that – but you see the point?

There’s no point claiming to be upset or offended by a well told joke as the mental connection or image upon hearing the punch line can only take place in your own brain: It’s your own thought.

As it happens a devious lick is, simply put, a viral trend which started as recently as last month in which school students video themselves stealing items from school. As a sensible, older member of society I don’t really get it; it’s just ill-behaved toerags costing taxpayer’s money.

That’s a bit unfair on the young people though, isn’t it? I remember disengaging the handbrake of the sailing bus (a full-sized single decker bus) at school and running it down a slope onto the middle of the hallowed turf that was the cricket square in the dead of night. Imagine if we could have put that on social media. On another occasion my great-grandfather gave me a bugle which, he said, saw action in WWI.

Fifteen-year-old me, having no appreciation of the significance of the gift, hot-footed it straight to the nearest antique shop and sold it for twenty pounds. So blasé was I that I even told my grandmother what I had done. I was genuinely surprised at the intensity of the wrath and disappointment which rained down on me from all quarters of the family.

So I guess, when not understanding, or disapproving of the actions of younger people, one should remember that they are not right in the head, at least not yet. Perhaps we should be more generous with the time we give them to grow up and realise that there are some globally serious issues to be dealt with. Climate change for instance, is not a problem of their making but they sure are going to have to deal with it.

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