Killing nasty bugs is just a racket

Most rational thinkers agree the best things in life are free.

Janet Jackson won a Grammy singing that line.

The Beatles, different song, sang the same thing, only they were being ironic.

The hordes of op shops sprawling across the city these days are finding it hard to move stock quickly enough, hence the proliferation of boxes marked "free''.

I would have to grind my brain so hard only pain could ensue to think of anything finer than a box in a shop marked free.

Last week at the southern hospice store, I came away with two items I would willingly have paid hundreds of dollars for.

The first was an insect-killing child's squash racket.

I think that is what they are called.

Tightly strung and solid of construction, this requires just 2 AA batteries to fry an insect to its spine.

It is however difficult to use, perhaps this is why it has a Keep Away From Children sticker just below the bigger sticker that says Not A Toy.

Not being a child, I pressed the button and noticed snarling German wasps just bounced off it without a care in the world.

The batteries must be flat, I thought, not being a child.

I changed the batteries, same result.

In desperation, I held the button down and placed my hand on the strings face down, not knuckle down like they recommend in the country, where electric fences abound.

It was the closest I have ever been to death - 200,000 volts ripped through me like gastroenteritis.

But this thing DOES kill wasps, which, even allowing for my Buddhist ethos of killing NOTHING, seems utterly valid.

Wasps are uncontributing vermin. Books are often free in op shops these days.

Sad but true.

And one called Why I Don't Garden In The Nude by Jeff Thomson fair screamed at me from the hospice free box beside their front door.

It was such a great title, combining as it did something I love dearly, cricket, with something I abhor more than anything, gardening.

It seemed peculiarly fitting that such a schizoid hybrid should be written by one of Australia's most mentally-challenged cricketers.

Unlike Thomson, I will never even garden fully-clothed. Gardening is back-breaking and pointless behaviour, needing to be repeated every two weeks.

One word alone ends my case - convolvulus.

Thomson, whose career path since being sacked from every post-cricket position he managed to weasel his way into, earns a tidy living from gardening.

For ten grand, Jeff Thomson will landscape a garden for you - any kind. He writes evocatively, too, although the book is actually written by a journalist.

So Thomson is evocative over the phone.

"Gardening is good if you've got a stuffed brain. If you're old or a pensioner, there's nothing like gardening to keep your brain working. I'm not old or a pensioner, but it gives me something to do,'' he says.

And Thomson, perhaps the fastest bowler of them all, certainly the most dangerous, assuredly has a stuffed brain.

He doesn't watch cricket, but he does watch the World Cup.

"Some of those Cameroon players have great skills. But I don't even know where Cameroon is.''

Thomson has owned two Ferraris. He likes taking them out into country back-roads and destroying them.

"But I reckon you can do up a Commodore to go just as fast as a Ferrari. Probably faster.''

Thomson actually does have some potent advice.

Keep away from rose thorns, he says.

He got jabbed once and was stiff all over for a week.

Don't use horse manure, even if it's free, as it will turn your garden into weeds, what horses eat most.

So, the worst things in life are sometimes free. He also tells us if we are going away to put our plants in a bathtub with some water.

"Plants are dumb bastards who don't know how to turn on taps,'' he says.

A day gone without a thing learnt is a day lost.

And finally, some intellectual thinking.

"I don't know why so many Australian cricketers have moustaches. Maybe it's so people can't see them swearing.''

Brilliant.

And this thinking was free.

Roy Colbert is a Dunedin writer.

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