17. Oct, 2017



School for Scoundrels is one of my favourite British films. Made in black and white in 1960 it is based on the “One Upmanship” novels of Stephen Potter and starred the inimitable Alastair Sim, Terry Thomas and Ian Carmichael.

Sim plays the principal of The School for Lifemanship in Yeovil while Carmichael plays a loser whoi enrols, intent on winning his girl back from rotter Terry Thomas .

The underlaying philosophy of the school is How to Win without actually cheating. Hence in the front garden of the establishment is a small stunted tree. Ascending to the top would therefore give you the right to honestly say to a group of mountaineers, “Yes, I’ve done a bit of climbing too.”

Although not a graduate of the school myself, I do find its underlying principle most successful. It has encouraged me to develop ploys of my own, for example, in dealing with boring conversations.
So here I offer you a free introduction to my on-line Lifemanship Course.

You must see them as opponents to be overcome by your superior guile and without ever resorting to rudeness.
1.The elderly couple who have given up and are living their lives vicariously through their offspring with nothing else to talk about.
PLOY. Gently ask them what they have done themselves over the past week.

2.Illness Bores.

There are those who speak fluid illness whom left unchecked will manipulate conversation into a never-ending illness-fest.
PLOY. Gently ask if anyone else has noticed that the iller folk are, the less they talk about what ails them.

3.Celebrity Worshippers
PLOY. Even if you have heard of the person in question, ask who on earth they are and what they have actually achieved other than being famous for being famous.

4. Royalty Worshippers
PLOY…Ask the simple question, “Is it true that the Windsor family don’t need lavatories?” You mean they are the same as us?

5. Soccer Fans.
PLOY. Ladies, need I say more? Lacking female whiles myself I find that a Gallic shoulder shrug followed by “Don’t ask me. I prefer Rugby,” works a treat.

6. Motor Car and Housing Property aficionados
Beware the risk of never ending tedium! YAWN!
PLOY. Nod knowingly and while you opponent is taking a breathing break just interject with, “Yes, but at the end of the day, they are only THINGS!”

7. The Daily Mail Reader.
The Mail proudly presents itself as a right wing source of information. It is widely read by retirees, vocationally literate but with nothing to look forward to but the past as they think it once was.
PLOY…just ask one simple question. “I know what the Mail thinks but what do YOU, yourself, actually think?

8. The teller of Racist “jokes“.
PLOY. Promptly re-tell the “joke” but substituting, for example, the origin of the butt of the story from Ireland to the home town of the narrator. This never fails to process a juicy, awkward pause.

And if the above ploys do not work?

There is of course the chance that you will find yourself in a situation not covered by any of the above. Fortunately there are two universal ploys on which you can always fall back..
1. The Rainer Scratch.
This was pioneering and developed by an old school friend, who to divert the course of a conversation would suddenly and energetically start to scratch his person. This never failed to unnerve his companion, so frightened at what they might catch that they would totally lose the the thread of their conversation.
2. The Bottle of Water.
For the more squeamish and socially aware, always carry a bottle of water. Sipping it will put a break on any conversation, causing the all important pause that will give you the chance to slip away. Remember that as you drink, look around you, everywhere but at the speaker.

1. You are a teacher at a party and in talking to a stranger, accidentally let slip what you do. The stranger, having been to school thirty years previously and never in one since, is therefore an expert who promptly proceeds to lecture you on what is wrong with the education system in this country.
What ploy(s) will you use to escape his clutches?
(The “I will be right back but I need the loo,” ploy will not be accepted)

2. Watch “School for Scoundrels” as soon as possible.