The Thing Is with Steve Canavan - April 16, 2015

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According to a study by a British documentary maker called Nick Watts – a study that is generally reckoned to be pretty accurate – the average person will speak a total of 123,205,750 words in their lifetime.

To break that down a little, we speak an average of 4,300 words a day, though I guess that figure would be a lot lower if you worked in a library, or if you’re a practising monk.

The study also concludes – and I think we can all agree on this next bit – that women generally speak more words per day than men.

I mention all this not just because it’s vaguely interesting (depending on your definition of the word interesting) but because I was perusing the internet the other day and came across a site dedicated to words and, specifically, last words.

Being someone of a quite macabre nature I’ve often wondered what might be the last words I utter before I slide off this mortal coil.

My Aunt Edith’s, for example, were ‘what bus?’ just before she was mown down by the number 61 to Preston via Clayton-le-Moors.

Spike Milligan famously wanted to say the words ‘I told you I was ill’, while others had a slightly more serious view.

Sir Isaac Newton – the chap who came up with the notion of gravity after some fruit dropped on his bonce – had written a prepared speech and, moments before he passed away, announced: “I don’t know what I may seem to the world. But as to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore and diverting myself now and then in finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than the ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.” To which his bemused nurse presumably answered: “Sorry, come again love?”

Marie Antoinette – wife of King Louis of France in the 18th century – stepped on the foot of her executioner on her way to the guillotine and thus her last words were, “Pardonnez-moi, monsieur”. Which is remarkably generous of her given the bloke was about to lop her head off.

Some last words are quite sad: as Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States, lay dying at the age of 84, he responded to his daughter’s request for him to change position in bed so he could breathe more easily with the remark: “A dying man can do nothing easy”. Others are more amusing: Chico Marx – “Remember, honey, don’t forget what I told you – put in my coffin a deck of cards, golf clubs, and a pretty blonde.”

Some are plain bonkers to the end.

Richard B Mellon, an American multi-millionaire banker, had a seven-year game of tig going with his brother Andrew. On his deathbed, Richard called his brother over, touched him and whispered, “last tag”. Which meant poor old Andrew remained ‘it’ until he himself died.

Sherlock Holmes author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle died in his garden aged 71. He turned to his wife and said “you are wonderful,” then clutched his chest and keeled over.

Osama bin Laden’s last uttering was perhaps not quite what you’d expect from a man who, at the time, was one of the most feared in the world. The last words of the Al-Qaida leader, spoken to his wife, were “Don’t turn on the light”.

Al Capone’s were quite fitting – “You can get more with a kind word and a gun than you can get with a kind word alone”; while Elvis Presley’s were “OK, I won’t”, in response to a request from fiancee Ginger Alden for him not to fall asleep in the bathroom after he got up in the middle of the night to use the loo.

Alden woke a few hours later to find the king of rock n’roll dead on the bathroom floor from an overdose.

Film maker Alfred Hitchcock came up with a witty line: “One never knows the ending. One has to die to know exactly what happens after death, although Catholics have their hopes.”

But perhaps, most apt of all, were the last words spoken by Sir Winston Churchill. Just before he drew his final breath at the age of 90 in 1965, the heroic Second World War leader remarked: “I’m bored with it all”.

Perfect time to go then.

Sterling hubbub is out of proportion

It’s not often I have sympathy for someone who recently turned down a wage of £100,000-a-week (I did, at this point, attempt to work out how much that is per minute but maths has never been my strong point and Rachel Riley didn’t return my call, so I gave up).

But I do – a tiny bit at least – for Raheem Sterling, a 20-year-old footballer for Liverpool, who has been front page news in the last few days, filmed smoking on a shisha-pipe (in the Sunday Mirror) and pictured in The Sun apparently taking nitrous oxide (laughing gas).

It has led to the lad getting more bad press than your average banker.

But both puffing on a shisha-pipe and inhaling laughing gas are, though ill-advised, legal activities.

Yes, I get that Sterling is in the public eye and thus a role model for youngsters, but it’s not as if he has robbed a shop or been involved in a hit-and-run incident (ie, done something against the law).

Fair enough, what he has done is morally wrong and kids, don’t do it. Some legal highs (for that is what laughing gas is) have been proven to be dangerous and people have lost their lives.

But does Sterling, a young lad growing up in the public eye, deserve to be the focus of such mass hysteria and public outcry? Not in my opinion.