Why Life Always Lands Butter Side Down - it's sod's law

PUBLISHED: 14:09 18 December 2009 | UPDATED: 16:37 07 September 2010

JOURNALIST Sam Leith had just taken on a huge mortgage, proposed to his pregnant girlfriend and was planning the wedding when he was made redundant from the Daily Telegraph. The 35-year-old, who lives in Archway, has written a compendium of hilarious, pai

JOURNALIST Sam Leith had just taken on a huge mortgage, proposed to his pregnant girlfriend and was planning the wedding when he was made redundant from the Daily Telegraph. The 35-year-old, who lives in Archway, has written a compendium of hilarious, painful stories about life's cruel ironies - Sod's Law: Why Life Always

Lands Butter Side Down (Atlantic Books, £7.99).

Bridget Galton asks him 10 questions about it.

1. How come you are "reduced to writing toilet books to keep your family from the poorhouse"?

I can hardly speak for the shame of it, but my old newspaper noticed there was a recession on, and decided abruptly that a literary editor was a luxury they could ill afford. I am a credit crunch statistic.

2. Do you count living in Archway among your misfortunes?

No! I adore living in Archway. Among other things, it's very convenient for Suicide Bridge.

3. Explain the principle of

sod's law?

If anything can go wrong, it will. And what's more, it will go wrong at the precise moment when it will cause most trouble and humiliation.

4. Is it true that a brainy theorist worked out an equation for why toast lands butter side down?

It is. Needless to say, that brainy theorist is not me. It was uber-boffin Robert Matthews, in a splendid 1995 paper in the European Journal of Physics. Who says academics aren't interested in the real world?

5. Do you really believe life is full of cruel ironies or that some people are more unlucky? Isn't it just that these coincidences make good disaster stories and we rarely go on about it when things go well?

Oh God. I hadn't thought of that. You've just disproved the entire basis of my book, haven't you? *Sad face*.

6. What were your sources for the stories in the book?

Myriad. Some were personal experience, some were from the internet and newspapers, some from myth and legend. I also benefited - a dwarf standing on the shoulders of giants - from the scholarship of such historians as Christopher "True Stories" Logue, Stephen "Heroic Failures" Pile and Hugh "Great Operatic Disasters" Vickers among others.

7. What were your favourites?

I particularly adored the story of the inland lake that disappeared after oil prospectors accidentally drilled through the roof of a salt mine. And "Human Kindness Day" in the 1970s - which turned into the most vicious riot in Washington DC's history. Then there was the bloke who got blown up at both Hiroshima and Nagasaki (he's still in good shape, though a bit deaf in one ear). I do find myself drawn to the, um, darker of the stories.

8. Do we quite enjoy laughing at the disasters and misfortunes of others?

Confucius, he say: "There is no greater happiness than watching a friend fall off a roof." Mel Brooks, he say: "Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die."

9. What books do you keep in your toilet? Any copies of Auto Trader?

Hang on. Let me check. No copies of Auto Trader. Dozens of old copies of Viz, and a Superman comic, and the Molesworth books, and a Daily Telegraph just in case. Come round and have a poo!

10. Was there supposed to be a question 10?

Typical. See? That's exactly what I've been talking about.


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