Sunday, 15 August 2010

In which I have a tendency to curmudge.

To be printed 19/08/10.


I'm rather scared I might be becoming a curmudgeon. I'm not sure any kind of measuring device exists for curmudgeonliness, but if it did I'd say I was edging worryingly up the scale, somewhere in the Jack Dee region, beyond Alan Davies, heading dangerously towards Bernard Black.

I used to be in favour of fun. There was a time, I dimly remember, before 80 per cent of my energy was expended waving an angry fist at people who take too long at railway station ticket machines. But now, like a permanent case of PMT, everything annoys me. Rarely a day goes by now where I don't have to stop myself thwacking a slow tourist over the head with their own map. When I'm Queen of the World, all tube and train stations will have tannoy announcements saying, "You may not be in a hurry, but everyone else is. So GET A BLEEDING MOVE ON."

I may not have a driver's license, but I pride myself on being a really good walker. I power along like a suede-shod guided missile, bobbing and weaving through crowds with ease. I know how to use my elbows sparingly but effectively and I never wear huge, vision-obscuring rucksacks or stop dead in the middle of Oxford Street to rummage through my bag, causing a ten-people pile up behind me. But striving for this constant level of pedestrian perfection means I am constantly disappointed when everyone else falls short of my exacting standards.

Likewise people who sit down on the outer, aisle-side seat on trains or buses, then insist I clamber over to the inside instead of just moving across, like a decent human being. What baffles me is not the strategic bag-placement - we all try to get away with that one after all, as there is nothing as loathsome as having to share three foot of personal space with someone who might be a) smelly or b) insane - no, it's the determination to remain aisle-side, whatever happens. Do you honestly think I'm going to refuse to let you off? That you'll politely request to be freed for disembarkation, and I'll just turn round and say "Naaah, you're not going anywhere darlin'"?

Am I painting a curmudgeonly enough picture? I have mental files, whole clunking cabinets of peeves and grievances, all accumulating in my head on a daily basis. People who need things repeated more than once. People who try to fish your sentences without any idea what you're going to say. Shop staff who don't give you enough time to get your change back in your purse and your purse in your bag before they move on to the next person. The sign in the window of TK Maxx that says "Always up to 60 per cent less".

But the trouble is, the very act of being irritable has now become irritating. It's the currency of stocking filler books, stand-up comedy and columns like this, harping on about how stupid and ineffectual the world is because people say, "at the end of the day" more often than Wordsworth would have approved of*.

So I am taking precautionary measures before the problem gets out of hand, and putting myself on a strict anti-grump programme. It involves precise dosage of Julie Andrews movies, administered daily, followed by regular sessions of kitten-stroking while listening to The New Seekers' 1971 hit I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing.

Of course, the challenge with this last step is managing to hum along sweetly without replacing the lyrics with "I'd like to teach the world to go about their daily business in an efficient manner without CONSTANTLY GETTING ON MY TITS", but I'm doing my best. Which is all a reasonable person can ask for.

*Actually Wordsworth might have been quite a fan of the phrase, given its suggestions of sunsets and his big love for the natural sublime.

3 comments:

  1. At the end of the day, you are probably right. These things would 'get on my tits' if I had a set of moobs. You had me at 'rucksacks' and '10-people Oxford Street pile-up'.

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