I had a period during the 1990s, when I became a touch agoraphobic. When I say 'a touch', what I mean is my close circle of friends all thought I'd lost it - big time! I chickened out of two Northampton Town football club play-offs because the idea of going to Wembley and sharing an area of space with 70,000 stinky smelly people sort of did my head in. In fact, thinking back to a large part of the 1990s, the only events I ever went to were comics things and that was largely down to my feeling of complete superiority over 99.9% of them.
I suppose I had a period where my 'comfort zone' was very small. This might be summed up by the fact that my 'office' back in those days was a 'room' smaller than a downstairs toilet in a starter home. It was essentially a storage cupboard, with a desk, a PC and me - anything else and you were in danger. However, I got better and during the first decade of the 21st century I got out more.
The strange thing is I'm actually quite a sociable animal, but catch me in 'a mood' and you see a completely different side to the normally gregarious and affable persona most people now associate me with (hopefully). I was in such a mood on Tuesday, at the pub quiz, and this was reflected by my incredibly misanthropic humour and my astonishment that so many ugly women could fit into one pub without a health warning. We even won, and got the jackpot, and yet I was still largely unmoved by my fellow human beings. On Tuesday, I hated the world and everything in it.
But did I really?
When we got home, after dropping everyone off, the wife suddenly stopped and stared at me, as I was merrily chirping away while making my egg and cress sandwich for lunch on Wednesday. I knew what was going on in her head; 'he's been a miserable bastard all evening and look at him, skipping around the egg slicer with gay abandon'.
"I'm not actually in a bad mood, you know?" She looked a mixture of bemused and confused. I wasn't. I was actually quite upbeat; it's just that I've worked out that when I'm in a misanthropic mood I'm actually at my most acerbic - the shame of it being that to be acerbic you have to copy Jack Dee's stage persona. Yes, the humour is often cruel and uncompromising, but we are only human and being human is the reason why communism is only a brilliant concept.
Frowning takes up more muscles than smiling, yet we find it much easier to look like a slapped or mildly peeved arse than look happy and as I've grown older and my face has become more... interesting, the frowning slightly perplexed look has become my trademark (even my colleagues no longer ask me in concerned voices what the matter is, as most know that's what I look like most of the time).
However, and I don't know if it's a general nationwide malaise or just me, but the last three or four days I have felt genuinely misanthropic. I have really, genuinely hated everybody (well, almost everybody). This was perfectly illustrated yesterday by one of my young charges when he said with real emotion in his voice, "Sir, I hate you!"
"Good," says I. "I'm earning my money."
Apropos of nothing; I have this friend called Ged who is a camping enthusiast. She (and her husband) have been fans of the outdoor life for donkeys years and nothing puts them off spending a week in a muddy field under canvas.
She was telling me that their usual Easter camping break was the first time they'd ever been camping and had to scrape frost off the inside of the tents 'windows'. They spent a week in Cornwall a few years ago at roughly the same time as Boscastle happened and regularly sit huddled around a fire or heater trying to keep warm. You could say she's a bit mad.
I'd say she's raving bonkers. Ged doesn't go camping; she moves the entire contents of her house into a massive King-sized tent and has everything from a Calor-gas run 'proper' cooker, with oven and four rings; carpet, a gas powered fridge and even a small port-a-loo. She replicates almost her entire home inside the four rooms of her massive tent and has everything she ever needs for camping stored in her garage - including a roll of carpet, mats and the tents stereo system. She has more 'camping' equipment than some people have brain cells. I sometimes have asked her in the past why she even bothers to go camping and her reply has always been something along the lines of 'you can't beat the outdoor life', which I could understand if she had a tent, a small gas burner, a torch and roll of bog paper; but when you have your house transported into a field for the week, it's hardly an inconvenience; unless of course they run out of wine or herbs for the 4-course Sunday dinner.
Och Aye the Noo
Ged's camping segues nicely into the announcement that we're actually going on holiday this year, the first time in 3 years!
I'll tell you about our holiday to Ballantrae, a holiday where we vowed we'd never set foot in that part of Scotland again. Yet, at some point in August we're off to Dumfries and Galloway again. Hopefully it will be a better week; but frankly, it couldn't be much worse than the first time.
We're going to Wigtown, which was possibly one of the most intimidating small towns I've ever been to. This might have been because we got there on a Sunday and it was shut, but Roger and I, while searching for a decent pub - not found - got the distinct impression we were being watched from behind twitching curtains, by locals with pitch forks and torches.
To be fair, the Whithorn Peninsula, where we're going is lovely. It is close to the Galloway Forest and some nice coasts, that will probably be dog friendly as they're not particularly human friendly and we know of a pub that sells real beer. Actually, we know of two in that area, but t'other one is near Stranraer and, to be perfectly honest, I wouldn't send my worst enemy to Stranraer. It is a horrid little town, about as confusing as it gets and full of dour people with long faces. However, the further you get away from it, inland, the better it gets and I expect that we'll find plenty of places to take the dogs and not have to mingle with those horrible things that blight Scotland every summer - children!
- This week, for my guilty pleasures, I have been listening to the fabulous new Axess/Maxxess album - Impact. It is a sequel to their awesome debut album Contact from eight years ago. Axess is Axel Stupplich and Maxxess is Max Schiefele. The former is a German ambient musician, specialising in chill out and mellow grooves; the latter is a Joe Satriani cum Steve Vai guitarist who has a very European feel to his music - stunning guitar solos with multi-layered backing tracks. The two together produce a kind of music I doubt any of my friends would warm to, but I love it. It's a like a sex union between a dwarf and a giant using a sheep as a sex toy - Mysterious Time, the 13 minute closing track makes you want to head bang and dance at the same time!
- My other musical delights have been similar to the previous week, with me subjecting my charges to all kinds of bizarre noise in the name of education. However, one of my kids admitted to liking Boards of Canada creating a bit of a dilemma.
- I am finding The Guardian is being read I considerably less time than it used to.
- It only seems like yesterday I was picking raspberries in December. I'm picking them again! We are going to have so many, I might have to get creative! Incidentally, the only difference between then and now is there are more leaves on the canes; the weather is pretty much the same.
- Roger berated me on Tuesday night for my excessive; use; of; semi-colons; which I think is a bit rich coming from an accountant. I did explain to him that this wonderfully underused bit of punctuation, along with the more modern - is really a brilliant tool to use for long rambling vaguely related sentences. However, I then got onto talking about hard and soft commas; soft full stops and hard full stops; periods; Oxford commas,; my constant tense problems; prostates; lamb ice cream; whether or not Cesc Fabregas might be gay; the dream I had about ocelots; his wonky fingers; the hermit who lives down the lane and soap.
- Crippled by stippled nipples.