Sunday, 28 February 2010

Is it a bird? Is it a plane...?

No. It's the Incredible Sulk.

This monster takes on many incarnations. You may have one lurking across the room on the other sofa at this very moment, sighing audibly whenever your laptop keys click slightly louder than a gnat's stiff knee joint. It has probably already cranked up the volume on the TV and muttered, "Is it too much to ask to be able to hear The News?" Whatever you do, do not look over at it - and control your sniggers.

Apprentice monsters adopt the posture of a ricket-afflicted Victorian clerk; hunched shoulders, a lowered gaze. They grow their hair over their faces and communicate only in a sullen mumble - like grumpy ventriloquists. Favourite expressions include It's SO unfair! But everyone else does! It's my room anyway! You just don't understand! And so on ... (Assume all pronouncements end with an exclamation mark).

Younger Incredible Sulks have yet to perfect the pervading, angst-inducing silence that indicates their displeasure, preferring to rely on a steady percussive beat of slammed doors, broken dishes, and Radio 1 turned to maximum volume.

Advanced Incredible Sulks work on the premise that silence throbs.

Perhaps Incredible Sulk rampages round your house when its team has lost to Manchester United? Does it lie moaning on the bed? A mantra that sounds something like "There is no way that was a penalty/foul/offside*." (*Delete as appropriate).

Maybe your Incredible Sulk emanates overtly hostile gamma rays? Perhaps it takes to its bed for whole weekends? The bedroom door firmly shut, the occasional - but very significant - heavy creak of floorboards and the flushing of a toilet the only physical manifestations of this malign presence.

Incredible Sulks are delighted when you get that job you wanted so badly or if you are excited about something. They are especially fond of birthdays, Mother's Day and Christmas. These important dates are marked in red on the calendar as superb sulking opportunities.

Take Incredible Sulks to the theatre, ballet and cinema. This is something they adore. An expensive restaurant will do just as well - though, if you wish your monster to display their full sulking capabilities, ensure that the waiters are attentive and the room candle-lit.

The Incredible Sulk will transform into a large lump of granite; glowering and darkest grey. Above its head hovers a radioactive cloud of extreme displeasure. There are speech bubbles, with dots to signify thoughts: I am not enjoying this, I don't want to be here, I especially don't want to be here with you.

Hold your breath and count to ten. This cloud is poisonous if inhaled.

Monday, 22 February 2010

The Saddest Story in the World

Last year, I was working as Poetry Waitress ("So, ladies, what can I get you? Tea? Coffee? And would you like a sonnet with that?") when an elderly lady told me the most tragic story I have ever heard.

I have just re-read The Aeneid and even Chapter 4, where Dido (a name ripe for graffiti) throws herself onto the funeral pyre is nowhere near as sad as The Tale of Brownie.

Brownie was the only hen hatched from seven eggs in an airing cupboard in a small terraced house in Prescot in 1948. Her brothers were destined for pies, stews and rissoles, but Brownie was spoiled. She was cuddled, petted, never fed egg sandwiches - What? Encourage cannibalism? - and nested in a tea-chest by the kitchen range at night.

When the children came home from school, the first thing they asked for was Brownie. They kissed her before they went to bed. At weekends, they followed her up and down the alley as she pecked in the gutter for scraps.

Over time, Brownie developed a nervous complaint that caused her feathers to moult. The children were distraught. Brownie shivered with cold.

The children's mother knitted Brownie a pullover out of green wool. (She was a woman unbound by stereotype or cliché). Brownie regained her joie de vivre.

For a day.

The next morning, the children ran into the kitchen to greet their pet and found her hanging by the neck, swinging from the mantlepiece, strangled by her new pullover.

Now, can you think of a single story that is sadder than that?

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Being Bad

Why does being bad feel so good?

At school being bad at hockey was liberating. (I once let in a goal because I was chatting to a defender about how much I hated the games teacher, but the goal was disallowed because it "had been hit from too far away" - ie. the opposite goal post). Being bad at maths meant I could torment the maths teacher. ("I'm sorry, Sir, but I just don't believe in negative numbers.")

Being bad at filing awarded me great satisfaction in a Commercial Estate Agents. I doubt whether they ever found the details for 76, Hillcrest Rise. Ha!

Occasionally - children, please note the occasionally - going to bed without brushing my teeth feels O! so rebellious.

Bad language - swearing. What can possibly be bad about swearing when it's so bloody satisfying?

Misusing apostrophes deliberately - to annoy the pedantic old crows amongst your friends - blissful.

Creating fake personas on social networking and blogging sites - not that I'd ever do anything quite as bad as that, you understand - must be too, too delicious ...

I realise that I am only scraping the surface of Badness. I must try harder; affairs, bank heists, forgeries of Great Works of Art, graffiti (witty, of course), fiddling my expenses.

But of course, the ideal career beckons ...