COLUMN: September 12, 2013

THERE are two types of people in this world. The first is people who take the last chocolate biscuit from the plate even though there were only five there to begin with and they’ve already had three.

The second is people who keep choosing rich tea because, although they really want a chocolate biscuit, they don’t want to appear like the sort of person who takes all the chocolate biscuits.

In fact, the rich tea industry is entirely based on the exploitation of this second type of people.

Nobody in the history of humanity has ever thought, “I know what I really feel like. A rich tea biscuit. Yes, that will hit the spot. I want something so bland and dry I forget what it tastes like even while I’m eating it.”

And yet they are still manufactured, just to bulk out plates of biscuits and feed resentment.

Because while the second group of people share many of the same emotions – fear, shame, guilt – they feel none more keenly than resentment.

They resent the people who go through life knocking over plant pots and spreading out while the rest of us clear up and budge up.

They resent the “anti-PC” people who boast that they “don’t take any shit” and “tell it like it is”, as if taking account of the needs and feelings of others were some sort of character flaw, and entirely inappropriate in the context of a celebrity cooking competition.

They resent the people who never listen and never shut up.

But they don’t do anything about it. They just seethe, because they don’t want to be like them.

Depending on whom you ask, I probably fall into either of the two camps, but I identify most with the second. And I have found I spend quite a lot of time seething lately.

Partly this is because of the current government, which seems incapable of understanding the relationship between cause and effect, economically or socially. It takes a certain amount of wilful ignorance to claim the proliferation of food banks and the simultaneous rise in house prices as a success.

But mostly it is because I get the bus every day and come into contact with an increasing number of chocolate biscuit takers, shouting loudly into phones, playing music out of their phones, and sitting with their legs at ten to two – while on their phones.

The worst moment of seething in recent memory happened a few months ago. I was sitting on the bus, trying to remember Curiosity Killed The Cat’s other hit, when I saw a middle-aged woman with some heavy shopping boarding. I still refer to “middle-aged women” as if I am not myself middle-aged, but let me keep my delusions.

The bus was full, with a couple of men standing. I was about to join them so she could rest, as heavy shopping is heavy, hence the name, but she sat in the old-lady seat behind the driver and placed her bag on the floor.

Soon afterwards, the driver braked suddenly, and a tin of cling peaches flew out of her bag and rolled down the aisle. It was followed by a tin of marrowfat peas, proving to me at least that they are still available.
I stopped the tins with my foot, like the expert footballer I am not, and returned them to her. She didn’t thank me.

Hmph, I thought, and turned to go back to my seat. Which was now filled by one of the men who had been standing.

What could I do? Have a row? What would it achieve? One of us had to stand. It might as well be me. Lord, it burned. I seethed like a man in intensive seething training, who wasn’t as naturally gifted at seething as others but got by on work-rate.

I looked at the man in my seat. He was looking dead ahead, ignoring me. Not on purpose. I suspect I was an irrelevance to him. I swear there was chocolate around his mouth.

The present government is full of sharp-elbowed chocolate biscuit takers, knocking over the poor, and unaware of the mess they are making because they have never had to clean it up for themselves.

I would rather have a government of rich tea eaters, which cares about the vulnerable and tries to make their lives better. I would rather pay more tax and know it is going to prevent children from living in poverty.

I just don’t see where that government is going to come from. In the meantime, all I can do is seethe.

And you can have my rich tea biscuits. They’re horrible.

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