Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Was That So Hard To Say?

This week’s thing for the newspaper turned out completely different to what I expected. I had a really amusing incident about a stewardess at 15,000 feet and couldn’t find any way to shoehorn it in. So to speak. Don’t you just hate it when that happens? Anyway…


It’s not often this column turns its cultural hand to the fine art of book reviews, the blame for which I lay squarely on the doorsteps of publishers. Very few, it seems are releasing titles which incorporate the two essential characteristics I demand from my books, namely (1) big writing so I always feel like I’m getting somewhere and (2) colourful and amusing pictures. (If the pictures are of the ‘pop-up’ variety then all the better.)

But recently I’ve managed to summon up the stamina to finish not one, but two picture less books and each left its own indelible mark. The first was described as a “very funny rant against consumer capitalism” and came recommended to me by a friend with comments such as “it’s perfect for a grumpy old man like you”. (I’m paraphrasing.) It had the charming title of “Is It Just Me Or Is Everything Sh#t?” and without any further ado, here is my review. If you only read one book this year, please make sure it is NOT this one. I won’t use the language the authors obviously adore so much but let’s just say that this book would not be out of place if it itself had been listed IN the book, if you see what I mean.

Moving swiftly on, I’m happy to report that the second book was much better. Written by Lynne Truss, it was called “Talk to the Hand” and was an examination of rudeness and unacceptable behaviour in the modern world. (Come to think of it, the first book could have been included here also.) Ms Truss covered many subject areas but principal among her arguments was the notion that the use of simple politeness words such as ‘please’ and thank you’ is in rapid and alarming decline. Not only that, but she also argues, quite rightly, that when we expect to hear these words - and don’t - our sense of outrage is sending blood pressures soaring to dangerously high levels.

This point was underlined to me in spectacular fashion last week during a journey to the airport. As usual, the traffic was crawling along the motorway but I’d given myself plenty of time to catch the flight so my relaxed demeanour was calmness personified. I’d almost got to the point of whistling “zippedy-do-da” when a large car roared up beside me and indicated its desire to merge into my lane.

“No problem sir,” I thought. “You’ve been considerate enough to use your indicators so go ahead and join our happy little traffic jam.” I slowed slightly and flashed my headlights to sanction his request and then sat back to wait for the acknowledgement of my selfless act. I waited. And then I waited some more, but nothing happened. No wave, not even the briefest flash of his hazard lights.

In an instant, my sunny disposition turned into a boiling rage and I unleashed a torrent of sarcastic fury to compensate for the affront. (I haven’t quite mastered the sarcastic hand gesture yet but I think I discovered one to fill the void meantime.)

“YOU’RE WELCOME!” “ANY TIME MATE!” “NO REALLY, THE PLEASURE WAS ALL MINE!” (I’m paraphrasing again.)

I’m not one who usually spouts sweeping generalisations but is it just me or are all BMW drivers sh..? But I digress.

“Talk to the Hand” is a well written, thought provoking and, crucially, very funny book and I would recommend it as essential reading for all. If I can be so bold, I’d like to tell Ms Truss that I’m very much looking forward her next book but next time, please consider adding a few pop-up pictures.

6 Comments:

At 21/2/06 6:06 am, Blogger carl said...

Dear Neil,
I know the feeling about the politeness. I wrote a posting about getting arrested on the first because my son's principal attempted to grab a paper from my hand (rude) and I called him a name (rude)I think the lesson here is that if one is to be arrested smash the bugger in the face and be done with it (really, really rude).
Tom

 
At 21/2/06 8:13 am, Blogger Lesley said...

When someone lets me into the line (rarely happens, I live in France remember)I am usually so grateful that I slow down to a snail's pace, try to make eye contact, wave several times with both hands and generally hold up the poor bugger who let me in probably ensuring that he will never reapeat the act of altruism for the rest of his driving career.

(BTW don't you just hate it when you let someone in and then they get throught the light just as it turns red for you)

 
At 21/2/06 9:23 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

God you are soooo right
and the old purple hair brigade are the worse
think they own the supermarket aisle space and expect doors to be opened for them but slam them in YOUR face.
Keep up the good work in your column.

 
At 26/2/06 8:52 pm, Anonymous deborah said...

Lynne Truss also wrote that book about full stops, commas and all that
Eats, shoots and leaves
Another or your bugbears
Sorry, late in the evening can't find my words.

And by the way, love that photo of you with the beard. Very intense and poetic, Byronic?

 
At 26/2/06 9:03 pm, Anonymous deborah said...

PS

Blood pressure soared yesterday, for exactly that, a sense of outrage.
Someone in a bar here in Bordeaux asked me for a glass of wine so I poured him one and then he did the same to others and never paid a round himself... the worse sin in the world in my book.
But after all, that is the first time in thirty years!

 
At 26/2/06 11:52 pm, Blogger Neil said...

The Byronic beard? As worn by the Six Million Dollar Man? Alas, no.

 

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