Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Shout, shout, let it all out

It must be the prospect of the festive season that makes people become abruptly more assertive. Even shy retiring types like myself, when faced with the prospect of hosting elderly relatives at Christmas for the FIFTH YEAR RUNNING, go all Naomi Campbell and start shouting and throwing things. Sure, shouting’s not exactly assertive so much as aggressive but sometimes a calm restatement of one’s position simply doesn’t cut it and you have to smash a few china mugs with pictures of cute terriers on.

I’ve now gracefully extricated myself from the joyous Yuletide that had awaited me, and if the small price to pay is excommunication and another boxed Zen garden for a present, well so be it. Even bring it on. I’m in bullish mood. And it’s not just me. All around are people saying, ‘No-one talks to me like that and gets away with it,’ and ‘I just threw it straight in the bin.’

Take Library Boy. By day a mild-mannered librarian; by night, a mild-mannered librarian. Yet last Saturday when strolling through the Cliffe his attention was caught by that bloke who dresses like an insurance salesman and shouts vigorously about the Bible. Ordinarily L Boy would have simply walked on by, like those geezers who weren’t the Good Samaritan. But something came over him. Call it Festive Assertive Disorder (FAD) if you like. He approached Bible Bloke and said firmly, ‘I do wish you’d be quiet.’

Respect, Library Boy, as the young people say. Bible Bloke was struck dumb for almost a second before he threw his arms wide enough to encompass WH Smiths. ‘SEE THIS YOUNG MAN, THE VOICE OF CONSCIENCE,’ he bellowed in tones borrowed from the Reverend Ian Paisley. Library Boy was quite pleased with this outcome because it’s been a while since he was referred to as a young man.

Over on freegle (the new freecycle), the normally gentle atmosphere of pleases and thank yous has also been infected by FAD. ‘This is a BIG item so don’t bid unless you have an articulated lorry,’ say people huffily, and ‘Don’t leave mobiles I will only respond to landlines between 3 and 4 am.’ Punctuation is not allowed in freegle world, other than the assertively placed triple exclamation mark: ‘AND MOST OF ALL DON'T MESS ME AROUND OR ANYONE ELSE FOR THAT MATTER!!!’

It’s good to practice these skills as December gets into its stride. Now is the time when the list of things you have to do begins to resemble one of those joke Roman scrolls that out-run a roll of Andrex. Say after me. ‘No thank you, I won’t be helping my child do their third sponsored thing of the week.’ Good. Now try this one: ‘Oh how lovely a boxed Zen Garden I will treasure it.’ Excellent. Now open your bin and quietly tip it in. There is no need to burst into tears. Remember, assertive and calm. And if that doesn’t work, shouting and CAPITAL LETTERS.

Beth Miller, 1st December 2010

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