Harbouring pet hate can be a burden greater than the slight itself if we’re not careful. Once something or someone has earned our informed wrath, each and every encounter assists a distillation process whose end product is 140 degree proof bile that only matures with age.
We all suffer this to some degree. Nobody is infinitely tolerant. Those who claim to be are either in denial and in desperate need of help or simply haven’t been paying enough attention. Allow me to demonstrate: Boris Johnson might be Prime Minister one day. See what I mean? A few ill-timed words can render the worst nightmares momentarily real enough to put us off our food, even when shorn of any context. Now try Donald Trump, Tony Blair, Justin Bieber, Fred Goodwin; only words on a page but, boy, can they set us off. It’s a deeply primeval defence mechanism; we instinctively recognise a threat when we see it and our choices are reduced to a straight play-off between flight and fight.
Keeping an eye on old Bojo isn’t difficult, though. He makes sure of this by being everywhere at all times. But myriad smaller, self-sustaining evils lurk around every corner, ready to mug our wits in broad daylight. Vigilance is imperative if we want to stay sane.
It may surprise you to learn I have a refined palate that can detect minor irritants less sensitive souls don’t appreciate. Indeed, I am an avid collector of pent up annoyance and keep a well-maintained cellar full of the stuff, from the cheapest shed-brewed poteen to the finest Claret.
We can become so hyper-sensitised that the merest shadow of our bêtes noires can provoke spontaneous anaphylactic fury. For instance, merely writing the words Eurovision Song Contest makes me wonder if invasion of Belgium might be an idea whose time has come around yet again; it’s been happening on and off for millennia and one can see why.
I’ll bet East Europeans got a fright when, having finally broken free of the yoke of totalitarianism, they discovered that this abomination was considered a symbol of post-war European harmony. I’m surprised they didn’t just cough politely, turn heel, rebuild the Wall and construct a continent-wide Faraday Cage to shield comrades from this nauseating bilge. This was what capitalism did to people? This was a fruit of our Peace Dividend?
I have more than just an elongated list. I have compiled a complete demonology, catalogued and cross referenced with clinical taxonomical precision. This prepares me for the assaults on the sensibilities that inevitably occur as a result of waking of a morning and remembering where I am.
Tragically, I suspect the damage is done and that this febrile condition is the result of exposure at critical junctures in early development to dangerous quantities of untreated waste products; a good many intentional products, too, come to think of it.
There was an abundance of source material to ensure maladjustment in any vulnerable teenager in the 1970s, but schools full of hooligans and psychos - not to mention the pupils, pretty well all light entertainment, Margaret Thatcher’s rise to power and flared trousers are perhaps amongst the most egregious lowlights of the decade when it all went horribly wrong, though, as we know, there was worse to come; our tolerance of that awful decade was to be rewarded with the 1980s. By now, though, I was getting the hang of general purpose angst and haven’t looked back.
Sadly, my parents insisted on watching TV news and left newspapers carelessly strewn about in full view of a delicate boy at an impressionable age. The moths of stupidity have besieged my desk light ever since.
It’s been a struggle, I can tell you, but I’ve finally started to develop functional immunity to some of the more noxious stuff. By and large, I’ve learned what to consume and what not to - whatever I damned well please; where to be and where not to be - right here and nowhere else; who to entrust my sensibilities with – a select few; who to be wary of by default – fetch me the London phone book and we’ll make a start.
Mercifully, perhaps as a result of some kind of fiendish cosmic joke, it was decreed that while pretty well anything could set me off, I would have no intolerance to nuts. This is a relief. They seem to be in everything these days, including nuts. It’s a sign of how far we’ve come that we now actually itemise the ingredients of raw vegetables. It’s unnecessary and wasteful of both energy and resources that we are incessantly being asked to conserve and protect, no expense spared. And it’s very annoying.
Each and every irritation has its own perch on the tree of our increasingly complicated and fraught existence. Some are mere ephemera that gnaw the top-most leaves just long enough to replicate before expiring. A good example might be that infuriating habit recently imported in the fetid rucksacks of gap year students returning from the Antipodes, a horrifying condition that causes the afflicted to gratingly emphasise the last syllable of a sentence, thereby making an otherwise perfectly clear statement sound like a question; “I fancy a beer”, just in case you didn’t know what beer was. If asking a question, the penultimate syllable is the victim: “Is it 2 o’clock yet?”, as if basic chronometry might be new to you.
There are only two possible explanations for this, neither satisfactory. Either they suspect plainly observable reality might be some kind of elaborate hoax and need reassurance only a mother could give, or they believe their interlocutor to be a bit dim and need confirmation that they’ve been understood. It’s the spoken equivalent of pulling a face and needs ruthlessly stamped out.
Exposure to CQI - Colonial Questioning Inflection - is a medical emergency which necessitates loud music to drown out the internal echo and immediate application of alcohol, perhaps with a cold shower just to be on the safe side. It’s deeply irritating, but the assault on your wits is usually brief and causes no lasting damage other than an incessant, plaintive “why?” ringing in your head. But you know it’ll be back sooner or later, so you have to log it as you know well the dangers of it catching you off guard and sparking an international incident.
Other annoyances are more robust and agile creatures, brightly coloured, squawking parrots, lyre birds that can mimic the sound of an approaching chainsaw. They can be entertaining for a while, but when it’s day in, day out, repeats of Fawlty Towers and Dad’s Army, say, any enjoyment you once experienced is evicted by a yearning for a new species, one that Attenborough hasn’t already documented to extinction.
Our worlds are now crawling with creatures whose sole purpose is to irritate the hell out of us and it’s got to stop. In no particular order: people who start idly playing with their latest rectangle when you thought they were talking to you alone, as if they’d far rather be somewhere else speaking to someone else and were utterly bored with your company, an insufferable rudeness I construe as an invitation to bugger off and I now do just that; football minutiae dominating the news agenda on all channels, those who believe Facebook to be essential to life, rap music, kleptocrat banks, socially clueless governments we are stupid enough to dignify with our votes, simple cupboards advertised as “storage solutions”, cold calls, feral punctuation, stupid, ugly little foreign wars we have no business being involved in, finally hearing confirmation that the Murdoch Corporation was allegedly as sinister as you always suspected and wondering just why it took so long when, really, there were clues………
Pet hates? Don’t start me.