Mad as a box of frogs


It’s hard to avoid it, so I’m not going to try. What about that ash cloud, eh? I’m still snorting in the street at the thought of the business big cheese who was refused passage on a ferry as a foot passenger because there was no space left, but was offered a ticket for a cyclist. (We’ll leave to one side the absolute nonsense of that kind of quota, never mind during an extraordinary emergency situation). Anyway, this insane ruling left Chummyboy with no choice but to go off and buy a secondhand bike in the town.

The French bike-shop owner must have been capering with delight at the opportunity to humiliate un anglais so utterly sans puissance. Heau, heau, heau, he must have chuckled as he watched the hapless rosbif pedal off on the only bike M le patron had for sale (Ah, je suis desolé, monsieur. Ceci, c’est le dernier vélo en toute la France, je vous assure.’): a girl’s pink princess bike with a big basket in front. And then the ferry people made him ride the bloody thing up the ramp and into the hold past all the grinning deckhands. I’m still laughing as I type. Must be shagging boring working at a ferry terminal. I’d have made him ride it too.

Anyway, let’s get back to me. Of late I’ve been getting some nice freelance gigs to write features for Aer Lingus’ inflight magazine, Cara. That’s why I was in New England last year, and I went to Mallorca a couple of months back which was completely fantastic. Hey! I thought, when an email from the editor arrived about 10 days ago. Wonder where to next. What far-flung paradise is to gather me to its bosom? Answer: Wimbledon, which is 30 minutes away from my house by bus or an hour on foot. Heavens to Murgatroyd, am I glad of that now! Walked over there on Saturday with my flatmate, sauntered about in glorious sunshine, eating ice cream and chatting to locals, then hopped on the 219 home again.

Later that evening I met some friends in Soho, over from Ireland. They’re not put out by the cloud either: Tim has such a phobia of flying and such a dislike of knock-out drops, that he insisted they go by ferry and train. Reservations tucked away safely, vindication total.

On the subject of knock-out drops (sorry, bit skatey-around this time but I’ve been on my own all day) I watched the Louis Theroux programme about a clinic in the States that medicates small children for personality disorders. God, it was awful. One kid was from a family of such highly strung brainiacs that the only member of the family who wasn’t on drugs was the daughter. Even the dog was on tranqs, because he was ‘anxious’, and sometimes ‘beyond the normal range of pleased’ to see the family that every now and then he’d pee. Ever seen sniffer dogs at an airport? Not while they’re working you haven’t, and I’ll tell you why. The spaniels piss everywhere all the time, all over the luggage they’re checking, because they’re so excited.

Anyway, all these bright, poised, frustrated kids had hit a rough patch while growing up that was ‘beyond the normal range’ of behaviours so that it ‘interfered with their interactions with others.’ There was a lot of talk about the ‘beyond the normal range’. So presumably sulking’s out, ‘defiant oppositional disorder’ was another one (getting in a strop), hating to lose at games (sweeping everyone’s pieces off the board and hiding behind the sofa).

The really horrible bit was when Louis asked the doctor whether he ever saw parents come in with supposedly problem children, when it was the parents either projecting stuff onto the kids or just being crap, control freaks, narcissists or flakes. Yes, said the doctor, sometimes that happens. ‘And what do you do in that situation?’ Louis pressed, ‘Find some other kind of therapy to help address these family issues?’ No, said the doctor. We’d probably go ahead and medicate the child. Jee-zus.

Up until the age of about 12 I could have placed an extravagantly large tick against every one of those problem behaviours (except the sulking, which went on a good bit longer, and the weeing on suitcases, which somehow I omitted). There was a dollop of OCD when I was eight or nine (my mother said I’d grow out of it, and presto! I did), and countless occasions when I wasn’t on speakers with my brother. Defiant oppositional disorder by the gallon, as I recall, with some shouting as well, just to set everyone’s teeth on edge.

Closer analysis yields some frightening results. I’ve been displaying problem behaviours this very day. I took my flatmate’s wet washing out of the machine and hung it on the line this morning because I hate to see a good drying day go to waste (OCD, overly controlling). I meant to have two Digestives and ended up scoffing five and two shortcake fingers because I felt like it (poor impulse control). I kept wandering away from my studying – mostly to check on the wet laundry and to eat biscuits – which demonstrates poor concentration and practically screeches borderline attention deficit disorder. And don’t get me started on my anger issues with the fox that has left three ginormo turds of varying degrees of size and desiccation in the front garden.

Given all that, I’m probably bipolar too; ooh, maybe throw in an antipsychotic while you’re at it, Doc. And send some to the bloke who had to ride the girls’ bike onto the ferry. I’d say he’s got a royal dose of social anxiety disorder after that.


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