For some time now my family, and even some of my friends, have sometimes referred to me as being a bit grumpy. I’ve even heard the phrase ‘grumpy old man’ flung in my general direction on occasion. It’s the kind of label that I’ll readily dispute.
For a long time I just put it down to the fact that I have a low tolerance for certain things. If you’re rambling on I’d rather you just got to the point. If you’re singing along to a song I like and you happen to be horribly out of tune, I’ll most likely let you know. My face still changes when I look at my pay and cast my eyes over how much tax I have to pay. If I’m grumpy, then I assume everyone else just loves paying tax. And if we’re at work and you’ve had what I feel is a terrible idea then, although I’ve mellowed considerably, I’m still likely to let you know. After all, a shit idea is a shit idea, right? Nothing grumpy about that.
Then one day I was reading a book and happened upon a term that would perhaps put an end to all accusations of grumpiness. Well, at least for me anyway.
It was nearing the end of a Year 7 English lesson. We used to do a thing called ERIC Time, which meant that ‘everyone reads in class’. So for the last twenty minutes of a specified lesson, twice a week, we’d be reading as a way of relaxing, learning something different and, well, promoting reading.
I was sat in my usual place at the back of the room, half reading and half keeping an eye on other readers; looking for pages turning at relevant times. And it was here I met a kindred spirit in the writer Bill Bryson. I was reading Bryson’s fantastic book, ‘The Road to Little Dribbling’ about his adventures wandering around England. Now Bryson, it has to be said, can come across as a little bit grumpy. Not to me, you understand – I empathise completely with his everyday frustrations. But it was he who introduced me to the idea of reflex loathings, which he describes in the book as being something people “dislike without having to justify or explain to anyone why they don’t like them.” Bryson recommends that we be allowed ten of these reflex loathings, although as he invented the term, he gives himself a few more. Fair enough.
So first of all, I will be offering some explanation as to my reflex loathings, mainly because a list of things I don’t like but won’t explain wouldn’t be much of a blog. It wouldn’t be very funny either and at the very least I was hoping to raise the odd smile with people. So, in no particular order, here’s my list of current reflex loathings and at the very least, a brief explanation. Is it a complete list? I very much doubt it, but any more than ten might make people think I’m just a grumpy old man.
- The lights being left on in the house…FOR NO APPARENT REASON. Ok, so clearly I’ve turned into my dad, which is frankly regrettable. However, as I get a bit older I find that I am left flabbergasted by the sheer amount of times I walk into a room in our house to find no one there, yet all of the lights on. It’s not a money thing; we can pay the electric bill. I just find it astounding that someone (my kids generally) can leave the room, the landing, the hallway or wherever and not give the slightest thought to how empty it is, yet how light. Who needs that light? I feel like I walk round my house channelling my dad and muttering stuff like, “It’s like bloody Blackpool Illuminations in here!” I’m right though.
- The ridiculous names they give to paint. I’m not going to explain, but let’s try something. Can you spot the false paint names in the list? Elephant’s Breath, Rose Madder, Ian’s Armpit, New Gamboge, Squirrel Tail, Moonlight Romance, Armitage’s Parsonage, R2D2 Blue, Broccolli Brown, Broccolli Green, String, Smelly Bumbum, Burnt Tofu, Savage Garden, Jennifer’s Hen Do, Well Green Innit, Blue…Just Blue, Orgasmic Purple, York Spinster and Auntie Hazel’s Having A Hot Flush. No, me neither. I actually looked some paint names up, but got carried away making my own up and now I can’t tell which are which. You get my point though, right?
- People knocking at my door. Neighbour, salesman, delivery driver, whatever…I’m not interested and I will hide behind the armchair in order to avoid you. Your persistence will be rewarded with my ridiculous, childlike behaviour!
- Clothes being left inside out when put in the wash. Aaaaaaaaaagh. Luckily, I don’t need to explain it as it’s just a reflex loathing.
- The Mistreatment of Books. Maybe this is just my problem entirely. I think books are precious. As a kid we didn’t have a lot, but we always had books. And I was an avid visitor to the library too. A genuine teenage bookworm; yep, that cool! What it meant though is that I always valued books. As such, even now when I finish a book it more often than not has the look of one that’s just been taken off the shelf. So, to find dog eared books in my classroom, see people breaking the spines, see the pages being turned over instead of using a book mark…my blood’s boiling just thinking about it!
- Glory Hunting Football Fans. I’m sure these people are present around lots of sports, but as a football fan, this really winds me up. Simple rule; if the club isn’t vaguely local or you weren’t born there, then that’s not your club. These sort of fans seem to be more accepted these days and I’ve heard the argument that ‘it’s a global game’ more than a few times, but put simply, it’s not and you’re wrong. You can’t argue that you have the same connection with that team if you were born miles and miles away. Your support is based around the pursuit of glory, nothing else. However reflex this loathing is, it is in my opinion, 100% justified.
- Local Radio DJs. You’re not funny, you’ve probably got a stupid voice, your material is likely to have been stolen and re-hashed from someone else and I loathe what you do. Terrible jingles, a nickname you probably made up in order to look popular and a world full of awful catchphrases. Oh, and did I mention you’re not funny? (I think I need a lie down).
- The Dressing Habits of Young Men. I feel sure that this is solely a British thing, but let’s get it out there anyway. I am the father of a daughter. I dread the introduction of boys into her life. And yet, a bit of me can’t wait. I’ll be the dad that turns them round on the doorstep if and when they’re not good enough. Off you pop fella. Not today. Not near my daughter. One of the things I dread most is a sight I see regularly. There’ll be a couple out and about and while the girl or woman has obviously made the effort with her appearance and most likely looks great, the boy will be invariably wearing a tracksuit and scruffy trainers. In the U.K. he may even be walking around with a hand down the front of his tracksuit bottoms. His hand, just to clarify. I look at these situations and my heart bleeds for the poor girl. She has probably spent hours getting ready to go out. He’s slung on the first thing he found on his bedroom floor – this is what this chap thinks of you. I have genuinely already warned my daughter about this type of thing! Please, don’t stand for this lack of effort and level of disrespect. And please lads, have a tiny bit of pride in your appearance.
- People who don’t hold the door open. Holding a door open takes little effort at all, but it’s just a nice thing to do. And still, people just let the door slam in your face. I don’t care what or who you are, there will always be a sarcastic comment from me in these instances.
- Supermarket Dawdlers. Don’t. Just. Stop. That tin of tomatoes doesn’t need your scrutiny. That aisle isn’t a place for you and the neighbours to park trolleys (badly) and have a natter. By all means take your time, but please, at the very least walk in a straight line so I can get past. There are no imaginary cones for you to be weaving through!
So, there you have it. A list of my Reflex Loathings. In the course of making the list I’ve discovered that I have quite a long list! But I decided to leave lots out as what should have been a vaguely humorous blog felt like it was turning into a rant. And someone somewhere reflex loathes ranters and their rants!
I hope you enjoyed the post. Maybe you have a long list of reflex loathings of your own? Feel free to let me know what yours are as well as what you thought of mine. Am I right or just a very grumpy old man?