Well, the catharsis is almost complete: your long-suffering friend Octavius has now said what needed saying on travelling, talking, table-waiting, training, typecasting, tat-touting, towning, touring, tale-telling, toe-poking, tweeting, toiling, twaddle-trading, tot-rearing, tunemonging, team-toxicating and tying the knot. The world already seems a simpler and sounder place – or so the survey of one suggests. If the communal will’s there, and we don’t forget to spice our pejorism with the mace of meliorism, it may be that modern life can be survived somewise. But, lest we descend prematurely into orgiastic revelry, there remain a few final teething problems. So, for the last time, here’s your guide for tying up those ever-fraying and ever-frustrating loose ends:
- Dearest parents, ‘pram’ is not a colloquial shorthand for ‘people-ram’. If you’re convinced that the wee one in your disconcertingly high-spec buggy really is the most precious thing in the world, it surely doesn’t follow that they should double up as a ploughshare for cleaving the shins of any and every unwitting pedestrian.
- If you’ve written an email with the subject title ‘Nigerian Soccer-Mum who’s made doctors mad with her crazy way to make your little pecker HUGE seeks personal love-comfort and honour-worthy recipient of $47.2 billion USD’, please – for the little good that still remains in quotidian life – press ‘delete’ not ‘send to the inboxes of the world’.
- Never forget that here is no dance move that involves the clicking of fingers. And any gesture, shimmy or wiggle that involves the hand clap should be attempted only by trained professionals. The people around you have paid to get in here.
- Shop assistants, be so good as to replace the question ‘do you need any help today?’ with sweet, uninterrupted silence. At the till, observe these minor tweaks: replace ‘did you find everything you need today?’ with ‘I see these are the goods you want’, ‘would you like your receipt?’ with ‘I can see you’re not a worrisome bean-counter or inveterate mind-changer, so I’ll bin this paper thing without consultation’, and ‘do you have one of our store cards?’ with ‘I’m sure you’re not interested in our store card: you have myriad better things to be doing with your life.’
- Don’t hold a door open for anyone who is more than four seconds behind you. It’s a rude imposition to demand that they attempt to run at a quasi-Bannisterial pace while disguising that it’s doubled their heart-rate and tripled their stress.
- It’s unacceptable to be very good or very bad at the three staple pub sports: darts, pool and beer-mat flipping. If you’re in the sort of joint that has a quiz machine, don’t contemplate playing unless you’re able to demonstrate utter impassivity to both multi-coin success and (more probably) many-a-pound failure.
- Spare yourself and the rest of the civilised world the unutterable indignity of using the font Calibri. Even Comic Sans possesses greater nobility.
- Men and clothes. Never forget that a ‘hoodie’ was designed as a practical joke and is under no circumstances to be worn in earnest; that headgear has no practical or societal role outside the sphere of sport; and that the bottom button of any multi-buttoned blazer or waistcoat is there solely to upset others when done up.
- Swanksome bar-goers. Take a close look and you’ll see that there’s a wide counter separating you from the drink. Its width is there for the very good reason of allowing you to find a space at it to order a drink. It is not an art installation or whimsical ‘think-piece’ for you to ponder as you form a carefully-policed queue immediately behind the one person waiting at the bar.
- If you’re in a shop, restaurant, theatre, museum, library, hairdresser’s, vintner’s, cartwright’s – or in fact any public space – and a problem arises, never, ever complain. If you do have issues, however urgent, hold them back until you’ve left the premises. At that point you can rage until your pupils are puce – safe in the knowledge that you didn’t make a scene.
- If the red mist descends at an unexpected ‘Unexpected item in baggage area’ message, make the phrase sing for its supper. Before the almost impossibly uninterested ‘self-service area assistant for customer facilitations’ makes it over to you, insert among your validly scanned items a stuffed polecat, dressed in traditional Cossack dress. When challenged, swear blind that you picked it up somewhere in aisle 7 as part of ‘an unbelievable promotional deal’.
- There are two moments in life where clothing with writing on is acceptable: the sporting contest and the gig. But distinguish these two: when supporting your team, you’re showing your colours against the opposition; when attending a gig, by definition you’re all into the same music. So be sure to wear any band-shirt other than the headliner’s.
- Don’t be an apostrophe bore. If you have sound knowledge, all well and good. But keep it to yourself unless there’s a seriously pressing cause to pipe up. And if you think these are wrong – ‘two a’s and three 7’s’, ‘PHD’S FOR SALE’, ‘that Smiths album’, ‘the girls section’ – you really should keep quiet.
- Posties of Britain: if you’re delivering a parcel at an indeterminable hour between 8am and 8pm, and the intended recipient – who has arranged to work from home to receive the parcel – has had to pop out for five minutes at the random moment you arrive, either ’phone the recipient and generously wait or use some initiative and hide the parcel inventively in the immediate environs. Don’t just head off, leaving the near-indecipherable prophecy that five days hence the item can be retrieved ten miles thence, between 1pm and 2pm, on the presentation of a clean driving licence, original birth certificate, and bona fide 25m swimming badge.
- Don’t spend time writing unreadably-over-hyphenated rules for your fellow Britons. It’s a vulgar indulgence, and unforgivably presumptuous to assume that your good co-citizens haven’t known all of this unarguably sound advice since they were in short trousers. Of course, the next time Machell crosses your path in The Listwrights Arms, your pint’s on him.
‘And that’ – to appropriate the last words at the dispatch box of perhaps the least Machellian figure in the history of British politics – ‘is that. The end.’