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The joy of other people’s misfortunes

After a worrying hiatus lasting no less than eight days, Natalie Solent is back blogging:

Whew. I’m sorry that a combination of circumstances has kept me away from the computer for several days. Would you like to hear about the pump on our boiler, our header tank and the partial collapse of our garage roof? No, thought not.

Oh but we would, we would. Natalie doesn’t have comments, but if she did they would already be piling up: tell us, tell us, what happened with the pump, what’s a header tank and what went wrong with it?, etc. When did the misfortunes of others suddenly become an unfit subject for public entertainment? It sounds like terrific stuff, and Natalie should itemise every horror she endured.

I still smile to myself about the day when I first blundered into this my-misery-equals-other-people’s-happiness thing. I had a job in the building trade as a sort of very junior sub-lieutenant, and on a particularly gruesome day matters culminated in me being chased back into my sordid, dirty and leaky little caravan in the pouring rain by a big Irishman waving a trowel. He had built a slightly crooked wall during all that rain, and I had helpfully explained this to him, in between keeping up with the cricket scores in the bloody caravan. Plus there had been all kinds of confusions over some tunnelling that had been going on, and there was a hell of a muddle with the concrete, and I did some laying out of foundations for some houses that still worries me when I think about it. It had not been a good day. Basically I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing, and I just wanted to go home and sleep.

But just to put the tin lid on my day of misery, I had to go to some damned party that same evening. (This was before I had discovered that the thing to do about parties you don’t want to got to is not go.) Misery. All the people there would presumably have had brilliant days and would be yacking away about how well they’d done, and all I’d have to talk about would be my insane bloody job in the insane bloody building trade, and insane Irish people with trowels and concrete-related fuck-ups and hideously misplaced suburban houses.

I entered the party, dreading it, and immediately the questions started. Who are you? What do you do? How was your day? I had just about had it at that moment, and I thought to hell with this, they’ve asked, now they’re going to be told. And of course within about a minute I was the life and soul of the party. I soon got the joke of it all myself and started exaggerating and inventing, using fuck-ups from other days, and fuck-ups I’d only heard about from other building trade idiots, and combining different fuck-ups into the same fuck-up. All those posh stockbrokers and lawyers who had spent their entire day achieving only the exact results they wanted never got a look-in.

So tell us Natalie. The collapse of the garage roof sounds especially entertaining, even if it was, alas, only partial.

4 comments to The joy of other people’s misfortunes

  • Rob Read


  • “So tell us Natalie. The collapse of the garage roof sounds especially entertaining, even if it was, alas, only partial.”

    You just evil, Micklethwait.

  • Jacob

    Good post, Brian.

    Speaking of fuck-ups – the other day there was a notice on some board at my workplace saying:
    “If anybody found a thinkpad laptop, please return it to David”.

  • DJS

    “…..insane Irish people with trowels…..”

    It must have been quite a scary experience for you but I must admit that I’ve gotten a big laugh out of it. Forgive me…….

    Were there a lot of women at that party you went to later on that night? Did you at least get a mercy hump for your troubles?