Begging Your Pardon

I’m only getting around to Sidey’s Weekend Theme now, which was “manners”…


“…. and yes, your bum does look big in that,” said Josef.

Anke, sitting opposite him, smiled.

The tiny statelet of Etteket is in the Alps, unknown to almost everyone. It is an astonishingly beautiful country, with stunning views and carpet-soft ski-slopes, yet they have no tourist industry, because they don’t like to brag about themselves.

They are the best-mannered nation on the planet. Their motto is “nil utterum bono, nil utterum nil”, which roughly translates as “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say nothing at all”.

You may think that living there would be paradise. The people of Etteket would tell you that you would be wrong, or rather they wouldn’t because that would be bad mannered.

And therein lies the problem. The people are polite, almost insanely so. They have been invaded during several wars, if invaded is the correct word to use about a nation who welcome you in with wide smiles, but the invaders usually leave out of boredom after a couple of years, beaten into submission by calm submission.

Their football team lose every game because their opponents have discovered that if they say “excuse me” the players will simply let them through with the ball.

If two Ettekettians ever arrive at a door at the same time, then neither goes through. They simply wave each other forward until one of them collapses from exhaustion.

There are no pub-arguments. There is no political debate. Their anti-drugs slogan is “just say ‘no, thank you’.”

And all of this eventually gets to you. It’s like living at a perpetual cocktail party, full of polite, meaningless conversation.

And so Anke founded Rude Health, a secret, hard-to-find club down a secret, hard-to-find alley, where people can please their inner urge not to please.

There is a farting room. There is a room where you can hit yourself on the thumb with a hammer, and swear long and loud. There is a driving-simulation game in which you can refuse to let cars coming out of side roads into the traffic. You can describe the weather as shite, rather than “not quite as pleasant as one would have hoped”.  There are Simon Cowell outfits (a jet-black wig and nipple-high trousers), which you can wear while you tell imaginary contestants that they sound like an electric toothbrush trapped in a metal bucket. And, as we have seen, customers like Josef can tell a mannequin in jeans that yes, your bum does look big in that.

Oh, sorry, I realise looking back that I may have given the impression in the opening lines that Josef was addressing his comment to Anke.

There is, of course, no country on earth where a man would get away with that.


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