The Thursday rant #11

This rant is spat at you from the baleful keyboard of David Duff, who sits, or rather, slumps, in his armchair viewing the actions of his fellow man through a beady, and occasionally, it must be admitted, blood-shot eye. Those possessed of a strong stomach may inspect, at a safe distance, his other putrid opinions at


Alas, my Canute-like orders are of no avail. Still it advances; inexorably it slithers and slides and smarms its way into every nook and cranny, mounting ever higher until now, this, my last rant, is delivered with the ghastly, treacly, oily, viscous slime up to my chin and I can only croak one more time, “Stop this soppy, sanctimonious, show-off sentimentality – NOW!”

There was a time, and I am old enough to remember it, when the English were renowned for their sang-froid, their upper lips stiffer than a Grenadier guardsman (no jokes, please, gentlemen!), their emotions stacked neatly in the deep-freeze of rectitude. Wailing and gnashing of teeth was strictly for that peculiar species, ‘Johnnie Foreigner’, but never, ever, for an Englishman.

Well, all that’s long gone. I’m not sure when and where this oozing, sticky glut of sentimentality first arose. Probably Liverpool, under the Celtic influence of its Irish population. Certainly the ‘Scousers’ have developed it into a fine art form helped, no doubt, by the practice they get each time their ‘footie fans’ get bored with their tedious team and decide to crush the other fans to death, on the not totally unreasonable grounds that it is likely to provide better entertainment than watching their lack-lustre team. Later, of course, this sort of event provides excellent opportunities for a lachrymose outpouring of utterly insincere grief with all the modern icons of sentimentality in the form of piles of cheap flowers and vomit-inducing ‘notes of condolence’. These are presented with a canny eye on whether or not the ‘telly’ cameras are present and normally involve prodding their deeply unattractive children forward to, and please don’t laugh, ‘pay their respects’. Not even the tiniest glimmer of a thought enters their fat, stupid heads to the effect that if they had behaved like civilised people in the first place; no-one would have died!

I thought, and hoped, that this glutinous tide had reached its peak with the funeral of Princess Diana, when the entire nation, except me, went into a welter of sopping wet sentimentality that I had never thought to witness on these shores. But no, exactly the same lunacy took place only a fortnight ago when hundreds of thousands of my fellow subjects started behaving like a bunch of emotional Italians over the deserved, indeed worked at, death of George Best. Was he a war hero? Did he find a cure for cancer? Had he personally run a shelter for Ethiopian war orphans? No, he was a footballer! Instantly a queue of tear-stained morons formed to help produce a mountain of shirts and scarves and the ubiquitous cheap flowers.

As a last effort to fight against this sentimental effluent that is threatening to drown us all, I have decided on a plan of direct action. The next time you drive past a woeful, little bunch of decaying flowers set by the roadside in order to mark the spot where some Darren, or Kevin, having borrowed Dad’s ‘Beamer’, chucked back ten pints and then, presumably in the interests of scientific enquiry, decided to test Newton’s laws of motion, and coming to the conclusion a nano-second before his head went through the windscreen that probably the old boy was right; instead of driving past, swerve slightly to the left and run over them! If, on the other hand, the flowers are reasonably fresh, stop the car, pinch them and give them to the wife. (Actually, that might not be such a good idea because she will instantly suspect that you have been up to no good and give you hell for it. Well, that’s women for you, no sentimentality there then!)

Oh, and by the way, er, Happy Christmas!

  1. As I read the opening paragraph – “Still it advances; inexorably it slithers and slides and smarms its way into every nook and cranny, mounting ever higher until now, this, my last rant, is delivered with the ghastly, treacly, oily, viscous slime up to my chin” – I thought for sure Duff was describing a bad dose of The Gush.

  2. Guy Bartlett said:

    The irony is Georgie Best wasn’t actually buried in Belfast.

    They actually cremated him in Hemel Hempstead.

  3. Andy said:

    Look at me everyone – I’m controversial!


  4. I think that, possibly inadvertently, you have put your finger on the real point with your mention of “emotional Italians”: that there is a difference between emotion and sentimentality. Certain sections of the media and, it would appear, the public, are unable to tell the difference between the two.

  5. N.I.B. said:

    Oh what a stunning piece of insight. Where *do* you get your ideas, David?

    By the way, I think you should sue the people at the The Spectator magazine for plagarism, as some cheeky beggar has clearly copied this this piece pretty much word-for-word and managed to get it printed in the 16th October 2004 edition of said magazine!

    Can you believe the sheer gall of it?!

  6. Andrew said:

    Probably Liverpool, under the Celtic influence of its Irish population.

    I love free speech blah blah blah, but don’t we have a no-blatant-racism policy at The Sharpener?

    Christ, I sound like D-squared now, ranting about the Rant…

  7. genghis said:

    Sounds like David is a man after my own heart, in that we both eschew false sentimentality, and the more gross outpourings of false grief as delivered by the funeral of the late G. Best, or the memorial for the equally late, greedy, and stupid Scouser who got chopped in Iraq!

    One has to wonder why the flowers! Is the dead guy going to appreciate them? Do they make the donor feel better?

    Are these lachrymose events a symptom of a wider decay in the make-up of our country, or are they just the silly external posturing of crowds who just don’t appreciate that death comes to us all?

    I blame Tony Blair!

  8. There seems to be a pause in the comments so I will attempt to respond.

    ‘Snotty’ displayed whatever the exact opposite is to funny and witty – so no change there, then!

    Guy is wicked – and funny.

    Andy had nothing of interest to write, but wrote it all the same. Well, his Mum says it keeps him off the streets.

    Katherine makes an interesting point. It’s not so much that I was attempting to define a difference between emotion and sentiment, it was more that I was trying to encourage the idea that both are best demonstrated privately.

    ‘N.I.B.’ gets it all wrong but at least is consistent in his habits. For some 25 years I was a subscriber to the Spectator but when ‘Blond Bombshell Boris’ took over I cancelled for obvious reasons. Thus, any similarity between my vituperation and the unknown (to me) writer at the ‘Speccie’ is simply a matter of great minds thinking alike.

    Andrew’s comment is beyond the bounds of any sort of intelligent discourse. He is a sort of soppy antithesis to your average BNP grunt – except that he squeaks!

  9. Chris Williams said:

    David, when you go raiding people’s relative death-site flowers, be sure and let us know how you got on.

    With pictures, if poss.

  10. N.I.B. said:

    Nyyeeeees David – of *course* you’d have to have been a Spectator subscriber to have seen ‘that’ article, what with all the furore it generated, resulting in it being discussed and digested at length just about everywhere, by everyone…

  11. Sorry, ‘N.I.B.’, but ‘E’ for effort, old chap! Here is what I wrote elsewhere only a few days ago:

    “I buy “The Daily Mail” every day because the little ‘Memsahib’ likes it. It takes me approximately 3.5 minutes to read it because I simply skim the headlines, read the odd columnist I like, such as Quentin Letts, check the theatre and film crits and finish with a quick check on my shares before passing it over to the little ‘Memsahib’. The only paper I *do* read very carefully is “The Business”.

  12. N.I.B. said:

    Very good. But, er, what’s that got to do with the price of eggs? Did someone mention the Mail in a comment visible only to your good self? Or did you just feel that particular passage was so good it warranted reproduction here?

    Now, try and be be honest with yourself. Are you saying you don’t remember a single thing about the infamous ‘Spectator vs Liverpool’ story?

  13. (I can’t quite work out why ‘conversations’ with ‘N.I.B.’ always take so long.)

    You implied that I had plagiarised something written in the ‘Speccie’. I pointed out your error. You then implied that nevertheless, I had picked up the story from the prints and plagiarised it from them. So, I quoted my original words to indicate that I no longer bother reading daily papers, except “The Business” on Sunday.

    And, yes, (because I am honest) *now* you remind me, I do remember a fuss with Boris having to apologise to Liverpool but I can assure you that it was not in my mind when I ranted above.

    Now, please, ‘N.I.B.’, we’re not arguing over who invented the calculus, or anything important, so just accept that I do not plagiarise and give it a rest.

  14. N.I.B. said:

    Well it always seems to take you such a long time to remember these things! I appreciate it must be getting difficult these days, which is why I like to lend a helping hand now and again.

    You’re right, though. It’s definitely not important. Quite the opposite in fact. So would it really matter if you did plagarise? Do you think people would think any less of you all of a sudden?

  15. dsquared said:

    The terrible thing is that this probably would have been in the top quartile of “Thursday Rants” so far, had it not been for the fact that the huge nationwide lachrymose outpouring of emotion over George Best didn’t actually happen.

  16. D2 is obviously a stickler for exactitude and precision which presumably is why he uses a word like “quartile”. However, in my rag-bag jumble of a mind, I believe a certain amount of hyperbole is an essential ingredient in a *rant*.

  17. Chris Williams said:

    A more interesting question – what is it with the extreme popularity of the ‘I am voice in the wilderness, me’ rhetorical formulation? Is it merely a subset of ‘Look at me, I’m being oppressed’?

    Personally, I blame Isiah. But I’m just one drowned-out voice among the crowd of petulant intellectuals who all lazily put it down to Orwell.

  18. chris said:

    According to this lad, it’s probably a mistranslation of “a voice crying, ‘Prepare ye the way of the Lord in the wilderness.'” Which revelation will unfortuanately do nothing to stem the tide of self-appointed prophets of doom.

    David, the English have always been a maudlin, sentimental people. Look at the records they buy each other for Christmas. It’s one of our most unlovely national characteristics.

  19. Emmy said:

    “The Wife” … “That’s women for you”.

    Doesn’t the Sharpener have a no-blatant-sexism policy?

  20. Can this be the same ‘David Duff’ who was “was moved to the verge of tears” by, erm, Eastenders?

    Is this the same man who admits becoming “all sentimental, soppy and emotional” watching, erm, MPs droning on in the House of Commons?

    Wait, wait – irrelevant snide remarks about the Irish, overblown florid prose, abject ignorance (you don’t have the faintest idea what actually happened at Hillsborough do you?) – of course it’s the same guy!

    Still even for a man renowned for his inconsistency, looking back with dewey eyes to a supposed golden age when no Englishman ever looked at anything with dewey eyes, is a hilarious new low.

  21. Andrew said:

    Andrew’s comment is beyond the bounds of any sort of intelligent discourse. He is a sort of soppy antithesis to your average BNP grunt – except that he squeaks!

    It was more of a weary groan than a squeak, to be honest David. If you’ve mistaken me for a loony-leftie, tree-hugging, sandal-wearing, bearded, social-working, save-the-whales, tax-and-spend, nuke-the-rich, hang-the-racists, no-war-but-class-war style modern ‘liberal’, you’ve got the wrong man. Some of my best friends are Irish, and I resent the characterisation you made. I guess you won’t get that, but that’s more because you’re a twat than because of any particular social grouping you belong to.

    Now that’s poor intellectual discourse…

  22. I have read Chris Williams’s comment several times but, alas, I still can’t see his point. (Yes, yes, I’m sure that says more about me than him.)

    Emmy, I’m sure, is tongue in cheek, at least I hope so considering this from her own blog: “The fact that the knuckle-dragging element of football crowds are lauded for keeping their ugly thoughts to themselves for a whole minute speaks volumes about our expectations of men en masse”, a sentiment with which I wholly agree and I am delighted that there are no silly non-sexism rules on her site – splendid girl!

    Larry has his usual humourous moment. Unfortunately he is so eager to offer us what passes for his wit that he fails to read my rant properly, thus missing the point that it is the *public* display of emotion of which I am complaining. He might counter that my confessions of sentiment on my blog amount to the same thing, but as usual he would be wrong because no-one, I think, reads it except him and N.I.B. (By the way, gentlemen, ‘Typepad’ appears to have broken down so my site is ‘off air’ for the time being. Hope it doesn’t last too long or I might have to start talking to the little ‘Memsahib’. Oooops, sorry, Emmy!)

    What a gentle, delicate and oh, so sensitive, little flower Andrew is, to be sure. He is hurt, nay, wounded (alas, not mortally) by me stating the ‘bleedin’ obvious’ that the Celts are sentimental. Three quick choruses of “Danny Boy”, I think.

  23. N.I.B. said:

    A note for the uninitiated: People who dare to call David Duff in for the nonsense he writes have *always* mis-read what he wrote.

    When that fails, he gives up and ‘goes snide’, to the extent of wishing his sparring partners dead (alas not mortally).

    Ironically, of course…

  24. Of course!

  25. dearieme said:

    Perhaps it’s demographic? While I was childless almost nothing would move me to tears. Once we’d had a nipper, almost anything would – the most formulaic, mechanical, predictable drama would bring a mini-glisten to my eyes. (Not Princess Di, though, obviously. Nor bloody footballers.) Help me, I’m a victim of hormones. It’s not my fault!

  26. Well, I was also suggesting that your rant was not differentiating also, DD. For example, I have absolutely no problem with people putting flowers on kerbsides to mark someone’s death. If a member of their family or a friend has died, then I’m certainly not going to be the insensitive, miserable b*stard who tells them that their grief offends me. Grief at death is not sentimentality.

  27. “Grief at death is not sentimentality.”

    It is when you make a public spectacle of it.

  28. Is putting out flowers a public spectacle? And lordy, is it really so offensive? It’s like people who get wound up by “Baby on Board” signs in cars – haven’t you got anything better to complain about?

  29. “Baby on Board”, “Baby on Board”, oh God, don’t get me started, I mean, “Baby on Board”, dontcha’wanna’ just smash into the backs of their cars and scream who cares about your nasty, pewking, mewling brat ….. er, sorry, nurse, did you say it was time for my sedative ….

  30. Ally said:

    I understand that there *is* a practical use for those ‘baby on board’ signs – if there are no adults left alive at the scene of a crash, the rescue crew will literally take the car apart in case there WAS a baby on board.

    Just sayin’.

  31. Speechless, save to say, “What a dee-light”!

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