CRAIG BROWN: Got a grudge? Then you’re in the right place
The invitation came out of the blue. ‘The Disdainful Company of Grudge Bearers invites you to their summer party. If you can call this a summer. And if you can call it a party.
‘It will take place at our ancient hall in what used to be proud to call itself the City of London.’
At the bottom of the invitation were a few instructions.
‘No smoking. No drinking. No parking. No trainers. No touching, inappropriate or otherwise. Don’t overstay your welcome, if any. And, for once, have the sheer common decency to keep your voice down.’
It was a much sought-after invitation to the Ancient Liverish Company (one of the oldest in the City), not least because the company’s motto is ‘Terminans Numeros’ (Keeping Numbers Down), engraved on a shield with an image of two wagging fingers.
Upon arrival, I climbed the steps to the main entrance. Above it was engraved ‘Grouse or Grouse’. I then walked up the main staircase. ‘Why on earth do they need all these steps?’ muttered the man next to me. From his scowl, I recognised him as the company secretary.
The Grudge Bearers company has a long, brooding history of resentment. In its heyday, it was exporting freshly minted peeves to every corner of the globe (pictured: a brooding cat)
I handed my coat to the receptionist. ‘Get one thing into that fat head of yours,’ he said. ‘If this goes missing, it’s nobody’s fault but your own.’
‘I’m sorry,’ I said. ‘I thought you were in charge of looking after the coats?’
‘Reverse gender stereotyping,’ he replied. ‘I suppose you think that’s all men are fit for?’
At this point a man with a lapel badge saying ‘Human Resources, If You Can Call Them Resources’ approached me. ‘Move along,’ he said. ‘Some of us have a job to do.’
I didn’t want to be any trouble. ‘Certainly,’ I said. ‘Perhaps you could tell me which room the party is in?’
‘Full details online, along with terms and conditions,’ he sighed. ‘And if you can’t remember your password — well, too bad. See it, say it, sorted.’
The Grudge Bearers company has a long, brooding history of resentment. In its heyday, it was exporting freshly minted peeves to every corner of the globe.
It was founded in the 16th century by a furious Sir Walter Raleigh, the day his cloak came back from the dry-cleaners with the words ‘Unremovable Stain’ attached with a safety pin.
Queen Elizabeth I initially granted its members control over all the grievances within a ten-mile radius of the capital. Within a few weeks, though, they had come to resent the fact that their territory was not bigger.
‘Typical!’ said the chairman, in his annual address to the company’s presiding body, The Pique. ‘They’ve always had it in for us.’
Queen Elizabeth I initially granted its members control over all the grievances within a ten-mile radius of the capital. Within a few weeks, though, they had come to resent the fact that their territory was not bigger (pictured: Queen Elizabeth I)
After many letters of complaint, their territory was extended to include the entire country. As the company’s membership soared, so too did the resentments between members.
‘I’m very sorry, but I honestly don’t see why Septimus Spleen was made treasurer. It’s just because he spent so much time greasing up to the presidents,’ reads an ancient, faded parchment addressed to the chairman signed simply: ‘A Friend.’
A spell of goodwill and merriment in the Regency period saw a severe drop in membership. The company was then forced to amalgamate with The Respectful Society of Prigs and Killjoys, most of whom they grew to loathe.
I read this potted history as I walked into the dining hall. A large table-plan indicated who was sitting where. Many people had secretly crossed out their own names and placed themselves elsewhere, muttering: ‘I wouldn’t sit next to her if you paid me.’
I took my place next to a woman wearing badges saying ‘Stop That At Once’ and ‘Never Again’. She asked me to pass her the bread — ‘and don’t even think of spitting on it’.
On my other side was a man who informed me he would have been elected vice-chairman of his local golf club, but for a concerted attempt to undermine him by those envious of his success at putting. ‘Typical,’ he sighed.
Someone down the other end of the table asked him to pass the salt, but he pretended not to hear. ‘I’m not going to lift a finger for her after what her second cousin said about me 25 years ago,’ he said.
‘With grudging talk like that, he’s well on his way to being elected our next president,’ muttered my neighbour. ‘Makes yer sick, don’t it?’
Source: Read Full Article