My friend Stephen rang me in a tremendous huff, just as I was trying to eat a mince pie. ‘I no longer wish to be a part of this society. You can cease referring to me as a British citizen. I no longer accede to the precepts of this system we call Britain.’
I tried to sympathise through mouthfuls. ‘Yeth, itsth really terrible. Gordonsth rubbisthsth.’
‘I can tell you are busy, I will leave you to it. I’m going to Waterstones to buy L’Etranger.’
I tried to eat a second mince pie to make up for the enjoyment of the first having been ruined but it was no good. Why do friends think it a reasonable course of action to register all complaints about the downturn in the first instance with me?
And why do they always ring to complain about the things they unaccountably hold me accountable for just when I am trying to forget about such things? Barely had I latched on to the possibility of at least enjoying my cup of coffee before the phone rang again. This time it was an old school friend.
‘I’m just ringing to tell you that I’ve made up my mind, I am going to write a book. It’s all Gordon Brown’s fault and I am going to expose the whole thing.’
Recessions are like grief, I suppose. Everyone reacts in their own way. Some people lash out, scattering random thoughts all over the place, usually in my direction. Some decide to expose the limits of capitalism, a hobby that seems to be very much in vogue at the moment. I must say, it’s jolly annoying. I’m sure we used to have recessions all the time and people did not take it upon themselves to single-handedly re-shape the global economy.
Personally, I am trying to approach the recession like any other traumatic life event and so proceed in a dignified way through the five official stages of recovery: shock, anger, resentment, acceptance and healing: ‘I can’t believe Gordon’s screwed the country up…How dare Gordon screw the country up…Why should I have to pay for it…I suppose somebody’s got to pay for it…I’m glad I’m paying for it.’ And so on.
The problem is, having successfully completed the first three phases, I seem to have got stuck on a phase that isn’t on the official list. I don’t know what to call this stage but it feels like it ought to be called ‘Blarrgh’.
Blarrgh is a bit like depression, only it has the added bite of feeling completely justified. If I had to put it into an intelligible sentence it would be something like: ‘Gordon’s ruined the country, so why should I get out of bed?’
Being a sucker for alternative cures, I’ve been using acupuncture to battle the blues. I have discovered that, unlike most new-agery, acupuncture is not for wimps. Acupuncture is so full on there is an international conspiracy about what it involves. They publish all those nice pictures of smiling people stuck full of pins and disseminate patient accounts on the internet which reveal only that ‘it saved my life’.
You reasonably conclude that what is involved is a tiny bit of pain as the needles go in followed by a blissful sense of relaxation and release from care. Nobody tells you that in fact the acupuncturist puts a needle in, quite painlessly, and then twiddles it until a sharp bolt of agony shoots through you like you’re hooked up to 500 volts. They call this ‘feeling the chi’.
She put one in my leg the other day and I thought she had grabbed hold of my calf and ripped a tendon. I screamed so loudly that they had to turn the whale music up in the reception area. ‘I can’t wiggle my toes,’ I gasped between attempts not to throw up.
‘It’s probably best you don’t try then,’ came the soothing reply.
‘What’s going on in my leg?’
‘It’s not your leg, it’s your liver.’
Now, I’m no expert on anatomy, and I only got a D in biology at GCSE, but I know when my leg’s hurting and when my liver’s hurting. The thing about acupuncture, however, is that you have to suspend all this obvious stuff and enter a world where the left side of your leg is your liver, your foot’s your kidney, your stomach’s your heart and your hands are your head. Or something very much like that.
The oddest thing about it all is that it works. When she’d finished poking me I felt tremendously calm and relaxed. Possibly this was simply the exhaustion all torture victims feel after an hour of electric-shock treatment. But in these times of misery I’ll settle for anything that makes me feel less blarrgh.
Melissa Kite is deputy political editor of the Sunday Telegraph.