10/01/2005

Guardian: Supposing we had annoying child distress flares

He, he, he... My best friend, who used to be like this, now has a newborn baby. Boy is he in for a "treat"! -- law

Supposing ... we had annoying child distress flares

Charlie Brooker
Friday September 30, 2005
The Guardian

I hate kids. Hate them all without exception. Even yours. Especially yours. Especially if it's a boy and you named it Jake. And if you've ever written a chummy diary article about Jake for a Sunday supplement, I wish nothing short of death upon you. Death by wasps and bombs and razorwire. In a thunderstorm. While Jake looks on in horror. Because I hate parents too.

As luck wouldn't have it, I live slap-bang in the centre of Nappy Valley, a wedge of south London with one of the heaviest kiddywink-and-parent populations in the universe. It's a sickeningly self-satisfied place where the high street heaves with aromatherapy centres, organic-honey shops and cosy little cafes with cutesy lower-case names like "munch", "toast", "smug", "twee" and "bum". And the pavement heaves with buggy prams.

Naturally, I'm so riven with confused rage, I don't really belong in Pretty Pretty Niceland - but oh, how I'd love to. I dream of being able to relax awhile in the cafe; to ruffle my Berliner, sup a tea, chew a wholewheat tofu crumpet or whatever. I wish I could do that.

But I can't. Because wherever I go, there's a repugnant Jake nearby; shrieking, kicking the table, bellowing its hot little face off. And sitting beside Jake is Jake's moron parent, doting on his every noise, dribble and splurt, as though he's somehow special or charming.

Well, he isn't. Jake is a selfish, dot-eyed shouting machine hell bent on sabotaging whatever scraps of tranquillity remain in this pitiful world, and every right-thinking person within earshot despises him with a coal-black intensity that would make your head spin like a centrifuge if you ever got wind of it.

But as a horrified onlooker - one who genuinely believes children should be seen and not heard, and preferably neither - what can you do? I've tried glaring at the parents, but their minds are so hopelessly warped by 24-hour brood-worship, they mistake my consternation for admiration. I've tried glaring at Jake, which isn't entirely bad, since it usually causes him to shut up and start gazing back with a sort of affronted blankness for a few moments, but also makes the waitresses regard me with open suspicion.

I've contemplated having an "I HATE CHILDREN" T-shirt made up, in the hope that it might shock attendant parents into scurrying away with Jake in tow, but in today's kiddie-reverent times, I'd be sectioned in minutes. As for the most obvious solution - leaning forward and politely asking the parent to curb Jake's noisier excesses - that'd end in a fistfight.

I've come to realise that what's required is a distress flare - a smaller, indoor version of a trawlerman's distress flare; one you can fire over your head at the point when Jake's incessant babbling is starting to turn you homicidal.

A distress flare solves two problems at once: it warns Jake's parents you're about to lob a plate at his head, while simultaneously rendering Jake himself dumb, as he stares at the glittering firework like a particularly stupid jackdaw with half-eaten beans round its gob. Oh, and if it sets the cafe roof on fire, that's another bonus.

Hey, don't blame me. Blame Jake and his mummy.

Guardian Unlimited | The Guardian | Supposing we had annoying child distress flares

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