Our Archipelago vs The Clusterfuck

Recently, my little daughter had a meltdown.

She’s five years old and going into Year 1 in September. In the run-up to this momentous event, she’s gone through a focused programme of learning to be more independent. It’s all fairly simple stuff – getting changed into her PE kit by herself, mastering tricky buttons, helping herself to drinks. No-one was expecting her to cook a roast dinner or work out a direct debit schedule. But she misinterpreted it completely, slumped on the floor and wept.


I scooped my little my little beastie up in my arms and comforted her with the first words that came into my head: “No man is an island, my darling. We all need help sometimes”.

I wiped her tears and kissed her nose and last night I realised that I might have given her the third most important piece of advice I will ever give her (the first one is ‘never trust a hippy’ and the second is ‘people are bloody idiots’). It’s ok to ask for help if you need it.

Take us, for example. We are a bloody stubborn bunch. We work hard, both professionally and as part of Art on the Street. Art on the Street is chronically skint, but we rarely ask for money, only filling out grant applications through gritted teeth when we have no choice. We’re always in debt, but just…deal with it. But we get through the hard times with the help of our friends, wine and, best of all, wine with friends. We have each other AND by holy fucking mother of god herself we are lucky enough to have a shitload of awesome friends.

Occasionally we will come up against a person or persons who don’t like us. And that’s just fine. We too sometimes find others to not be to our particular taste as human beings. The right to think someone is a total and utter cloth-eared dick-face is a wonderful part of living in the free world. We live in Maidenhead, so there is zero chance that mutual animosity will turn into gang warfare. And anyway, we get far too quickly distracted (ooooooh…gin!) to turn dislike into anything more sinister.

The other good thing about having close and genuine friends is that when you are the one acting like a colossal pillock, they will tell you. I am frequently peeled off the ceiling by my friends (I have a habit of whipping myself into near hysterical states in times of stress) and hopefully can do the same for others. Friends are nature’s way of regulating the insanity and ensuring that no woman drinks wine alone.

But what if you don’t have a supportive and kind group of people around you? How do you make the distinction between Fucking Unequivocal Lunacy and A Jolly Good Thing unless you have a trustworthy sounding board? Simple answer is: you don’t. The GIGANTO-difference between the Art on the Street business (and as skint as we are, we are *technically* a business) and lots of others is that we choose to surround ourselves with people we love and trust. Our environment is not the usual way of things.

When large groups of people who are not friends and who have no sense of responsibility to each other come together it can result in some mondo-horrible shit: Survival of the Fittest, personal agendas, bitching, bullying, infighting and the worst of them all: silent manipulation. It happens in schools and workplaces where there is (albeit a highly flawed) structure to prevent its worst fallout. In environments where it is a positive bonus to have an ego the size of China and an unstoppable sense of righteousness all of the playground tactics and corporate gameplay become amplified to a point where personality disorders are so prevalent that stopping to identify them would be an exercise in futility. Those that work within it exist in a world of such exceptional narcissism that they couldn’t possibly conceive a world in which anyone is likely to find them anything less than frightfully intelligent and sparkling of wit and personality.

This is my personal shitstorm of a human being. Mainly because I am aware that as a human being I am so flawed of character myself that I live in constant fear that one false move might turn me into one of these crazy ego-animals, trapped in a cage with other baboons screaming for attention and climbing on the shoulders of the other monkeys to be the first in line for the cheers of the public.

If these people channelled their steamroller-like energies into, oh, I don’t know…fundraising for cancer charities they’d actually be doing something for humanity and who knows, a nice by-product might be that people actually like them and think they’re a valuable human being. But we all know that there’s more chance of taking a crap in the queens handbag than seeing an ego-monkey do something selfless.

If you’re the kind of person who can’t see past the end of your own ego and have chosen an environment of like-minded narcissists then, like bitchy spiteful teenagers, it’s only a matter of time before you are the target or the scapegoat. And we all know its not nice to take pleasure in other people’s sadness or the delight of seeing karma come and bite them on the shitter, but sometimes, just sometimes I am of a mind to roll out the lino and breakdance (I could do the caterpillar once and I’d sure as hell crack it out again) in sheer unconfined joy at nature giving a cunt what’s coming to them. And there’s nothing more fun than dancing with our friends.

And because dancing alone means there’s no-one to help you up when you land on your arse.

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