My sister suggested it would make a change if I took my head out of my rear end for a moment to engage with popular culture, where it might even be possible to enter into a dialogue with another human being about something we have both experienced.
So I watched Dragon’s Den on Monday night and was reminded exactly why I find it difficult to do this.
Most shows now bring the general public into our living rooms, in the hope that we are the general public sitting in them. It follows we’ll all feel some visceral reaction towards our fellow man that we cannot muster for Trevor Eve in The Waking Dead.
For a person with fairly ready emotions this is dangerous territory. It feels similar to experiments when they hook up depressed patients to pictures of dying puppies and monitor the miserable part of their brains, to see how much it is messing with them.
In real terms, I simply cannot bear to witness the disappointment of other people. This is everything to do with the way I handle it myself, and nothing to do with a deep-seated love of humanity.
Episode 1 of Series 6 re-visited the balancing formula that throws together the viable with the mind-bendingly absurd, so that we can marvel at the business prowess of the panel and have a right laugh at the wannabe twerps in-between.
(Knowing this to be the case, in what category do you suppose you might fall if you had invented a a sheet with a line sewn down the middle to provide objective demarcation to your loved one of your respective bed territory?)
The panel has worked hard to polish their brands, so to speak. The website tells you how they earned their credentials –‘James tried to sell his grandmother to the childminder when he was 3’, ‘Duncan knee-capped his dog so he could rifle through the vet’s account books’ etc.- so all they have to do is put the finishing touches to their schtik: a jumbo pin-striped suit for Peter, a pair of twinkly specs for Theo, something to pin the horns down on Deborah.
Then all that remains is to sit back and let the alchemy take place, to a pleasantly familiar rhythm:
Theo Paphitis: My bollocks are bigger than yours
Duncan Ballantyne: No, my bollocks are bigger than yours
Peter Jones: I could put all your bollocks in my bank, float a 20% share and still buy a £20 million yacht, stuffed with bollocks.
Deborah Meaden: You’re all annoying, fat and ugly with stupid mug written on your greasy foreheads. I laugh in the face of your fucking awful personalities. And for that reason I’m out.
James Caan: Listen to my velvet voice. It’s smooth, isn’t it? Would you like to stroke my bollocks?
I can handle the playful pitches and ping-pong questions, which probe how thoroughly the needy have crammed the quarterly figures into their perspiring heads.
I can admire the 20-something girls with their talking party trees and the cheeky Hammerpot band, spitting in the eye of the record labels.
I even quite enjoy the gimmicks used for building tension: the flicking of the £50 notes, a Dragon’s eyebrow raised in curiosity, the suspenseful music, while the entrepreneurial lambs agree the terms of their slaughter amongst themselves.
And on this occasion, I felt quite close myself to helping the dividing sheet couple introduce their vision to the incinerator and work out a way it could be erased from the memories of anyone who had ever had the misfortune to come into contact with it.
But I absolutely cannot deal with water-cooler Barry being told he is a horrendous excuse for a human being. I cannot watch Mr. Graduate Connections having his youth-inspired idea booted into offensive oblivion by father-of-six Duncan. And I had to burrow under 3 cushions wailing ‘Make it stop’ when the chap from Asda had his traveling pillow laughed maniacally, out of the den, in surround sound.
Talentless people can learn a craft or become famous. People without common sense are up the creak without a paddle. Which is why it feels so much more personal to be told your energy-invested business baby is nothing but a Cabbage Patch doll, than to be told you sing like a diseased whale.
Nevertheless, if I were Asda chap I’d call up my fellow rejectees, the garden fence team, and commission them to make a panel with a ginormous portrait of the Dragons on it. Then I’d shoot poisoned darts at it, singing‘I will survive’ very loudly down the phone to the BBC. In perfect pitch.