Johnnersintheraw's Blog

May 17, 2010

Nobody Understands Us Crabby People!

Never, never look at us and cross your eyes.

“Nobody Understands Us Crabby People!” This glorious lament was wailed by none other than that indefatigable warrior heroine of the mid- to late- twentieth century, Charles M. Schulz’ redoubtable creation, ‘Lucy Van Pelt’, in his ‘Peanuts’ comic strip. To her war-cry and her memory, let me respond with a rousing, “Hear! Hear!” 

In certain respects ‘Lucy’ was very much like an American version of Sophie, the evil floor-scrubber and incubus in my family’s life during my childhood and adolescence.  The two of them certainly looked alike; they obviously had the same foghorn voices (which the ‘Peanuts’ films never endeavoured to captured), identical scowls, and identical figures.  In other words, both were round and had little definition to their bodies.  Now, of course, ‘Lucy’ was a little girl – albeit a little girl who lived in suspended animation whilst her little brothers eventually caught up with her.  Sophie, on the other hand, was permanently aged somewhere between thirty and forty; by the time I went away to school, she was closer to fifty.  But I’m sure, had ‘Lucy’ not been a little American girl with a poufy little American dress (eventually replaced by trousers), she might very well have found herself – upon entering adulthood – in one of Sophie’s shirt-waist dresses.  For Lucy was nothing if not a practical person; and Sophie was a practical, no-nonsense woman.  Both of them were fond of doling out advice – ‘Lucy’ from behind her ‘The Doctor Is In’ sign, and Sophie whenever her mouth was open (never mind if there was no one present to benefit from her wisdom).  In fact, I think the only time Sophie was not telling others what she thought, was when her mouth was engaged in chewing one of the ever-present bacon sandwiches that she carried in the pocket of her overall.

Sophie’s customary mode of dress was one of several identical grey shirtwaist frocks with horizontal brown stripes. I am only assuming that she had several (for one of her aunts was a seamstress who hired herself out as the region’s ‘daily dressmaker’ [truly a blast from the past]).  However, it is equally possible that it was actually the same (much-laundered) frock; at least it always bore the same identical tears and repairs.  And underneath, on her sturdy but surprisingly shapely legs, were the indestructible grey Balbriggan stockings (which she changed to a lighter shade when walking out with Bert from down at the local garage, and to black when she accompanied Miss Frame to church on Sundays).  It was also her custom to cloak herself in a pinkish-grey overall – of the type favoured by proprietresses of dainty seaside tea shoppes, and which were endowed with voluminous pockets – all the better for carrying around Sophie’s myriad snacks.   And at those times when she was a raving lunatic due to ‘the bleedin’ curse’, she would, of course, replace her regular hairnet with the infamous French maid’s cap.    But that is neither here nor there.  It was Sophie; she wore what she had always worn, what her mother had worn before her, and what she was comfortable in; it suited her down to the ground.  You see, Sophie was what you might call a ‘big girl’.  She was five foot ten in her stocking feet, and built like a Mack truck. And it is worth noting that none of her personal acreage ran to fat. In other words, she was fully packed and as solid as a rock. And since she had no bosom to speak of, as well as no hips, I would guess that her measurements (not that she would ever let anyone get near enough to take them) were at least a sturdy 45” – 45” – 45”.  She was incredibly strong.   

Sophie had always been a workhorse, and that was the role that best suited her.  But she was also the world’s most fabulously crabby of all of the world’s most naturally gifted crabby people.  And very, very cheerful about it.  And that is why she and ‘Lucy Van Pelt’ are more or less interchangeable in my memory’s picture album.  For you see, neither of these monuments to crabbiness had to fall back on any outside stimuli – or PMS – to come to their rescue and re-crabbify them.  They simply were glorious, natural-born, crabby bitches of the first water.  And to quote Sophie (upon entering my father’s study when he was bending over his desk and writing some research proposal or other), “Why are you always in my way when I’m after cleaning your piggery?  Haven’t you got anything better tae do?”

Now, as everyone knows, there are two kinds of crabby people.  The first kind – and the kind that is particularly tedious, is imbued with the male kind of crabbiness.  And any man cursed with this affliction is usually referred to as “that bloody old bore,” or “why can’t he give it rest?” 

Now the problem with this male gender crabbiness (otherwise known as MGC) is that it is invariably directed outwards towards external circumstances – which, when it comes down to it, have very little, if anything, to do with the old crab himself.  This means, of course, that in male gender crabbiness, politics is always a popular subject.  Especially when it involves that evil devil ‘progress’.  For crabby men tend to be conservative men, and if they could bring back the old days (inevitably back in the mists of time before recorded history) they would.  Flogging is almost always mentioned – as a very popular solution to many of society’s ills (irrespective of the fact that it had been done away with in their own father’s time). But fortunately for the average MGC, who is often behind the times, there is always a steady stream of costume dramas to yank his favourite solutions back into the present).  

Although most of those afflicted with male gender crabbiness tend to lean towards the right (possible as a result of their right testicle being heavier and more substantial than the more lightweight and suspiciously airy-fairy left one), there are also those congenital crabs blessed with a righteous leftish seething towards anyone who did not grow up in a halting site underneath a by-pass on the M1 – irrespective of the fact that they themselves grew up on the Isle of Wight and their mother was the president of the Women’s Institute.  In fact, speaking of this strange hybrid, who often devolves into the righteously leftist-though-sometimes-rightist seething variety of crabby person, I often feel that most of the ol’ crabster Rupert Murdoch’s reporters and columnists are gleaned from his own private crabby boot-camp, a hothouse founded to make already crabby people even crabbier, before he hires them.  Now, those who are fortunate enough to have graduated from the Murdoch private crabby boot-camp (whose one necessary qualification seems to be that they suffer from a severe case of penis envy), can be assured of a handsome salary providing they devote their entire career to whinging about any school or university that actually produces success stories – Eton being one of their favourite whipping-boys, Oxbridge being the another example.  What these Über-Crabby-Murdockians seem to have learned in the boot-camp is a certain sense of obligation, whereby they are obliged to drag those very twenty-first century institutions back into the dark old swamps of ‘Tom Brown’s School-Days’.  And they even manage to do it when they are dealing with such a seemingly innocuous (though possibly intolerable) subject as Nigella Lawson’s new cookery program.  

Anyway,  if you want to see what a successful male gender crabby person who has no reason to be crabby looks like, please Google ‘Rupert Murdoch’, and then look at every single back- issue of the Times published  since Gordon Brown became Prime Minister (after The Poodle finally resigned).  Let’s us just call it food for the truly crabby person’s cantankerous soul.

And then, of course, we must give a disgruntled round of cranky applause to every successful male crabby person’s role model:  The Truly Magnificently Crabby Dick Cheney.  Now he is what we might call a true crabby heavy-weight among the upper echelons of the recently unemployed crabby personalities.  And even if the mere sight of him makes you want to bomb the entire length of Chelsea’s Cheney Walk, you really must salute him.  For remember this, this crabby little street built too close to that crabby and unpredictable river, The Crabbe (the Anglo-Saxon word for ‘The Thames) was obviously named in Dick Cheney’s crabby honour long before his own hyper-crabby sub-species was even invented.  It was what they call a christening in anticipation of the blessed event. For even way back then, in commemoration of the eventual inclusion of the sport of water-boarding in the Olympics, the truly crabby Neo-Crabbyites were looking for a way immortalise one of the greatest crabby people of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.  Truly, Mr. Cheney’s level of crabbiness should be an inspiration to all of those who aspire to join the crank-filled ranks of the truly crabby.  For he could actually look at you and cause the skin to peel off your face.  And that, my friends, is what crabbiness is all about!

Now, having dealt with la crème de la crème of  contemporary male gender crabbiness, I am not going to get into those by-gone titans of male gender crabbiness to whom all crabby men must owe a debt of gratitude – such demi-gods of rampage such as Hitler and Stalin and Saddam Hussein and Ceausescu and Pinochet and Robespierre – for I don’t want to get you all hot and bothered before you have even read the morning paper; in other words, before you discover that your that your team has just been demoted to the Coca-Cola Division and that David Cameron – who already had had to be smuggled ignominiously into the Scottish parliament through the basement car park (during his first visit as Prime Minister) for daring to overthrow the Scottish government with his one single Tory MP – has decided to collectivised the whole of British farming and has already published his first White Paper. It is, of course, guaranteed to outrage even the uncrabbiest of crabby people, for in it this newly ordained dictator for life (and despot of Albion) has outlined the details of his first Five Year Plan.  Why, even the normally placidly uncrabby Lib Dems are seething with crabbiness and shouting “Off with his head!” And all this in his very first week in office!  How proud he must be!

So, in summing up the whole matter of male gender crabbiness, in order to raise the hackles of the crabbiness hoards, we simply shout the following two sets of three words each in the direction on a crabby person’s ears:  ‘lefty, commie, pinko’ – which is a perfect slogan, because it can be applied to anyone out of favour with the male gender crabby lobby, followed by ‘bring back hanging.’  And then, if you’re are a prematurely crabby young and  up and coming male gender crabby person, especially one who wants to see all old people banned from driving and the motorways reserved for drivers of super cars, there is always the slogan, ‘Jeremy Clarkson for Prime Minister’.  And, I must say, that campaign might actually even attract me, especially if he bans Donald Trump’s comb-over from all of Scotland’s shifting dunes.  And buys me a Morgan roadster.  Because at least he would give us five gloriously disgruntled years of crabby wit and laughter – something that David Cameron has already banned in No. 10.

So we have all agreed that most male gender crabbiness is about externals, and especially those externals that have little bearing with his life. So let us segue to Female Gender Crabbiness (FGC for short).  As Bette Davis’ character once said in ‘All About Eve’, “Fasten your seat belts.  It’s going to be a bumpy night.”

However, before we proceed to the second major type of crabbiness, i.e. the female crabbiness syndrome, let me assure you that I shall not neglect the weighty and crab-making issues of adolescent crabbiness or of the equally insufferable midlife crisis crabbiness.  For they are both equal among the elite of the crabbiest of crabby crankcases, and to wallow in their abysmal slime at this time of the day, when many of you have not yet drunk your coffee or taken your Paxil – would only inspire you to enrol in that Jar-Head Para-Military Assassins’ Boot-Camp in order that you might join your first born – now re-christened ‘Plank’ – in his plans to overthrow that bunch of left-wing commie pinko unamurkins who have seized control of God’s Own good Amurkin gummit. So, relax.  You do not have to worry about that, or even about killing your neighbours for looking at you cross-eyed. At least not today.

So now, to the female woman’s crabbiness syndrome.

It goes without saying that every man of woman born blames everything that ever happened on his mother’s (and then his partner’s) menstrual cycle.  First of all, there is what he calls ‘that fucking smell’, regardless of the fact that the particular aroma he is talking about originated under his own armpit.  Secondly, there is the fact that, what with all her raving and ranting and carrying on, he is not being allowed to exercise the full breadth of his own male gender raving and ranting and carrying on without getting into trouble, and without her bursting into tears.  And then, of course, there is the matter of her locking the bedroom in his face, simply because he’s come home drunk from a night on the town with his mates while she has been sitting alone with her book and her cramps.  And all he said to her when he got home from his drunken reverie at Strip-o-Rama was that he needed a ‘bloody good shag’.  Even some of the ‘rough’.  Because, after all, the usual channel is none too clean, if you know what I mean.

Now, the reason it looks like I am not giving equal space to the matter of female crabbiness, does not mean I am belittling it.  On the contrary.  Whereas most male gender crabbiness is caused by an inexhaustible number of external forces which he in not able to control – such as the fucking ash cloud that has grounded his flight; the rugby team that never seems to win – even thought he has forked out his own hard-earned money for season tickets; that fucking Scottish plonker Andy Murray who has crashed out of yet another tournament, even though he is earning God-only-knows how many millions a year and, in any case – in the crab’s humble opinion –  the fucking BBC shouldn’t even be showing tennis.  For, after all, Tennis is only for rich people and wankers and is not even a real sport, such as hurling (and which the BBC has never even heard of). And then there’s fucking Kauto Star – who, in spite of this crabby punter having placed a bet the size of his annual salary on him winning the Gold Cup (a dead cert which would have paid for that special holiday in Dubai with his mates) – couldn’t even come in last.  And then, it goes without say, there’s Snooker.  In the crabby person’s opinion, it had always been broadcast in gold old black and white.  And now they have fucking well changed it to colour.  And the players are now wearing fucking makeup and hair gel.  And all of this just to spite him.

Yes, granted that some women are sport’s fanatics.  And granted that they can easily out-rant even the rantiest man. And yes, some of them are even bad drivers, and not very nice people.  However, a lot of their innate crabbiness (the crabbiness that isn’t caused by their crabby husbands and a surfeit of donuts), does stem from internal sources.  Every woman in the world knows what these are. And no man does. To him a woman’s hormones are even more of a mystery than her anatomy.  And as a man, I can say that I don’t really want to know… unless a particular woman wants to tell me (and even then I might stopper my ears).  Otherwise, as a man, it is my job to be sensitive to her needs, especially at that certain time of the month.   And if she wants me out of the way, I should to keep out of her way; and if she wants me around for support, then it’s up to me to forego one or two evenings with my mates down at the pub. And that, my friends, is why I am not saying much more about the mysterious world of the female crabbiness syndrome.  Except to say, if Dick Cheney had been a woman, probably all of us would have been bombed.

A quick final note about Sophie. Now her periods – which never seemed to end – and her PMS – which dragged her backwards through the brambles every month from the onset of puberty at the age of ten – eventually got so bad that she finally asked my mother for help.  For my mother had always had a very bad time of it, and she herself had had her first period at a very young age.  However, my mother was also a very well-educated woman and she had sought help.  Sophie, on the other hand, could barely read anything more sophisticated than the movie fan magazines she loved.  But she was terrified that, “one of these days it’s going to carry me away!”

Now Sophie was just my mother’s age.  At the time Sophie finally asked her to help, both women were in their latest forties or early fifties.  My mother’s physician had just recently prescribed a certain course of treatment for her, and it had turned her life around.

And so, she quietly told Sophie to put on her coat, and she took her to the doctor.  It took some convincing, after all, as Sophie herself said, all the women in her family “had had the devil’s own time, but they’d gritted their teeth and carried on.”

Fortunately, Sophie chose to follow my mother’s example and not that of her mother, and the result was nothing short of a miracle. In fact, it was so much of a miracle that the Sophie we had always known, was not ‘our Sophie’ anymore.  Yes, she continued to work in my grandmother’s house for a time, but gone was the French Lady’s maid’s cap, and gone was that single shirt-waist dress that had served her for so long.  And gone was her crabbiness.  Yes, she was still outspoken; she was still high-spirited; yes, she did have a temper, because after all, Sophie (and not Bonnie Langford) was still living in that sausage body.

Now, I don’t know what became of her; I don’t know whether she had a happy ending. Because by that time I was away at school and had other things on my mind. Still and all, I think it’s rather grand that she finally got some her crabbiness taken away.  And I’d like to think she had had a few years left to enjoy her freedom.             

Now, where was Mrs. Bichan in all this?  Very much out of the loop.  You have to understand that – although we are talking about the twentieth century, Mrs. Bichan and Sophie lived in a different era.   Both had been born to parents that worked for my grandmother’s family; they were deeply feudal.  Now, even though our arrangement was hardly orthodox, as far as Mrs. Bichan and Sophie were concerned everything had to be done  according to the dictates of tradition.  In other words, under normal circumstances, if Sophie had a medical problem, she would never go straight to my mother.  She would go to the person in charge of her life.  In this case, Mrs. Bichan.

But here’s the rub.  Mrs. Bichan disliked Sophie and thought she was an idiot.  And in turn, Sophie considered Mrs. Bichan to be beneath her.  Then there was the fact that Mrs. Bichan had never had a period in her life; in fact, she had had a hysterectomy at age thirteen, when she had been diagnosed with a tumour.  Consequently, she was as clueless as she was intolerant when it came to ‘female troubles’. As far as she was concerned, such things were ‘dirty’ and one never talked about dirty things.  And it seemed that for at least fifteen years Sophie had been begging her for advice, and all the ‘so-called housekeeper’ would say is, “If you spent more time on your knees praying’ and scrubbing the floors, and less time eatin’ bacon sandwiches and thinkin’ of your pain, perhaps the good Lord would help you.”

It took a good many years before Sophie awoke to the fact that, no matter how many floors she scrubbed and how many bacon sandwiches she didn’t eat in front of Mrs. Bichan, things were only getting worse.  That was when she went to my mother; my mother then put her in the car and took her to the doctor, who was, by the way, a good Presbyterian – just like Sophie.  It goes without saying that, upon being treated by this good Presbyterian doctor, Sophie was miraculously cured.  And that is when the penny dropped.  The reason for her troubles all those many years was not so much the sneaking of bacon sandwiches, but that she had been following the advice of The Scarlet Whore of Babylon.



  1. Oh my! Your blog was so full of unexpected surprises, causing me to hold my sides as I laughed hysterically! The most memorale comment “…possible as a result of their right testicle being heavier and more substantial than the more lightweight and suspiciously airy-fairy left one)…” actually had me spewing Dr. Pepper out of my nose! Is THAT why so many of you are so crabby? *silly grin*

    Comment by sylvestwalsh — May 17, 2010 @ 8:31 am | Reply

    • Ah, yes… it is a strange and wonderful place – the inside of my mind. But remember what Groucho Marx said: “Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend; inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”

      Comment by johnnersintheraw — May 18, 2010 @ 4:16 am | Reply

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