As I scanned the friendly faces at the table, I wondered yet again what on Earth I was doing in their company. To be in their presence was, to be, an utterly unedifying experience. Their personalities, their attitudes, their conversations, their morals…even their laughter was enough to set my teeth on edge and cause my hands to instinctively ball into clenched fists. Just being there made me despair. Why? Why had I the misfortune to know such people?
Brandon held court, pontificating, lecturing and telling florid anecdotes which kept all at the table gazing upon him with rapt attention. It was staggering, how this vile individual could be so admired. Even his wife, Deborah, who must’ve heard such bullshit spew from his lips a hundred, a thousand, a million times before. Sitting opposite her, I could plainly see that, while there was a certain weariness expressed on her features, even she wore a benign countenance as she listened to his blather. Never mind the baffling fact that she had married this pompous gasbag – how in the name of St. Augustine could she sit and bear the total crap which uttered forth from him, time and time again?
My mother, Julianne Celine Horrocks, sat at the far end of the table, surveying her assembled guests with a calm demeanour. Her matriarchal bearing was in its element, as she enjoyed Brandon dominating conversation and giving her a moment’s peace. She had, after all, been the centre of attention for most of the feast, and therefore was glad for the distraction. As I watched her impassively, she caught my eye and winked, before returning to Brandon’s waffle. I knew the meaning of the wink; Isn’t he a hoot? What a character!
What a character indeed.
My brother Peadar was smiling broadly, ear-to-ear, revelling in the buffoon’s blarney. Hypocrite. He had, mere hours before, been complaining to me about Brandon’s nastiness, obnoxiousness, and all-round unpleasant character. Then, I had been less irritated, more nonplussed by the man’s brusque insensitivities than anything. Faintly amused, I suppose, by his inability to have a normal, balanced, two-way conversation.
Now, I was infuriated.
Once or twice I attempted to interject. These moments were only when Brandon touched on subjects with such brazen disregard for truth and understanding that I simply could not contain my outrage any longer. On these occasions I still reigned myself in, however; on the one hand, I could be pleased that I had managed to restrain myself from verbally battering him – on the other, I could be ashamed that I had let him off the hook when he should have been torn to shreds. Perhaps both evaluations would be correct, to a certain degree.
Miriam, bemused but brightly shining with glee. Gregory, sporadically adding a caustic comment to buttress Brandon’s oratory. Alison, beaming with pleasure at the ‘humourous’ witticisms. Deirdre, cackling with theatrical, histrionic melodrama, a more insincere and appalling actress than you were ever likely to see. Olivia, wildly laughing but with eyes darting this way and that, her own lack of self-esteem made obvious by her transparent desire to fit in among the herd.
These abhorrent, sycophantic people, with their smug, pretentious, self-satisfied airs… They reminded me of the reasons for my outlook, of the complete disdain for which I held their class. Oh, I know I was born into the same wealth, had the same opportunities, enjoyed the same cuisine, was educated in the same schools, rubbed shoulders with the same ‘important people’…but then had not revolutionaries like the Marquis de Sade, Ché Guevara and the Countess Markiewicz not also been born into families of aristocratic standing? Had not great self-proclaimed socialists like Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw and even Karl Marx not come from privilege?
I hated them. I hated them with all the fibre of my being. A pure hatred, divorced from personal feeling and informed only by the rational knowledge of what these vermin represented. Yes, vermin. Remember the words of Aneurin Bevan; “No amount of cajolery, and no attempts at ethical or social seduction, can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred… So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin.” I could not put it better myself, Nye.
Looking around at these false, fraudulent, feckless individuals, I could not help but wonder; was I the only one who could see it?
If so, what must I have looked like to them?
Solidarity, brothers & sisters…★