George Orwell was born Eric Arthur Blair on this day in 1903. In his epic novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, he described a torture chamber where one’s greatest fear is forced upon anyone rebellious to Big Brother. The story’s dissenting character, Winston, is punished for his disobedience to Party doctrine by having a wire cage filled with rats fitted to his face. ‘Horrible’ just doesn’t cut it.
Taking the Room 101 theme and using it as the title for a radio programme which, according to the BBC, began as “a way of countering the smug sliminess of Desert Island Discs”, it provided a platform for celebrities to vent their spleens and a place to banish their irksome pet hates. (No wire cages or rats were involved.)
It soon, not surprisingly, evolved into a television show.
Typically there are five proposals; the guest states his or her case, the audience gives its reaction (usually laughter) and the presenter’s decision is final: it either goes into Room 101, or it doesn’t. Just about anything is fair game. Phil Collins, for example, made a successful case for the riddance of TV Christian evangelists; the satirist Ian Hislop wanted the Beatles put in; comedian Bill Bailey nominated Chris de Burgh; Jonathan Ross, TV presenter and film critic, suggested films about plucky underdogs; and, one I know will be quite popular from our discussions about charity, Bono was chosen by comedian Mark Steel.
What would you choose? Anything is allowed and your reaction to the nominations of others is looked forward to as much as your initial recommendations.
I asked David and Polly for theirs. Off the top of their heads, they went for:
– Autographs (“not just giving them but the whole idea of them, getting trapped in conversation when in a hurry”)
– The name ‘Dave’
– Reading glasses
– Cardamom pods
– People who don’t know that the right hand side of escalators is for walking, not standing
– Individual plastic cartons for single servings of milk
– Dogs that show their bottoms (i.e. pugs)
– Pressed bogeys in library books
– The word ‘hopefully’
And for me, although I suspect I could provide a different five for every five minutes for as long as I live, so easily irritated am I:
– Anne Robinson (that’s on behalf of Welsh people everywhere)
– Shoppers waiting at the till behind you who don’t thank you when you put the (itself always annoyingly comma-less) Next Customer Please shopping divider on the conveyor belt for them
– Children who screech without good reason to do so
– Romantic comedies (all the more so when condensed to hideous ‘rom-com’)
If you’re not cringing at the thought of at least one of the above suggestions, please share your secret to enjoying a less flustered life with us tetchy mortals.
Have a good weekend, everyone. Remember: if you find yourself waiting behind someone who has kindly taken the trouble to reach over and place a shopping divider behind their items for your convenience this weekend, show them that you appreciated the gesture. They didn’t have to put it there, and maybe next time they won’t bother. Maybe next time they’ll even snatch it away from you with an elaborate sigh and won’t try to contain their resentment for your rudeness, possibly calling you something offensive just for good measure.