How to lose friends and influence people

COMPASSION FATIGUE. Yes. You turn the pages of your newspaper and you think "Hmm", and "Oh dear", and "Ah well", and "Yes, I'd love another cup ..."

But every now and then, you read something so monstrous and terrible that it makes you rear up in your chair, egg and coffee flying on a tide of outrage.

This time, it was an advertisement for The Writers Bureau of Manchester, on the back of one of those little magazettes you get free in the newspaper, the ones for people who like watching the telly and going out to the pictures and the theatre and ballet and concerts, the poofs.

"Why not be a WRITER?" it said, and the answer is: "Because being a writer is a pain in the arse." All you do is sit around all day getting piles and grumpy. It is the world's least jolly trade. A roomful of writers would give you fulminating nephritis, they're such miserable, suspicious sods. You spend half your life writing stuff down in your little notebook - stuff of no use at all, like "Man on the bus. Why? NB trousers. Dickens???" - and the other half convinced that you have no ideas and will never have another one again. If, like me, you get a letter quite seriously suggesting that you might like to write the label copy for a new, exciting series of novelty toiletries, you, like me, will equally seriously consider the idea instead of shouting "Has it come to this?" and slashing your throat. People steal your stuff and take the credit. You burn out and are forgotten. It's a mug's game and a dog's life and not to be thought of unless there is NO OTHER OPTION OPEN TO YOU AT ALL.

But the Writers Bureau sees it differently, bless their optimistic stony little hearts, and go on to quote their success, Jon Eagle of Essex. Jon Eagle of Essex received a pounds 25,000 advance for his novel Red, and sold the film rights, and is co-writing the script, and now he looks forward to receiving his Certificate of Competence.

Maybe that's where I've been going wrong all these years. No Certificate of Competence. Nobody's ever asked to see it, but perhaps that's because they can tell, just from looking at me, that I don't have one and never will. And so I am condemned to obscurity. It's like those old Strand magazine ads for business schools. Pimply young skunk sitting in Dickensian office, smirking. Earnest smooth-cheeked young prig next to him, bent over his ledgers, smugness oozing from his brilliantined hair. Old bully - white moustache, six-piece suit, false teeth, obvious wife-beater - and weedy hand-wringing Confidential Secretary (chap by the name of Maurice, with rooms in Mecklenburgh Square and a special friend, Jeffrey) standing outside, peering in. "Mark down young Jorkins for promotion," says the old bully to Maurice. "He is taking the Acme Business Efficiency Course."

Nowadays, of course, your first assumption would be that Jorkins was the pimply young skunk, a grasping, robotic moral castrato with the commercial ethics of a record producer and the human sympathies of a Duracell. He'd be headed straight for the top in any of our great organisations, blasting in with his computers and analyses and "crisp" white shirts, and blasting out again just as quickly with all the money, smirk still plastered to his bitter, bony face. The real Jorkins would be screwed. Out on the streets with two fat ex-Pentonville security bastards clamped onto his honest broadcloth elbows, and if his fate aroused any reaction in skunk-face at all, it would be in the form of a tiny but pleasurable twitch at the groin.

There's a business opportunity here which nobody has yet exploited. I won't have time to do it myself, because I'm too busy working on my scheme to turn atheism into an organised religion, with apostles and disciples and eager female followers who will beseech me with little gifts and take their clothes off and stand in the wardrobe without a moment's complaint. So someone else can set up the Bastard School. Don't you see what a winner it could be? The world is full of decent, honourable people who just want to do their bit, unmolested, but instead get stomped, traduced, buggered about, impoverished and flung out to die by the skunks, who realise that if you don't give a damn about what other people think of you, there is absolutely nothing you cannot achieve.

The Bastard School would correct all this. For a modest weekly sum, it would offer Bastard Lessons. You'd begin by learning to be moody, and move on to Tantrum Studies and Advanced Weight-Throwing, rising through the ranks from Bit Of A Shit to Indescribable ****, But By God He's Rich.

The advertising would write itself. "Why Not Be A Bastard?" it would say. "As a freelance Bastard, you can earn riches beyond your wildest dreams by doing damn-all except talking plausible managerial jargon and intimidating other people. Our step-by-step correspondence course teaches you how to:

"l Sack people who stand in your way! l Persuade stupid board members that you know what you're talking about! l Take the credit for other people's work! l Behave with unremitting dishonour with a smile on your gob! l Talk bollocks while looking as though you believe it! l Fake sincerity! l And much, much more which you will only learn when you SIGN UP WITH THE BASTARD SCHOOL.

" 'Until recently, I was employed on the production side of my business, and, to be frank, I wasn't very successful. But now I am Chief Ex ecutive. In the last few months, since signing up with the Bastard School, I have BLED OFF pounds 5m from the company, SACKED the entire R&D team, CONTRACTED out production to a team of retrained Malaysian bark-strippers, LEASED the corporate premises to a consortium of Iraqi financiers, BANKRUPTED eight of our trading partners and MADE everyone who works for me wish they were dead. Thank you, Bastard School! I look forward to receiving my Certificate of Bastardy!' - Bledlow Chubb of Abberfax."

I offer this idea with my compliments. All I ask in return is a Certificate of Competence. Doesn't matter what in, as long as it isn't Writing.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own