Deborah Ross: Our Woman in Crouch End

They should all be hanged and flogged - but I just can't be bothered to get worked up about it


You know what: I wish I was better at moral indignation. I am good at other things, it's true. I am good at boiling anger (CD wrappers you have to open with your teeth). I am good at mounting irritation (that woman on The Apprentice who carries on like Anita Roddick on acid). I am good at being in a huff (a lot of pans being banged about noisily in the kitchen). I am good at mendacity (no, doctor, don't smoke, don't drink, wish there were more hours in the day to do more exercise!). I am good at criticising (Davina, enough with the silly faces, already) and I am good at any recipe involving cheese (don't ask me why; I just have a way with cheese) but I am not good at moral indignation.

This is a shame, because if I were, I would have something to say about so many things: the new Education Bill, Tessa Jowell, Iraq, off-shore thingamabobs, Guantanamo, frozen embryos, top coppers recording telephone calls, the NHS crisis, and all the other things all the other, proper columnists get worked up about because they have all the moral indignation that I, by rights, should have too, but don't.

Maybe I had it once but left it somewhere. Maybe I left it on a train as I am always leaving things on trains. But I do routinely check with their Lost Property people and no moral indignation has been handed in yet. Actually, that is not strictly true. They did recently find some moral indignation to do with gay weddings but I didn't recognise it as ever having been mine. I told them to look for a loony Christian. Even if it doesn't belong to that particular loony Christian, I said, they'll still give it a home. Loony Christians just can't get enough moral indignation, after all.


Anyway, I wish there were shops that sold moral indignation because, if there were, I could simply go in and say: "Excuse me, but could I buy some moral indignation, please?" And then the person in the shop would say, possibly: "Well, you have come to the right place. We are the moral indignation specialists. All our moral indignation is hand-made here, in Britain, unlike the moral indignation that is bought in cheaply from Taiwan and tends to fall apart after two outings and a wash. Many of those who initially supported the Iraq war bought this kind of moral indignation only to gravely regret it. I had David Aaronovitch in here just the other day saying he wish he'd bought his moral indignation from us and I had to say to him: 'Dave, this is what happens if you buy your moral indignation from George at Asda or Cherokee at Tesco. At some point, it is going to unravel.'

"He looked rather sheepish, whereas if he'd bought his moral indignation from us he'd have been over the counter and would have had me by the neck. I think he now realises he has been a very silly Billy. As it is, all our moral indignation is guaranteed for life and, in the unlikely instance there is a problem, we'll not only refund all your money, but we'll throw in three pithy aperçus and a dig at the Blairs' mortgage arrangements. Now, what sort of moral indignation are you after exactly?"

A right tizzy

I will have to say that I don't know, that I won't know until I see it, that as someone who has never had any moral indignation I'm not really au fait with all the nuances. "OK," the assistant will say. "Let me talk you through it. We have moral indignation that is 50 per cent moral and 50 per cent indignation, which is actually on special offer at the moment, or we have the finer, two-ply moral indignation that is 2 per cent moral and 98 indignation, made from the soft, downy undercoat of a Simon Heffer. It's dry-clean only, alas, but comes in 12 lovely, summer colours and is really the business, takes you from 0-60mph in 1.2seconds. Turn on the Today programme and almost instantly you will be choking and fuming and generally getting in a right old tizzy which, our experience tells us, usually means 12 columns done and dusted before breakfast and 72 afterwards.

"This is the sort of moral indignation Melanie Phillips always orders from us and, for moral indignation, you just can't beat Melanie Phillips. Some people say her moral indignation is actually less moral indignation and more hate dressed up as virtue, but such people don't know what they are talking about and should be publically flogged then strung up or sent back to their own countries and poor people should not be allowed to have babies ... now, look at me! This is what happens if you work in a moral indignation shop! What am I like!"

Mildly annoyed

I think I will say that I don't really want Melanie Phillips's moral indignation because, as someone who hasn't really had any moral indignation until now, it might be too much. I might throw up and then explode. Maybe I could start with some second-hand moral indignation and see how it goes?

"Hmm," the assistant might say. "Let's see. Nope. I mean, I've got a few of Jeremy Clarkson's old ones, but they're terribly worn, he drives the same ones hard for years and years and years, and as for Richard Littlejohn's, they're pretty burned out by the time they get to us. We've got some of Polly Toynbee's old moral indignation knocking about somewhere but she's quite a large lady and her moral indignation would look silly on you, would come down to your knees. Had you thought of starting with our Mildly Annoyed If I Can Be Bothered entry-level range? It goes down very well in Heat and Grazia."

I think I will start with the Mildly Annoyed If I Can Be Bothered range, but I don't know. I probably won't be bothered and so it'll be a complete waste of the money I could have otherwise spent on Estée Lauder skin illuminating capsules. Oh my God, it's working already!

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