Philip Norman: Forty things that really irritate me

The sight of zealous traffic wardens swarming on streets where no police officer is ever seen

Share
Related Topics

Pooh-Bah in The Mikado famously kept a "little list of Society offenders... who never would be missed". Here is a selection from my own ongoing league table of today's biggest petty irritations. "No, they'd none of 'em be missed."

1. People who unexpectedly jump out of cars and cut in front of you when you're just feet away from an unoccupied cash dispenser.

2. Signs and robot voices that welcome you to places where you have no wish to be and thank you for something you had no choice but to do. "Welcome to the Grottville Multi-Storey Car Park." "Thank you for paying the congestion charge."

3. Middle-class people (especially politicians and media folk) who try to talk in "street" accents but can't keep it up.

4. Checking the overnight emails to find only 10 identical spam messages from Viagra suppliers offering to "make your meat compass point north again".

5. Asking for something in a shop and being told they don't have it because "no one ever asks for it". (Also, complaining about something in a restaurant and being told that "we've never had any complaints before".)

6. The crusty unhelpfulness of most staff in pseudo-French bread shops where "Have a nice day" really means "Sod off".

7. The sight of zealous traffic wardens swarming on streets where no police officer is ever seen.

8. The gooey look that female TV news presenters fix on their male co-presenters while the latter are speaking, as if to say, "Have I ever told you you're my hero?"

9. People who stand in queues but don't seem to be in the queue – and then get annoyed when you don't realise they are.

10. Experts on TV antiques shows who don't bother to cut or clean their nails before showing you an interesting item in close-up.

11. People who mistake Jeremy Clarkson's crude blokeishness and philistinism ("Shakespeare? I'd rather stick pencils in my eyes") for wit, and lavatorial humour (ie Jonathan Ross film review: "I laughed so much, it made a bit of wee come out").

12. "Celebrity" chefs who invent perversely inedible dishes like snail trifle and haddock-flavoured ice cream – and then charge gullible customers an additional fortune for having their plates dotted with spots of foam.

13. Sycophantic questions from TV and radio interviewers which produce the smug response "Oh, very much so". Q. "Would you call yourself a show-business legend?" A. "Oh very much so."

14. Prices in odd pence (Large cappuccino – £2.87 please) which indicate they're always edging higher and higher.

15. The endlessly recurring headline "Is Michael Palin too nice?"

16. Shop assistants who no longer say "Can I help you?" but "You all right there?" and who, after you have made several large, unwieldy purchases, ask "Do you need a bag?".

17. Houses with paranoid security lights that switch themselves on accusingly as you pass their front gates.

18. The inability of 99 per cent of British restaurants, cafés and pubs to serve decent wine by the glass.

19. The archaic charge of "wasting police time", when they waste so much on their own account.

20. The silly Children's Hour-presenter tone in which Fiona Bruce reads BBC1 news bulletins, making the most terrible events sound no worse than the burning of a milk pudding.

21. Newspaper columnists who talk about "my postbag".

22. TV schedulers who decide that people who enjoy watching an old movie in the afternoon will welcome nine continuous hours of snooker instead.

23. The Archbishop of Canterbury's voice, hair, beard and name.

24. Bottle openers that are suited to torturing 16th-century heretics than drawing corks.

25. People who tell you that something or other has been "a learning curve".

26. Young women who continually rake long, wild, ringletty hair with their fingers in a gesture meant to imply "I am a free spirit".

27. Loudspeaker announcements about late train arrivals that apologise for any inconvenience this "may" have caused.

28. The fashion among TV news journalists of gesturing pointlessly with their hands, as if the spoken word alone no longer has any power.

29. The Hollywood conference skit by Orange phones reminding cinema audiences to switch off their mobiles – so unfunny and pleased with itself that ringing phones would be preferable.

30. "Boutique" hotels whose staff resemble surly rock stars and whose bathrooms contain a tin wash basin and an orchid.

31. Noisy, drunken crowds overflowing from pubs to obstruct the pavement, once a feature of summer but now reminding us of the nation's drink problem all year round.

32. People behind official counters who say "sign this for me", as if some intimate, caring transaction is taking place.

33. Parking-ticket machines that announce they don't give change. Could, should, but don't.

34. People who talk in Friends-speak. ("Can I get a large latte and hold the cinnamon?")

35. The infantilisation of television commercials, where everything now has to be given a cartoon face and silly voice.

36. The wasting of vast sums of our money on logos and slogans for public bodies that simply state the bleeding obvious – "Metropolitan Police. Working for a safer London".

37. Continued use of the term "Royal" Mail. Why should the poor Queen have to carry the can for that appalling mess?

38. Cars that thud with the mindless music being played by their ditto drivers.

39. People at the theatre and cinema who sit hunched forward, thoughtlessly blocking the view of those behind them.

40. Check-out staff who give you your change with a note spread out and the coins on top of it.

Howard Jacobson returns next week

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Opilio Recruitment: Product Development Manager

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We are currently recruit...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Chessington

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Service Desk Analyst - Chessington, Surrey...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Breakdown Engineers

£28000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Breakdown Engineer...

Sheridan Maine: Regulatory Reporting Accountant

Up to £65,000 per annum + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accoun...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Polish minister Rafal Trazaskowski (second from right)  

Poland is open to dialogue but EU benefits restrictions are illegal and unfair

Rafal Trzaskowski
The report will embarrass the Home Secretary, Theresa May  

Surprise, surprise: tens of thousands of illegal immigrants have 'dropped off' the Home Office’s radar

Nigel Farage
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas