Tag Archives: interaction

Do you know Iain Hunneybell?

Do you know Iain Hunneybell?

What’s he like? I picture a middle-aged white man, vaguely competent at project management, easily able to slot into a grand-a-day role conjured out of nowhere by an HR department told to squeeze funds like pips from a lemon. When a project needs managing, Iain’s the man to do it, not least because of his proven track record of forcing through that completely unnecessary second I.

He could surprise me. He could be skipper of his local volunteer lifeboat having retired from the fire service after 30 years’ solid graft at the hose. Maybe he’s a martial arts teacher or a budding chef, a theatre critic or someone who designs new shapes for tea bags. He could have an impressive back catalogue of movies listed on IAFD.com, many of them anal.

But it’s not likely, is it? Because if he was an extreme sports maniac, a Youtuber with five hundred thousand subscribers or a stay-at-home dad who makes his own pickled onions, I don’t think LinkedIn would be so fucking obsessed about connecting me with him.

Once a week I get an email with the subject line ‘Do you know Iain Hunneybell?’ I do not know Iain Hunneybell.

I can’t involve myself with these emails to explain to LinkedIn that I don’t know Iaiaiain Hunneybell, because the moment I do LinkedIn will know I’m not dead. When that happens, your inbox fills up with limitless emails about the fantastic opportunity of becoming the Social Media Manager at Nickelodeon and the suicide that would follow in its wake.

One way they try to phish you is with job ads. When you’re asked as a child what you want to be when you grow up, obviously astronaut and footballer will figure high on the list, along with postman for Christ knows why. Yet what we should all do at that point is consult LinkedIn because it knows us better than we know ourselves.

I’m some kind of copywriter, so I can expect an email dangling tantalising jobs such as nomadic scribe for Lonely Planet or new ale reviewer for Whitbread. If you click any of these non-existent roles you can expect the sad rejection to be delivered to your inbox by none other than Iain Hunneybell, along with countless real jobs of unspeakable tedium for companies like Accenture and SAP. The only work anyone’s actually secured via LinkedIn is, you guessed it, project fucking management. If I’m the kind of person you want managing your project, I imagine your CV packed with words like Challenger, Beagle 2 and Marchioness.

I fucking hate social media and engage only with Twitter so that a handful of people who actually like me read the drivel I put on here. Sadly, the other ghastly network I’m signed up to is LinkedIn. It was once a useful way to beg people who tangentially knew me to give me a job I didn’t want, before it became easier to drown former colleagues in beer and wait for the “I’ll see what I can do”.

I’ve never poked a penny at LinkedIn, so clearly it now wants payback. Insidiously worming its way around a wide circle of acquaintances, it uses methods unfathomable to suggest people I might possibly know who might somehow enliven my life by improving my handoff from project intake through delivery, ensuring that I’m on strategy and realising the vision. Don’t those words make you want to weep? Don’t your genitals shrivel when I say ‘high-level user needs’, ‘low-hanging fruit’ or ‘MVP’? The people it wants to inveigle into my world live these expressions with their dead-eyed profile pictures and decades of understandable self harm.

A good 95% of suggested connections are middle-aged white men working in offices. Not entirely a surprise you’d think, but on what grounds do I need to know Ciaran Ryan, an ‘Agile Coach’, Paul Brown, who has a self-proclaimed ‘deep knowledge of digital strategy’, or Normal Driskell? I just don’t see myself sharing a happy, fulfilling conversation with a man named Norman Driskell. Sorry Norman.

Then there are those people who seek me out because I’m special. The other day I had a message from one Nigel Burton, a ‘Business Development Manager’ at Chillblast, in Bournemouth no less. “Hi Chris, I thought it would be great to connect and see if Chillblast can help your business. We build bespoke computer systems needed to run high power programmes.”

Do I look like the kind of bloke who needs to run high power programmes, Nigel? It fucking says it right there look – ‘Self employed content designer and copywriter’. Words mate, not hissing control rods for heavy water reactors or automated excuse emitters for Boeing. Words like “How about you fuck off away and out of it Nigel? How about you stick you bespoke computer systems up your pipe and turn the fan all the way up to Chillblast?”

I’ve lost track of how many times it’s tried to connect me with the wife. We graft in entirely different fields and I can’t begin to imagine who it might think connects us in the world of work. This surely demonstrates the evil of such networks and the knowledge they have of us. Just think about that for a second. It wants to connect me with the wife.

I picture LinkedIn as desperate, bags under eyes, one missed connection from bankruptcy, because how does it make any money? It’s not like they can sell much advertising space given their target audience’s main outlay is staples. LinkedIn is the workers’ MySpace, but without the general air of cocaine nonchalance, and the tunes.

Or maybe I’ve misjudged it and LinkedIn is a vital tool in everyone’s life but mine. Maybe I’m just not cut out for the 21st century. On Saturday I went to the pub to find my cash useless, and a card the only route to the oceans of drink I need and deserve. It felt like a watershed moment, probably, I can’t really remember. Out of place and left behind, like Jim Davidson at the Edinburgh fringe.

When nobody wants me to write their silly shite any more, when even Nigel Chillblast has stopped taking my calls, will LinkedIn offer me one last chance for employed redemption? Do I know Iain Hunneybell? More to the point, will he want to know me? For all I know he might have been getting emails about me for weeks on end and have written something cutting and sly about me on www.ianaiainainaaainahunneybell.net.

So be it. I do not know Iain Hunneybell and I probably never will. But if we ever meet, Iain, I will value our new friendship and the 30-day trial of Oracle Imaging and Process Management that doubtless comes with it.

I can’t promise that I’ll share many articles on the importance of personas in user research or accept many invitations to conferences in the QEII Centre. But if you ever identify a gap in your project that can only realistically be filled by profanity, misanthropy and beer, well, mate, what about that LinkedIn, eh? Imagine if we’d never connected!

Just imagine.

The bend

I recently learnt to drive. I’m 28, I should have learnt sooner, but I didn’t, deal with it.

I have now been driving for two months. Plenty of time to establish just how many bellends there are on the road. In those two months, I’ve encountered countless fucking idiots who deserve a Darwin Award for their incredible driving ability.

Let’s start with the cunt that nearly hit me twice in the same car park on the same day.

Continue reading The bend

A B&B in Baku

As a man with nothing to save for and no offspring to syphon it away, money serves three purposes for me.

First, it buys toilet paper. On the one hand, bog roll symbolises mundane bills and unavoidable life expenses, but while clutched in the other it serves to hurriedly wipe away the terrifying results of money’s second purpose, dipsomania.

The third is foreign travel. Much as I love Britain’s glorious combination of comforting bigotry, polite sadism and fields, so many fields, seeing other parts of the world is now my principal route to joy. As I write, I’m in the 40th country I’ve visited, before my fourth decade is up, and I’m proud of that.

And as I write I can see two things. One is a jungle, right next to this hotel, from where a troupe of capuchin monkeys emerged yesterday to steal a fat man’s plantain.

The other is tourists.

Continue reading A B&B in Baku

And then I woke up

I’m running through this field, right? Chased by something, I don’t know what it is. Desperate for a piss. There’s this cow then suddenly I’m in my old bedroom at home, Mum’s talking about my diary, I can’t believe she read it, I don’t even have a diary.

Then you, yeah I know, you turned up and want me to go out in the car but there’s no petrol and I’m desperate for a piss, so I go to the toilet but it just won’t come out and you’re on about this car. We get into town and you go off with John and I’m going down this alleyway and there’s a girl, she’s off Silent Witness, pigtails, about 11 probably, looks a bit like Michael Barrymore. She’s got this knife and she’s trying to stab me and I do this roundhouse.

And then I woke up. Mad, no idea what that was about.

Continue reading And then I woke up

Hallmark of Hell

A newborn baby is a gift from God Himself as we all know, thanks to the cascade of simpering halfwits, otherwise known as ‘parents’, repeatedly hammering the fact into our skulls via media of all types. There has been one such arrival in my own sphere of influence in the past few days and all power to the little sod’s elbow, though I won’t be paying it much mind until that elbow is weathered enough to legally raise a pint glass to its accompanying face.

My friends have had a baby and I am happy for them. I find it unlikely, though, that given we’ll be seeing this new child in the coming days, and its parents, there’s any need to send it a card. And not just any card – adorned with the words ‘It’s a boy!’ no less.

It was long ago decreed that the world’s a safer place without my progeny, but I’ve learned enough about the emergence of new people to know a tiny cock and balls diagnoses a fresh sufferer of the male condition without parents having to be informed by mail.

Continue reading Hallmark of Hell

The wounded antelope

You’ve probably already read the statement by the woman who was sexually assaulted by former Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner, who last week was given six fucking months for the crime. If you haven’t, you know where to find Google. Go and read it. I’ll be right here, waiting.

Back? Good. Six fucking months. He could have got up to 14 years. Prosecutors asked for six years. The judge gave him six fucking months in county jail and probation because, quote, “a prison sentence would have a severe impact on him”.

That’s why I told you to go and read the statement by the woman he assaulted, to realise the “severe impact” it had on her. When she woke up in hospital after a booze blackout, she gradually found out she been left half naked behind a dumpster after Turner had fingered her so severely she had internal abrasions. Oh yeah, and this shining beacon of humanity ran off after two guys spotted what was going on and intervened.

One thing – among many horrific things – in that statement stood out for me.

Continue reading The wounded antelope

Quick feet proper prospect

Thrashing about in a foetid quagmire of death and deceit it may well be, but there’s no denying the world is an interesting place. You may rather take a soldering iron to your eardrums than hear another word about the EU referendum, schools, hospitals and the BBC being privatised or the heavily misguided blowing themselves up, but while the news may be repetitive and miserable there’s always something remarkable or outrageous around the corner to spice life up a bit. US mass shooting? How many!

There are so many compelling and provocative topics to pepper conversation with, and serious debates to tickle the synapses. We could talk about whether it’s worth knotting a series of capes together to string up anyone involved in the making of Batman v Superman, or any of the eight hundred other superhero movies currently signalling the death of cinema. Or whether an elderly Elton John’s been sticking his cock in places he shouldn’t, which is a conversation I overheard the other day, and can never unhear. Turns out it’s the other bloke anyway.

Maybe that’s what some people talk about. It’s not what I talk about, though if I could I would, except the Elton John bit. No, I have to talk about something else.

Football.

Football.

Football.

And now you’re bored of it as well. Feel my pain.

Most weekends, some weeknights, groups of mostly men kick balls around pitches like we used to as schoolchildren, getting paid comfortably more than we did as schoolchildren and apparently enjoying themselves far, far less. The unlikely legends of Leicester aside, these people are hateful, avaricious and pay little mind to fans who can in no way afford to buy replica shirts with their names on, but who do so ahead of such luxuries as bread and rent. For an accurate representation of what modern day footballers are really like, Google the words ‘Benzema diamond football’.

You might wonder, therefore, why the public would care what these arseholes get up to or have any interest in talking about it. You might expect that the sickening nature of the modern professional footballer, so far removed from reality – ‘Messi tax evasion’, anyone? – would lead normal people to react to the start of a conversation about football by spitting, screaming and windmilling as though someone had just wished Zika on their firstborn.

But no. Rare indeed are the days I’m not forced to have a conversation about football. What happened at the weekend, who’s getting transferred where, whether this or that manager has lost his mind in a press conference. And, best of all, what will happen in the future.

Because we all know, don’t we? There’s no conversation that has as much confidence in its truthfulness than one predicting the future of football. Men declare things to each other as though the chances of their sooth-saying not being utterly bang on are of similar likelihood to Tim Peake knuckling down and being a spaceman rather than chatting to Earth all day long. (“To discuss the Welsh steel crisis, we’re joined on the line by Major Tim Peake.”) Palace WILL beat Sunderland at the weekend and Mourinho WILL buy Pogba when he gets to United and Djair Parfitt-Williams WILL be the new Geoff Hurst, though he probably needs a loan move first, he’s got great skill but needs to bulk up a bit, I was watching him for the under 21s the other night, quick feet proper prospect I think I might kill myself tonight.

For clarity, I don’t find the subject matter taxing. I’ve been going to top-flight football for 20 years and continue to allow my team to bend me over every summer to the tune of over a grand for a season ticket, the cheapest one they do. I know football. I just don’t need to fucking bang on about it with the regularity of a new Rod Stewart covers album.

At a friend’s birthday get-together a few weeks ago I was, as is the way of 21st century London, one of the first in the pub. As various men turned up, some friends and some acquaintances, there wasn’t a single one who didn’t think it appropriate to engage me in a conversation about the interminable race for the Premier League title within 30 seconds of opening their mouth.

And none of them seemed more than vaguely interested in it themselves. It’s as though football is a conversational blockage that has to be shifted before conversations about real things can begin. Football is the smooth yet inexplicably painful stool that must be passed before the serious business of uuuuurrrrggggghhhhh Jesus I don’t think it’s ever going to stop can get under way.

I’ve brought this on myself, of course. People assume I love football and want nothing more than to roll around in it so it covers me like glitter. Someone recently said to me “Are you the football guy in your group of friends?”

We’re all the football guy.

In the late nineties there was a weird viewpoint frequently trotted out by many, me included, that anyone who didn’t like football was a bit strange. It was about the time Tony Blair decided he was a Newcastle fan and bought our souls with his devilish charm. People who had no interest in any sport would declare allegiance to a team seemingly chosen at random, and would concoct a plausible tale for why they supported it – lying about where they used to live, bestowing psychic powers on a childhood pet or relaying the death-bed request of an elderly relative that had a decisive impact on them at a formative age. Yes, as Great Uncle Gerald felt death’s icy grip around his aorta, he decided he wanted his last words on Earth to be: “Please, don’t ever give up on the Albion”.

At the risk of creating a recurring theme, on Saturday I was in the pub with two friends. One has been living outside London for longer than is good for his wits; he now heralds the death penalty as the cure for petty theft and on Saturday was explaining to me why he thinks intelligent life exists only on this planet and nowhere else in the universe. Northamptonshire’s solid record of creating simpletons claims another triumph.

I set about pointing out his many errors. This is the type of conversation I live for – a vociferous debate between friends with no risk of traded fists. It allows you to explore your own beliefs, refine them while under pressure, and change them if they turn out to be based on foundations with the solidity of Mormonism. Things were coming along nicely – I was on the verge of personally discovering alien life, as good as.

But there were three of us around the table. My other friend is known to abhor conversations like this though I’m yet to ascertain why. He’ll sit there feeling left out, increasingly agitated, putting me off my game as he prepares to deliver the inevitable “Come on guys, do we really have to talk about this?” For once deciding to pre-empt him, this exchange ensued:

“Come on mate, join in, you must have a view on it.”
“I don’t see why you always have to talk about stuff like this.”
“What would you rather talk about, football again?”
“Yes!”

For the love of all that’s holy, why?

And in a job, where you often don’t know someone well enough to engage in serious debate about whether Sadiq Khan will bring about the end of days, football is utterly unavoidable. As I sit here, I can hear a man talking. Over three sentences, I’ve heard him use the words ‘Sunderland’, ‘Everton’, ‘Villa’, ‘Newcastle’ and ‘Arsenal’. Either he’s planning Britain’s most mundane road trip, admiring vintage handguns and renting Iberian accommodation, or he’s talking about football. It’s 9.16 on a Monday morning. The woman he’s talking to almost certainly asked him a question about his weekend and added to her personal list of regrets soon after.

Most miserably of all, there’s no way out. In recent months I’ve started responding honestly to questions about football. “I guess you don’t want Man City to go through eh?” “I couldn’t care less.” “Really?” Witness the dismayed look on the face of the football gobshite, denied their chance to explain to you why it’ll definitely be Spurs’ year next time because of their great English spine under the stewardship of the mighty ‘Poch’. Grange Hill called and want their nickname back.

Not engaging with football talk makes you as weird as the people who know nothing about it, but more dangerous, as though you have Grays Sports Almanac tucked in your back pocket and refuse to share its contents. Perhaps there’s nothing left but to go all in: ban any form of conversation on any topic that may stray towards the controversial, and focus all our energies on remembering whether it was ‘77 or ‘78 that Ipswich last won the cup.

Evidently the world will be a calmer place if we simply restrict chat throughout the day, every day, to Ighalo’s goal drought at Watford and whether David Moyes could do a job at Stoke. Parliamentary debate will be replaced by ‘banter’, and the UN will be replaced by FIFA because what could possibly go wrong there?

And when little green men with lasers show up to prove I’m right, we can just football them to death.

Lonely tears of Sancerre

Business travel sucks. That is an incontrovertible fact.

If you aren’t travelling alone, you will be travelling with colleagues. Both of these are bad in different ways.

Travelling alone isn’t inherently bad. In fact, sometimes it’s a pleasure to not have to interact with another human being and pretend you don’t mind when they want to go to the same godawful bar three nights in a row, or visit a museum you have less than zero interest in. And flying alone is the ideal opportunity to lie under a blanket watching films your partner doesn’t want to see while being given free alcohol.

But travelling alone for business is just shit.

It starts when you need to go to the toilet at the airport and you have no-one to watch your bags, so if you don’t want them to be blown up by the bomb squad you have to take them into the cubicle with you. This is the point where you commence an obstacle course of angling your legs around a suitcase and trying to not let anything touch the piss-soaked floor while simultaneously re-arranging your clothing and not dropping your phone down the toilet.

Once you arrive, your evenings will be spent inwardly crying lonely tears of Sancerre while you eat overcooked pasta in the hotel restaurant and hope that all the wine won’t be itemised on your bill. Opting for room service and TV instead will mean you just spend 45 bastard minutes trying to find something to watch in a language you can understand – something that isn’t Storage Hunters – all the while knowing your partner will be watching the final episode of Happy Valley without you.

If you travel with colleagues, imagine someone you work with who you don’t actually like very much. Now imagine being confined to a seat next to them for 8-12 hours. Now imagine it’s an overnight flight and they want to talk shop for the whole journey, or they don’t drink. And remember, if you do manage to sleep, you’ll be sleeping just inches away from a colleague you don’t like very much. You are sleeping with your colleague.

You’re welcome!

Even worse, you will be staying in the same hotel, so you’ll effectively also be co-habiting with this person for the next week. Never underestimate the sheer teeth-clenching awfulness of eating breakfast, lunch and dinner with someone you don’t like very much for Five. Whole. Days. And not even being married to them.

Fuck that shit.

When you tell people you’re going abroad for business, they will invariably say ‘Gosh, how glamorous!’ and say they’re jealous. I’m here to tell you that business travel is not glamorous.

No-one who has had cockroaches running over their feet and hand luggage at 4am in Indian baggage reclaim would agree. Neither would anyone who is sent abroad for an indefinite period of time and expected to pay for the whole fucking trip on their own credit card before claiming it back on expenses. Nor would someone who is forced to take an illicit taxi to get to the office driven by an old man in a full length leather coat who may or may not be a serial killer.

None of that is glamorous.

Expenses. Bafflingly, some companies believe sending their employees abroad with no money is a privilege for which we should be grateful. I’m pretty sure that was a punishment for something in medieval times.

I mean, who wouldn’t be grateful to bankroll a trip costing thousands of pounds in flights, hotels, taxis and meals for an international company with billionaire owners and millionaire shareholders? What’s that? Your card is maxed out, you’ve just moved house and you don’t have a spare £8,000 in the bank? Can’t pay for your hotel or flight up front, sorry, not company policy. Can you get an increase on your credit card limit and we’ll pay you back in two months? Thanks everso.

Aside from companies brainwashing employees into thinking anyone notices if they work 27 extra hours every week, expense trips are the biggest fucking con out there. Stop thinking about it as a free trip to another country. Start thinking about it as an insidious method of encroaching even more on your personal time while getting you to pay for it. Not so glamorous now, huh?

Somewhere along the line, it became normal to do the actual travelling bit of business travel in your own time rather than the company’s. What? The? Actual? Fuck? How the shitting hell did it come about that not only are you expected to pay to go and work in an unfamiliar office with shit coffee for a week, you have to fly there on your own time?

Oh, it’s that privilege again.

Sleep? Sleep is for wimps! If you were really and truly committed to your company, you’d work a full day, take an overnight flight and be in the office abroad bright and early.

I’d love to be able to say this is me getting all hyperbolic, but it isn’t. This is an actual thing that some colossal bed-wetting wanker dreamed up, dressed up in the worst kind of corporate tub-thumpery from a company which issues press releases telling everyone how much it cares for its employees.

The exits are here, here, here and here.

Bloody immigrants

Bloody immigrants.

They come over here, can’t even be bothered to learn the language. You go in the banks and there they all are, queueing to speak to the one teller that speaks English. All the leaflets have had to be translated for them. It makes me sick.

They stick with their own. Always drinking in the English bars, run by the English and employing English staff. What’s wrong with giving some work to the natives? The Spanish would love the business opportunities but they’re undercut by the English and their network of friends and kids of friends, willing to work for cash in hand. What happens to the taxes, that’s what I’d like to know.

All the Spanish bars and restaurants, they’re going out of business. You feel like a stranger on your own high street, where you’ve lived all your life. Walk down the road, you can’t understand half the people you pass.

We’ve got some of them living next door. Can’t speak a word. It’s down to us, of course, we’re the ones who have to make the effort. I hear them talking about how well the neighbours speak English. Lazy bastards, how about you trying to speak some decent Spanish instead of shouting in your ridiculous dialect and waving your hands?

They’re all using dodgy TV connections. Eyesore satellite dishes stuck on the side of their houses by cowboys so they can watch Eastenders and the news that’s hardly local any more. Not a TV licence between them. They only read the English papers. They don’t vote. The ignorance is shocking.

They won’t integrate. Look at them, with the shops selling English food. What’s wrong with our shops and our food? Why do they need to shop at Iceland? Why do they still need to buy fish fingers? What’s wrong with eating the local produce and supporting local farmers?

And speaking of the food, have you seen some of the muck they eat? Especially for breakfast? Swimming in grease and my god, the smell. It sticks to them all day. I swear, I think most of them don’t even shower.

Then, when they have heart attacks or break a hip, they clog up the healthcare system. And of course they can’t speak the language so don’t get stuck behind one in the queue, you’ll be there forever. If you can even get seen, because of all the English pensioners on the waiting list.

And then they have the nerve to say they’re not immigrants, they’re ex-pats. They can fuck off back to where they came from, the lot of them.

Economy Comfort

I’ve had the unfortunate fortune to spend a lot of time on planes recently. I’m fortunate because they took me somewhere I love being, if only it didn’t take so damn long to get there.

Long haul flights are bearable – just – so long as we abide by certain rules. Don’t talk to me, unless offering a hot towel, food and drink or, in an emergency, offering to assist me in gouging out the eyes of the moron who’s stopped beside me to get at his hand luggage. There are no exceptions to the second rule: don’t touch me. Never keen on human contact, all I want on a long plane journey is to be left alone to hunker down with the seatback TV, a copy of the New Yorker and the sound of my sanity folding itself up and slipping into the overhead bins at around hour eight.

On this trip, however, nobody had read the factsheet. Boarded early at Amsterdam and settled into my seat (on the aisle of the middle four), the Japanese couple with the middle allocation arrived. They snuck up from behind so I didn’t see them coming but still, there was no attempt to get my attention or generally indicate their presence before the woman started literally climbing across me to get to her seat.

“Woah, hang on, let me get out, no, stop, oh God that’s your arse in my face, please, just wait,” I said, but as I was to be constantly reminded over the next fortnight, my Japanese is abysmal and English isn’t that commonly spoken by the natives. At least that’s my hope, since I muttered “for fuck’s sake” as I finally vacated my seat and let her husband through. Later in the flight, the woman vaulted the person sitting in the other aisle seat on her return from the loo.

All right, I thought, maybe just this one woman is nuts, or too shy to attempt communication with horrible Westerners. Until a couple of hours later when I saw a middle-aged European woman stand on the armrests to get past a man sitting in an aisle seat. Did she know him? I don’t know. I hope so. He was definitely awake though, and appeared to be neither disabled nor halfwitted and thus, I assume, able to stand the fuck up.

Is this a thing now? Are people now too lazy to stand up for others, or has it suddenly become acceptable to clamber over one another? Is it a new sexual fetish I missed while reading the New Yorker rather than Cosmo? Or has society descended to the point where we can’t be arsed to expend a couple of seconds to say “excuse me”?

On the return leg, the airline upgraded my schlubby cheap seat to ‘Economy Comfort’, right at the front of the cabin. Nice. I was slightly less happy to see a woman with a baby across the aisle. But, you know, families have to fly as well, and I’d have headphones for when it started screaming.

Except screaming wasn’t the problem. I don’t know this baby’s age; as is going to become very clear, I’m not the maternal type. Whatever the age is where they’re still breastfeeding and able to toddle about. And mum saw absolutely no problem with letting baby wander around the plane. Including into the row where I was sitting. She helped it walk over to the window. Now, there’s improved legroom in Economy Comfort, but not that fucking much. Then she left it to explore its surroundings, which included my TV screen and legs.

Increasing horror doubtless apparent all over my face, mum says “Oh, is he bothering you?”. Yes. Yes, he’s bothering me, smearing his breastmilk-and-sputum coated fingers across everything in sight. Rather than say this, I more politically highlighted the face mask I was wearing to shield my increasing attempts to cough up a lung (when we all start to die in a few weeks of a hybrid Asian-European flu, I apologise now as patient zero) and said something about how it’d be better if the fruit of her womb wasn’t in my immediate spluttering zone.

This was all while still at the gate. During take off, the kid sat on her lap and she pointed at things out the window, finger hovering inches from my nose. When the seatbelt signs were off, the baby went free range again and nearly got run over by the drinks trolley appearing from behind the business class curtain. (At one point he went running into business class, with mum aware but unconcerned. Cabin crew had to ask her not to let this happen again.) I myself had to dislodge the baby’s fingers from an abandoned dinner tray, which it was about to pull down on itself, and swiftly remove from my own table a bottle of water and tumbler of (medicinal) brandy when the kid got curious again. Maybe I should have left it to its own devices and had a guilt-free conversation with a steward along the lines of: “Please may I have another large glass of free booze, as my last is soaking into this child”.

Personal space. It shouldn’t be hard. Even on planes, where several hundred bodies are densely packed together, we all have delineated areas. Respect mine and I won’t have to cause an international incident. You have been warned.