The Spirit Of The Stairs

Last night I had a fun evening out with Mark Millar (Marvel comics scribbler extraordinaire), an assemblage of his slightly tipsy friends and my mate Jon, currently News Editor on Men’s Health magazine (who gets more muscly every time I see him – can’t think why). It was raucous and geeky and hugely entertaining, even if I had to leave early to catch a train which turned out to be filled with a huge number of Australians chugging from bottles of wine.

I was rather unsettled by something that happened before I left, though. I popped to the bathroom just as two girls walked into the toilet mid-conversation and, without seeing me, disappeared into cubicles. Then I heard one of them complain loudly:

“I fucking hate journalists. I really fucking hate them. They’re fucking scum. God, I hate them.”

And, being a journalist, I was actually quite offended.

You know that thing that happens when somebody says something, you can’t think of a reply and then an hour later what you should have said finally hits you? I believe it’s known as “The Spirit Of The Stairs” – in that your perfect response comes to you as you’re walking away. Something witty and urbane, profound and not a little soulful, something to make the person who’s just spoken feel as though you are the most wonderfully verbose person they’ll ever encounter.

The Spirit Of The Stairs caught up with me when I was on the train surrounded by drunken Aussies. What I should have done was march into the girl’s cubicle, look the journo-hating girl right in the eye and say,

“Hey! We’re not all scum, you know.”

Or, er, something like that.

Yeah, well. Maybe I’m not as wonderfully verbose as I think I am.

As it was, I simply ran away.



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5 responses to “The Spirit Of The Stairs

  1. Heppy

    Esprit d’escalier. French have a neat phrase for just about everything.

    And it’d be remiss of me not to point out here that it’s not that long ago we were having a coffee on the South Bank and you expressed a sentiment not a million miles away from that of your pals on the train about TABLOID journalists.

  2. Jayne Nelson

    Yes, but I was being specific – the kind of journos who dig into peoples’ personal lives etc. This girl was talking about ALL journos. And that’s not on! Some of us are lovely! Aren’t we?

  3. Lizwc

    Horrible people. Not at all called for. Although… you did get to spend the night out with MARK MILLAR!!! I’d take a lot more than one insult from a numb-nut for the same opportunity.

    I used to get called worse than “scum of the earth” when I worked in a jobcentre, and I never got to meet comic book heroes. And you can’t reply with witty retorts even when you can think of them. Best I could do was a Very Hard Stare Indeed.

    But since you’re lovely and since lots of journalists are good clean honest citizens who actually care about other people, I’ll gladly go and give a Very Hard Stare Indeed at the stupid people who insulted you. Just point them out to me…

  4. Jayne Nelson

    Hey lizwc! Truth be told, I wasn’t actually THAT offended. 🙂 It was more the ‘sweeping generalisation’ aspect of it that got to me. I’m also curious to know why they were hating journos quite so much right then. As far as I know, there were only two of us in the room and neither of us were being offensive in any way. Weird!

    Next time Mr Millar’s in London I’m sure you’d be welcome to join us! We’ve both written columns for SFX, hence us knowing each other. Course, Simon Pegg’s written SFX columns too and I don’t know him, which is a rotten swizz, but his were far better than mine so I’d be a little jealous anyway…

  5. Heppy

    What, so as long as they’re adding the qualifier that film and tv columnists and fluffy journos are ok, the rest of us can go hang?

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