I’m the grumpy captain of HMS Not Getting Any

I have always liked Pozzo's speech in Waiting for Godot when he says that the tears of the world are a constant quantity, and that for each person who begins to weep, another one stops. Not so much because it is the finest speech in Beckett's oeuvre, but because it seems like a reasonable explanation of so many other things, too. At the moment I think that if you replace "tears" with "sex" it works pretty well.

I think of this in conjunction with a remark made by my old pal and boss, Julie Burchill, in a column she wrote for the Independent in which she explained the perceived tetchiness of a certain public figure - I forget whom - by saying he was sailing on the HMS Not Getting Any. (Say what you like about Ms Burchill's opinions, you have to concede that she has a memorable turn of phrase.)

Bin overladen

Anyway, I read that and thought, yeah, that might explain it. I have been in a bit of a grump of late - Laurie has been remiss in tidying up the growing piles of hardening guano on the Hovel's terrace and has still not quite Got It about emptying the bin ("but it comes up to my tits!" she says, and my friend Z -- , also notionally a feminist, says that emptying the bin is "definitely a blue job", which makes me think that I am going to have to impose a ban on the word "feminism" being used in my hearing ever again); and in the face of such minor derelictions I have not lately been the model of selfless detachment and serenity that most people know me as. And it's not just because I, too, am sailing on the HMS Not Getting Any - I'm the bloody captain of the ship and the pressures of responsibility are beginning to weigh on me.

It is a phenomenon under-addressed, I feel, in contemporary confessional journalism, perhaps because it is peculiarly shameful and this is even before you realise it is considered sufficient grounds for mockery by Julie Burchill. It's a pity, really: in other, gentler times I would be seen to be setting a good example. You can read the annals of 19th-century fiction and point to pretty much the vast majority of characters and go: "He's not getting any . . . she's not getting any . . . he's not been getting any for decades, as far as I can see . . . she - blimey, she's healed up . . ."

But in the early 21st century, the crew and passengers of HMS Not Getting Any are a downtrodden, motley and damaged band. We feel mocked and persecuted, inadequate in ourselves and looked down on by others, outcasts from grace and, weirdly, in danger of coming close to reclaiming our virginity. We sniff our armpits and, exhaling into our cupped hands, try to check our breath, and wonder what it is we are doing wrong. And, if I may wheel this column back to the subject raised in its first paragraph, we look to the likes of K -- . Who has, basically, been stealing all the sex.
I have not mentioned K -- in this column yet. At first I was saving him for a rainy day, and then I thought . . . nah. The thing about K -- is that he has two, erm, lady friends. At the same time. "K -- 's been having a bad time," says LF no 1, whom I know quite well. She says this while she and LF no 2 are sitting on a sofa on either side of K -- , each of them nibbling his ears. “Really," I say, positively dripping sympathy.

When I mentioned that I might be using this for material in this column, one of the girls said she would be fine having her own name used, the other one said she'd prefer a pseudonym, and K -- said that he would like his full name printed, along with his photograph and an email address if possible.

Antic disposition

Well, now I'm not even going to give him his correct initial. I heard of some stuff he got up to on his birthday which has made me think, OK, that's it, he's forfeited my goodwill. He was being a bit greedy before, but which man would not, given the opportunity, do the same? But now . . . (that K -- is a clever, amusing and likeable young man makes it even worse, for some reason).

Anyway, even though he is much younger than me, and so does not have the hunched and defeated miasma that envelops men as they come into the final stretch approaching their fifties, I feel that his antics aren't really helping my cause any.

All I have to console myself with are Pozzo's words, which all of a sudden seem strangely apposite: "Let us not then speak ill of our generation, it is not any unhappier than its predecessors. Let us not speak well of it either. Let us not speak of it at all."

Nicholas Lezard is a literary critic for the Guardian and also writes for the Independent. He writes the Down and Out in London column for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 08 August 2011 issue of the New Statesman, Slum rule