I was at our writers’ group the other week, and we were doing a workshop with the lovely (and talented) Margaret Elphinstone in which – to cut a long story short – we had to semi-improvise/semi-script an argument that we’d had recently with someone else. We’ve done this before – it’s a great way to tease out the ways in which dialogue can be used to move a story along, reveal characters or relationships, or dramatise a conflict – and I always start out quite reluctantly. The truth is, I tend to avoid conflict these days, if I can – you only have to be on Twitter for about 5 minutes to see that arguing with most people is largely pointless. In fact, I couldn’t even think of an argument I’d had in recent times so we ended up improvising the argument that I would have had with the driver of the timber lorry who decided to pass me with inches to spare, if I’d had the courage to actually confront him when I saw him getting out of his cab having parked up literally 200 yards from the spot where he’d decided risking my life to overtake me on a single-track road was more important than being delayed for all of 30 seconds before he could get out and have a fag.
Anyway, as happened last time we did this, once I’d got into the swing of things I remembered that actually I love a good argument. Not only that, once I decide to let rip I’m also pretty good at it. Having abandoned my usual restraint, and instead let my mouth run away with me, the resulting passionate torrent of words is incredibly cathartic to deliver and also largely unanswerable, if only because answering would mean being able to get a word in edgeways. It helps that I’m pretty articulate even when riled, and in fact the angrier I get, usually the more articulate I become.
We talk a lot as campaigners about being reasoned, and using evidence, and not coming across as too negative and all that. And mostly it’s sensible and warranted and the best tactic in the long run. But we’ve a long running issue going on locally where a couple of highway dinosaurs are throwing up every obstacle they can to providing a safe crossing of a 60 mph road on what is supposed to be a flagship project. We had an incredibly frustrating meeting in which they ended up blocking me at every turn with arguments that I knew to be nonsense but they were slippery as eels. All the other men present just stared at their feet as they effectively ganged up on me, leaving me to carry the argument. I was conscious that I was in danger of becoming the hysterical woman (I could hear my voice getting shriller and shriller as I got more tense) so I held back and tried to be reasonable. I wonder now what might have happened if I’d had the courage to unleash my rage on them and just let them have it. It might not have been edifying, and it almost certainly wouldn’t have worked (but then again, neither has being reasonable and going through the proper channels) but my God it would have been fun.