One does one's best, does one not, to avoid being pigeonholed, to avoid becoming a stereotype. For one cherishes one's individuality, one's independence of spirit. But it isn't easy. The world provokes us.

Take my own example. Being of the age I am and the sex I am, the expectation is that I should become, in some way or another, grumpy.

But I am not of a grumpy disposition. Left to myself I wear a heart so light that balloon companies ask me its secret. I chuck children under the chin, pat dogs, gawp at pretty flowers and sing songs from the moment I rise smiling from my snowy bed linen to the moment I sink back into it at the end of another day of gaiety.

But the world does not leave me to myself. Rather it does all within its considerable power to erase the smile and to silence the song. The ways it does so are legion and they are so woven into the cloth of everyday life that they are impossible to avoid. Just when you feel the lips curling or a song forming, up pops another silencer, another sourer-of-the-mood. It can be anything from a president to a road sign to, as happened today, a packet of sliced salami.

Advertisement

The salami came in a bubble of plastic not dissimilar to those blister packs in which batteries and other small items of hardware are sold, ostensibly to prevent the feckless young from shop-lifting them but actually to force the feckful you and me into buying more batteries than we want. And then, just to add to the fun, to prevent us from getting at them. Oh ha ha, we say, in a bid to allay any hint of grump.

On one corner of the salami blister pack were written two words in a point size magnificently chosen to be just too small to read without glasses. I took the packet to the window to squint. "Ezi Peel", it said. And the needle on the grumpometer twitched instantaneously into life.

How hard would it be to write easy? And what precisely is gained by the infantile phonetic spelling? Is it funky, modern, appealing to the young? Maybe so in the warped and simple mind of the author (ha, author! How ever did civilisation sink to this?) but so what? This isn't a bloody album cover. It's information on a packet of pepperoni salami. Is there anyone, anyone at all, anywhere on this overheating planet, who believes that the misspelling of easy will gain the approval of a single customer and sell as much as a single additional slice of salami? No, of course there bloody isn't. So why the hell do it?

(I know, I know, I am becoming shrill. You should see how hard I am banging the keys. But that's sort of my point. Sometimes I truly believe their aim is universal apoplexia.)

Just when you feel the lips curling or a song forming, up pops another silencer, another sourer-of-the-mood. Photo/Getty Images
Just when you feel the lips curling or a song forming, up pops another silencer, another sourer-of-the-mood. Photo/Getty Images

Moreover, why is the "ezi" there at all? Ease is implicit in the verb peel. Peeling is not a difficult activity. Skinning is difficult. Prising open is difficult. But peeling is simple. A child can peel a banana, for example, and it doesn't need the words ezi peel to help it do the job. So why are the words there on the salami packet? I'll tell you why. It is because the bastards are lying. The packet isn't easily peeled and they know it.

It's like the ads by the finance companies and credit-cardists and other usurers. "Three easy payments of $99" they say, knowing full well that the supposedly easy payments are all blows to the financial heart, are the first steps of the descent into the pit of debt.

The ezi-peel corner consisted of a plastic cover that needed to be separated from a thicker plastic below. But both over- and understratum had been cut by the same machine to be EXACTLY the same size. There was no overhang to grasp. You had somehow to hope to separate the two layers of plastic by inserting a fingernail into a gap that did not exist.

All I wanted was to get at the salami and go on my merry way. But the world said no. The world put up a barrier and the needle on my grumpometer swung so dangerously far to the right that ventricular damage loomed. And after several minutes of licking, digging, scratching, swearing at the ezi-peel corner, I sensed that damage looming so I reached into the drawer of serious cutlery and drew out a knife that looked like Exhibit A and I lifted it high and I brought it down and I stabbed the 21st century through its pepperonic heart. Then I made a sandwich.