14 February 2002
Once upon a time there was an ugly duckling; all the other little ducklings were cute, fluffy little things which smiled and gurgled and grasped your finger in their little beaks if you put it close to them but the ugly duckling wasn't fluffy at all, it was a bald, scrawny little creature, lumpy and misshapen, and the only things it did all day were cry and shit. The duckling's mother, who'd sat on the egg for nine long months whilst her friends laughed at her for staying behind in the barn and getting fat, had been proud when it had finally hatched because she was only young and it was the first little duckling she'd produced, but the other ducks all looked at him funny and one of them, who was the best loved of all and went to parties with the cocks, said: "God, look at the snotty little thing- I'm glad I'm on the pill," and the other ducks laughed.
In time the ugly duckling grew a bit older and was able to play away from his mother, which was a great relief to her because she'd been selflessly looking after him day after day when she could have been off making something of her life, and it hung around in the yard with the other ducklings, eating corn and playing tag. But the others all picked on the ugly duckling, which was awkward and clumsy and couldn't run as fast as they, and teased it mercilessly until the ugly duckling, which was a bit of a cry-baby and completely incapable of standing up for itself, ran sniveling back to its mother and disturbed her few precious moments of peace.
Eventually the ugly duckling grew so distraught from all the stick it was getting on account of being a hideous little toerag that, without a second thought for the feelings of its poor, worried mother, it ran away from the farm. It was a dangerous, cold world outside and the ugly duckling, which had some pretty naive ideas owing to the fact that it had no friends and had spent all its time daydreaming about waking up one day to find it was suddenly a beautiful swan, wasn't exactly the best equipped to cope with its harsh realities but finally it managed to find a little thatched cottage and, attracted by the sounds of a crackling fire and the smells of a pizza warming in the oven, depressed and bedraggled, it crawled inside.
The cottage belonged to a little old lady who lived there with her cat and her rooster, both of which she loved more than anything for the cat's coat was long and sleek and she would curl, purring on the old lady's knee whilst the rooster kept watch over her and strutted around, crowing at any intruders. At first the cat and the rooster welcomed him in and the ugly duckling was dazzled by their beauty and their kindness but as time went on it became clear that they had no interest in the ugly duckling himself, they just wanted someone to show off in front of and look good in comparison to: the cat would rubbish everything he said, purring that he knew nothing of the world, whilst the rooster took advantage of his low self-esteem and abused him sexually.
More miserable than ever, the ugly duckling fled the cottage and slouched down to the river to swim which had been the only activity he had ever really enjoyed, being the kind of loner sport you went off and did on your own. But even that gave him no pleasure and he floated around listlessly in the water, not even making the effort to climb out come nightfall and find himself somewhere warm to bed down. The following morning when the farmer and his boy walked down by the river they saw the ugly duckling frozen solid in the ice; he was trapped and trying to flap his little wings which, as time had passed, had grown larger and developed some soft fur, but his strength was failing with each passing minute. The boy noticed the ugly duckling's plight and rushed down to the river bank to free him but the farmer peered at the deformed and wretched creature and held his boy back, saying: "Leave it be, Wilf, we'll be doing the little bugger a favour."
So the farmer and his boy walked on and, as the ugly duckling's strength failed him, he slipped beneath the surface and died without anyone really caring and that's what's gonna happen to you, you little shit, if you don't buck your ideas up. What do you think you're doing moping around the house all day? When I's your age I's out making friends with the neighbourhood kids (being a little too friendly, as it turned out;) I don't care if they laugh at you: it's staying there until your teeth have straightened- it doesn't matter how talented you are, you're never gonna get anywhere with tusks like that: just they wait until your perfect smile is on all the front pages, then you'll be the one laughing.
And get your head out of them damn books, what good are they ever gonna do you? The viewing public's never gonna vote for you if you sound like you're some kind of brain-box and if you carry on squinting like that you'll end up needing glasses and then we're really sunk. There's already the worry you may have inherited that from your Dad, not to mention holding our breath on the body hair that I's practically swinging off in the back of that Cortina. So don't try and slope off when I'm talking to you, you ungrateful little sod, cos that attitude's not gonna get you anywhere and you'd better start getting used to the idea of doing exactly what's expected from you because I'm gonna make you a star.