I cannot be the only one to be relieved that all this hat business is over. Every time I stepped outside my front door last week I had to duck and jab my umbrella at the heavens lest I be decapitated by the flocks of flying hats circling the ring.

Everywhere you looked people were about to throw hats, or fending off clamour from hat fanciers trying to persuade them to throw hats, or looking for all the world as if they were about to throw hats but then unexpectedly chickening out. Of course it was clear from the start that the unwary risked a clip round the ear from Chris Huhne’s bowler and Nick Clegg’s fedora. But Vince Cable, whose sombre homberg I admire, clutched onto its felt brim for what seemed an awfully long time before finally putting it back in its hat box. John Hemming’s flat cap only confused matters and left several people with sore heads, and what with all the air traffic control difficulties occasioned by Simon Hughes’ cheeky trilby, Steve Webb’s down-to-earth beanie, Lynne Featherstone’s elegant Treacy concoction, Julia Goldsworthy’s cool floppy Gap cotton sun-hat and Charles Kennedy’s traffic cone, I for one count us lucky to have escaped from the hat-throwing stage unscathed.

I know a bowler and a fedora have many things in common. They are both traditional men’s hats cut from a similar felted woolcloth and shaped with stitching and internal padding - albeit that the fedora has been reinterpreted for the fashion pages in recent times. But let us have an end to this muttering about the need for more hats. We have two perfectly good hats to choose from and I for one am enjoying the freedom to go about my daily business without having to throw myself behind a hedge every few yards.

It’s a difficult subject, yes, but we of the People’s Republic never shun controversy. To be taunted that one has wet oneself is just about the worst political accusation there is. Bad judgement, over-excitement, lack of control, the resultingly wiffy pair of pants that you are STILL WEARING, all this and more are implied. The accusation even has the far-reaching effect of damning the cause in which the self-wetting occurred. The implication is along the lines of “What, have you wet yourself? And for this? I would never wet myself in that way, but even if I were going to I would certainly never wet myself for that reason!”

But I think we are too hard on self-wetters. For a start, nearly all of us have wet ourselves at one point or another - it’s part of being human. If you set out to be someone who expressly refuses to wet themselves in any cause then you end up being Sean Gabb, and he behaves and looks as if he never actually pisses at all, but just stores his waste in his gorge. Wetting yourself is a sign that you care and are unashamed to say so - or at least, you have very little choice but to become unashamed of caring after you have wet yourself, because there are few more visible petards than a damp crotch.

Many of the flashpoints of history have occurred as a result of people wetting themselves together in large enough numbers. The very act of wetting yourself in company and finding that other people are also wetting themselves is both liberating and bonding, and explains how political factions are formed. Part of the reason revolutions are so difficult to understand is that it is very hard for even the most empathetic historian to conjure from (nearly) dry documents the pervading smell afoot on the wind at the time. Sometimes it is more instructive to have recourse to contemporary literature, such as William Wordsworth’s famous “Piss was it in that dawn to be alive”, later ‘corrected’ by shocked Victorian editors. The French Revolution in particular can be comprehended on one level as a series of self-wettings beginning at the top of government in the 1770s and, as it were, cascading downwards through an increasingly wee-conscious bourgeoisie, via the catheter of a few nobles who were progressive in their own self-wetting, to finally erupt in the mass self-wet movements of the early 1790s by the (advisedly) sans-culottes. There is a cautionary tale here, of course, because there followed a period of increasing tyranny by a small ruling group of the earlier self-wetters, and paradoxically, what had begun as a movement to allow all persons to wet themselves freely as equals was overruled by the oppression (by means of the incontinence pad that was la guillotine) of any self-wetting that was not officially approved.

Perhaps it is because state-controlled self-wetting is a feature of dictatorships (the Nuremberg rallies, Mao’s Cultural Revolution etc) that the whole concept gets such a bad press, particularly in the UK where we haven’t wet ourselves properly for several hundred years. It is extremely easy to assert your moral and intellectual superiority to someone who has wet themselves, and this is what British politicians down the ages have relied upon to flatter the population’s judgement and thus win them to their side - “Oh no, we don’t wet ourselves. We leave that to foreigners. Any sensible fellow will agree with me.” To take another well-known example, Sir Frances Drake is still most famous for being one of the few people in history not to have wet himself when he heard that his hour was at hand, and even then you can bet everyone else playing boules with him instantly started wetting themselves, and demanding to know why he wasn’t wetting himself, self-wetting being the only sensible option in view of the fact that the Spanish were shortly going to be wetting themselves all over Milford Haven.

In modern times, of course, the internet has meant that absolutely everyone can wet themselves almost simultaneously. All the above examples demonstrate that self-wetting begets other self-wetting. It’s sort of like yawning on the tube, and setting off your neighbour, and pretty soon the entire carriage is sucking in oxygen and rolling their heads around. Conceive then, if you will, of how much more wetly potent is the common or garden blog or online discussion forum. The pattern is recurring and goes something like this. An external agency of some sort wets itself in a certain direction; someone wets themselves in response and brings the original self-wetting to the attention of a large number of other people, many of whom wet themselves in indignation immediately. This is followed by the “first counter-wet” whereby a new wave of self-wetters tentatively come out of the porcelain-work to wet themselves in support of the original wetting. As with all self-wetting, their numbers grow as they gain confidence and pretty soon the original self-wetters are forced to redirect their wetting not at the initial external self-wetter but at the counter-wetters. Various accusations are then flung back and forth reflecting on the nature of the wettings being unleashed and the purpose and scope of the initial wetting. These arguments typically spark yet more self-wetting as new wetters pile into the fray to defend friendly self-wetters, before wetting themselves on their own account just in case anyone should be in any doubt about their self-wetting credentials. Through these streams of consciousness swim the infamous “plant” self-wetters, whose purpose is to generate more self-wetting and whip up support for one side or the other, often by means of producing extremely dark and cloudy urine that seems to offend all other self-wetters while being totally incomprehensible. These people are the political equivalent of having your hand plunged into a bucket of water while you are asleep. Eventually, the original self-wetters retire, exhausted, to wet themselves in other causes instead, like going to work, buying food etc, and keep no more than a cursory eye on the self-wetting battle that is still raging with a momentum all of its own however many hours or days or years later.

By and by, all but the most dry-hard begin to run out of urine and a collective sense of embarrassment rises to provide a rosy counter-note to the overwhelming scent of ammonia. It is at this point that a few irritatingly dry-panted individuals who have held aloof from the self-wetting process will express their contempt for all the silly and irresponsible self-wetting that has gone on, which is an unanswerable argument because it automatically makes them immune from all self-wet attacks, though it is well worth keeping an eye on them in future to see when they will wet themselves – they’re only human, after all. However, even that is not enough to pull the plug on matters because then some clever swine will come along and write an arch exposition of the whole self-wet process with historical illustrations, and almost certainly finish on a Blackadder quote, because Blackadder, as always, is deeper than we think:

Baldrick: Sir, sir, it’s all over the trenches!

Captain Blackadder: Well, mop it up then.

From his speech in Blackpool today: “This programme for government is real. It’s real and it’s realistic. It has to be.”

Sometimes really lazy comedy just writes itself.


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