“YOU ******* thick *******!” The words came drifting across the Colne Valley air as I took Ciara for a walk on Saturday morning.
I turned to see which fan of my column was beckoning to me.
But the gentleman who had just questioned both my intelligence and my parentage was already gone, his car turning away from me and driving off.
I wondered why this stranger had taken such a dislike to me. Is this the way the people of Radcliffe Road usually treat visitors from nearby Slaithwaite?
I’m not sure why my foul-mouthed friend was so offended by my presence. I can only assume it was something to do with me pushing Ciara’s buggy down the middle, rather than the edge, of the little-used bumpy road.
I hadn’t realised the potty-mouthed motorist was waiting at the top of the short slope, fuming at the few seconds delay I was causing him.
He could have just come down the hill slowly at a safe distance and I would happily have stepped aside to let him past.
Instead, he must have sat there at the top of the slope waiting until I got to the bottom of the hill and turned right. Then he drove down to offer his concise opinion of my walking etiquette before turning left.
Perhaps I’m wrong. Maybe he really was a disgruntled reader of this column who wished to give his views on my unintelligent ramblings rather than my unintelligent rambling.
Either way, it did seem appropriate that I was subjected to this verbal volley as the issue of bad language was in the news.
The day before my sweary encounter a more celebrated case of profanity came to a conclusion.
In Westminster Magistrates’ Court, Chelsea defender John Terry was cleared of racially abusing QPR’s Anton Ferdinand during a Premier League match last season.
The England man admitted directing three words at his opponent – of which the only one I can repeat in a family newspaper is “black”.
But the Chelsea captain told the court that his foul-mouthed phrase came with a question mark, as in: “Do you think I just called you that racist term? I most certainly did not.”
If nothing else, the Terry case has shone a light on the exchanges which take place between Premier League players.
It seems the asterisks were working overtime when the Chelsea and QPR players exchanged pleasantries during the tense derby game last October.
Amidst the four-letter words, Ferdinand reportedly goaded Terry about his alleged affair with a team-mate’s former partner while the Chelsea man wafted his hand in front of his face to imply that the QPR player had bad breath.
“Unedifying” appears to be the word of the week to describe the back-and-forth on the pitch after it was forensically examined during the week-long court case.
Whole forests have given their lives so that we can read the scribblings of countless journalists decrying the moral state of the game exposed by Terry and co effing and jeffing their way around Loftus Road.
But really, what are we to expect? If the low-pressure situation of driving down a small hill causes someone to turn the air blue then a high-powered football game is hardly going to be PG-rated.
Professional footballers only become professional footballers in the first place because they’re alpha males, type A personalities, the sort of egocentrics with the drive to take their natural talent all the way to the top.
Put 22 young men like that on a pitch in a contact sport with thousands of people in the stands yelling abuse. Then add millions of pounds in wages and what are you going to get?
“I say, old boy, I do believe the referee ought to have awarded a penalty to our side during our most recent foray towards your goal.”
“I’m afraid I must disagree, my dear chap. I believe you’ll find my intervention was an instance of the innocent ball-to-hand, rather than the intentional hand-to-ball. Perhaps we can discuss this important distinction over sherry at the conclusion of the game.”
Expletive-strewn digs about halitosis seem a lot more likely to me.
But, while I’m not shocked by the language of Terry or Ferdinand – or indeed of my Radcliffe Road friend – I have to admit that it sounds unpleasant.
I like a good swear as much as the next man. In fact, I like a good swear more than the next man as I intend to tell him in no uncertain terms.
Over the years I have convinced myself that my fairly frequent profanity is a reasonable way of emphasising my feelings on any given subject. A four-letter word is merely a form of verbal punctuation – an exclamation mark, a full stop, sometimes even a question mark.
But these days, when I hear someone else swearing, I find myself thinking just how ugly the words sound coming from their mouth.
And then I realise that Ciara will soon be old enough to mimic the things her dad says.
Maybe it’s time to find new ways to communicate my feelings by investing in a thesaurus.
I’m going to need one. I am thick, after all.