Prickly Peer. Meet Beatrix Baldovina Ermengarde Benicia Leonora Endorina de Stroopp Dampmantel-Grouchevsky, Betty Boo! to her friends and Batty Betty to her foes.

She’s a peer of the realm of Grumpinghastia and seventy-third in line to the Most Exalted Cranky Seat. Her chances of ever ascending the Eleven Razor Steps leading to the highest office in the land are, consequently, well beyond slim. And that’s fine with her; her comparatively low position leaves her with all the time in the world to devote to her favourite pastime, namely ranting, railing and haranguing. Her best friend and current monarch, queen Manuelita Theodora II the Unexpected, never tires of telling her how flipping lucky she is not to have to be queen and having to go to formal zombie parties and meet doddering ambassadors and attend public inaugurations of state-funded orphanages and give interviews to brainless society columnists from Hello! Magazine and the utterly insufferable life-style gurus of The Guardian.

Betty believes every word Manu has to say on the subject of augmented responsibility. She and Manu grew up together as children and together they survived school, uni, polishing seminary and boot camp. As unattached, wild, bright young things they used to have heaps of fun, getting up to no end of no good and into many and varied scrapes, not to mention all sorts of soups. Nowadays they’re lucky if they can meet once a month for a sneak greasy kebab and a cuppa.

Betty has suggested once or twice that Manu should abdicate in favour of her idiot cousin, Clarence Elmer Duffy Hefty-Plankett and Manu is seriously tempted by the notion. After all, she muses, it’d be high time Grumpinghastia had a king. Just because the female of the Grumpinghastian political species is cleverer and more capable than the male, it should not follow that the girls have to carry the burden of administration most of the time. Then…she thinks of her cousin, she sighs deeply, shakes her crowned bonce slowly and says: “I can’t. I simply haven’t the heart to inflict Clarence on the wretched country!” and she soldiers on with her tarsome royal duties. And so it’s left to Betty to carp for the both of them. There, that’s a true friend for you.

The whole point of this quasi-shaggy-dog story is that Betty-the-Raver is so skilful and so keen that she’s willing to do anybody and everybody else’s ranting for them. So, if you’re too tired, or despondent, or lazy to do your own a-bitching and a- bickering, just ask her and she will produce the goods, tailor made, satisfaction guaranteed or your money back. Stay well, stay groovy, stay sane.