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Episode Twenty Nine

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Monstrous Agonies E29S01 Transcript

[Title music: slow, bluesy jazz.]

H.R. Owen

Monstrous Agonies: Episode Twenty Nine.

[The music fades out, replaced by the sound of a radio being tuned. It scrolls through static, someone saying “-you're pulling my-”, country music, someone saying “-you must understand-”, classical music and static before cutting off abruptly as it reaches the correct station.]

The Presenter

-footprints in the dust in the hall of lost gods.

It's coming up on two o'clock here on the Nightfolk Network, and time for our weekly advice segment. First tonight, a letter from a listener who asks how to tackle prejudice in a professional setting.

The Presenter (as First Letter Writer)

So, listen, I already know what some of your advice is going to be. Obviously, I need to fire my estate agent. But I'm wondering if there isn't something more I can do about the situation, if only to avoid it happening to someone else in the future.

I'm on the market for a new home. I got my current place after coming into some money as a young man and unfortunately made my decision more on aesthetic grounds than practical ones. Though really, it suited me down to the ground at the time.

I always had such fun lurking about the place, or swooping down the stairs, letting my cloak billow out behind me. They just don't make staircases like that these days. Or cloaks, for that matter. And it always made an impression when I brought someone home for the evening.

It was a bit of fixer upper even when I got it, and I'm afraid I didn't invest in the refurbishments as I should. Altogether too taken with ideas of bohemian dishevelment – the rattling windows, the leaky roof, [mock spooky voice] the sound of the wind howling through the towers at night.

[laughing] But I'm too old for that nonsense now. I want somewhere comfortable! I want a big bathtub, and a cosy bedroom, and a sofa I can actually sit on and watch television, not just drape myself over in an attitude of dramatic melancholy.

So, I approached an estate agent and let them know what I was looking for. I was very specific. I wanted something in town. I'd like to be able to walk back from the pub, you know? Instead of always having to fork out for an Uber. And I want space, room to grow, but not so big I'm just rattling around in there on my own. Somewhere... homely.

The first time, I thought it was just some kind of miscommunication. The woman from the agency showed me a place not too dissimilar to my current pile – all spires and towers and a pervasive smell of wet dog. I said, “No, no, that's not it at all. I'm looking for quite the opposite.”

But she kept showing me this kind of property – crumbling castles and decaying mansions, sitting squat and sullen in the depths of the forest, or looming like a great claw on the mountainside. And they were always bloody miles away! Forget the pub, there wasn't even a supermarket or a cornershop or anything.

After a few more times I said to her, quite firmly, “Now, look, this really isn't to be borne. I want comfortable. Neighbourly.”

We were in the agency office at the time, and they had a listing up in the window for a darling little townhouse. Perfect for me. I said, “This! This is what I want!”

And do you know what she said to me? She said, “Oh, no. This isn't for my sort of person. Someone like me ought have a place like this,” and showed the same silly kind of thing she'd been offering the whole time.

Well. I gave her what for and stormed out. One thing my over-dramatic youth taught me, at least, is how to make an exit. And I know that at least part of the solution is to find another agency – one where I'll actually be listened to instead of subjected to a ridiculous, outdated stereotype.

But I'm worried this woman's just going to do it again to someone else. Someone who isn't as able as I am to shrug it off and get on with things. Is this worth making a bigger fuss over? And if so, how might that fuss be most effectively made?

The Presenter (as themselves)

Firstly, listener, well done for standing up for yourself. It's not always easy to enforce boundaries on how you're willing to be treated, and you did extremely well.

You aren't obliged to take this any further if you don't wish to. If you don't have the energy or emotional capacity to take this on, please know that you've done enough already by removing yourself from the situation. However, if you feel able to do so, I certainly think this is worth “making a fuss over,” for exactly the reasons you described.

In an ideal world, of course we would prefer to destroy these kinds of prejudices wholesale. But that work requires an enormous investment of time, energy and patience that it's completely unreasonable to demand in a relationship as superficial as that between you and your estate agent.

However, you can contribute to the wider work of making it extremely uncomfortable for prejudiced people to voice their nonsense in public.

Before you start, make a note of exactly what you're complaining about, what effect it's had on you, and what steps you'd like to see taken in order to consider the matter closed. It will help to have these clear in your mind before you undertake the matter.

The agency she works for will likely have a formal complaints procedure. Check their website or get in touch with them to find out how to take the issue forwards.

If you're not satisfied with their response, your next step would be to escalate the matter to your estate agent's independent complaints body. Citizen's Advice will be able to give you... [hesitation] advice... about how to do this and what to expect from the proceedings.

Remember – you don't have to do this. You're not letting anyone down if you decide that, actually, you don't have the personal resources at your disposal to pursue this issue. But if you're able, taking this kind of action is real, tangible way of combatting prejudice and discrimination. Whatever you decide to do, good luck, listener.

[Background music begins: An acoustic guitar playing a blues riff]

The Presenter

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Please note that, due to recent legislation changes, we are no longer able to accept contracts involving organic matter. Four Corners Couriers – not your continent, not your problem!

[End background music]

The Presenter

Next tonight, a listener struggling to make their own path in life.

The Presenter (as Second Letter Writer)

I recently had to say goodbye to my best friend who decided to move away to live with the freshwater merfolk, because they couldn't cope any more with how small and... well, traditional things are at home. Their departure has stirred me up inside. First it was just a small nagging, but over the past couple of weeks it has turned into a roaring fire.

I live with my fellow mermen and mermaids deep down in the ocean and as you can imagine, time sort of stands still down here. It's ironic that the waves on the surface are constantly shifting and turning, but down here it seems like everyone is incapable of change, or even of noticing that things aren't great for many of us.

Down here, mermen are the hunters and fighters, protecting and providing for us, the mermaids. Everyone seems to have the strong desire to live like we lived hundreds and hundreds of years ago. I know they don't really, deep down, but they all pretend they do.

Agh, even the term 'mermaids'! Why do men get to be called men, but women are called maids? And this is just the tip of the iceberg!

My parents expect me to marry soon, but I can't stand the thought of giving up the little autonomy I currently have. How do I talk to them without disrespecting everything they've done for me?

I love them, but I don't want their life for myself. However, I don't want to follow my best friend and move away either. I don't think it's fair to leave everything and everyone I love behind, to move to the freshwater merfolk, who live so much more freely and more equal. What should I do?

The Presenter (as themselves)

I certainly don't see why you should have to move if you don't want to. This is your home, your community, and it is perfectly right and reasonable for you to ask it to change and grow according to your needs.

There is a sort of bravery in making the decision your best friend has made. It's not easy, leaving behind what you grew up with, your traditions and history, and the people you love, to start fresh – so to speak – somewhere new. However, there is also great bravery in staying put, and working to change the society you've grown up in.

You will need to draw on every ounce of that bravery if you decide to commit yourself to living the life you want, and not the life others want for you. It won't be easy. But you may find more support than you expect.

You already said that you suspect others are not happy with the status quo. It could be that all they need to speak up for the changes they want is someone to go first.

Nobody is incapable of change. The people around you right now all have the capacity to create a fairer, more equal society. And what's more, you have the right to demand it of them.

The structures of inequality that dominate many of our cultures seem at times to be hopelessly rooted and impossible to overcome. But those structures have been built, not grown. They are not natural, or inherent, and you can change them.

As for the how of it, it's really rather simple. Live as you wish to live. Live kindly, honestly, and without apology. If you want to change the language people use, change the language you use. Show them how it's done! Make yourself a pattern they can follow.

You won't convince people to change by arguing with them. You won't show them that a freer world is possible or even desirable through reason. But by living up to your own ideals and not theirs, you demonstrate that their ideas about how the world should work are just that – they're just ideas. And you have some new ideas.

[Background music begins: An acoustic guitar playing a blues riff]

The Presenter

The Nightfolk Network on 131.3 FM. Don't touch that dial.

[End background music]

The Presenter

Next on the Nightfolk Network: are nocturnal transformations effecting your sleep hygiene? Simple changes to your bedtime routine could help you fight grogginess and take control of unwanted...

[The Presenter's voice fades into static as the radio is retuned. It scrolls through static, a voice saying, “-it's how Britain and-”, classical music, pop music and a voice saying, “-what was the winning name? I-” before fading out.

Title music: slow, bluesy jazz. It plays throughout the closing credits.]

H.R. Owen

Episode Twenty Nine of Monstrous Agonies was written and performed by H.R. Owen.

This episode's second letter was based on a submission by Lisa. Thanks, friend!

To submit your own letters and suggestions, head over to our website at, email us at, or find us on Tumblr at Monstrous Agonies.

I also want to say hello our latest patrons, Beth and Alycia. Thanks for your support! Join them at

You also can support the show by rating and reviewing it on iTunes and sharing the programme with your friends and familiars.

This podcast is distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. The theme tune is Dakota by Unheard Music Concepts.

Thanks for listening, and remember - the real monsters are the friends we made on the way.

[Fade to silence]


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