Warning: whilst this blog is never especially funny, this entry is especially not especially funny. It does have a slight dig at someone from the telly though, in an attempt to prove how hip and relevant I am.
The NHS is getting a lot of gyp at the moment, from the usual suspects. I am sure it is not perfect and I have had bad experiences at its hands, but the critics are hardly agenda free and so I feel compelled to redress the balance in my own humble corner of the internet.
Having met psoriasis sufferers from other countries I’ve benefitted from several reminders of just how damned lucky I am to live in this fair isle. Helen – The Flaky Fashionista – is from Ireland as has hand to fork out for every cream and every UV session. The latter were over 40 quid a time – I had to have it three days a week for about three months. I have to tell a lot of jokes to earn that kind of money. Talking of jokes, my fellow comedian Wayne Deakin and I bonded over our shared assignations with this red mistress of the skin – I worked with him this weekend in Liverpool and we compared patches. In Australia he spends about $240 (about £120) a time on tubes of cream to treat an outbreak. You’ve seen the coverage on my body. In his position I’d need to get a bigger boat on which to tell and awful lot of jokes to a group of lottery winners with money to burn.
The most moving encounter I had in this regard was at a Doctor Who convention in Chicago last year when a gentleman left my show – My Stepson Stole My Sonic Screwdriver – because he hadn’t know about its psoriatic content and it messed with his head a bit. He came to apologise (which wasn’t necessary) and told me his story. His partner clearly loved him but there was a lot of pain there for both of them. Whilst she and my wife shared their experiences I listened as he explained how the condition had led to him losing work and so his medical insurance no longer covered him and so he couldn’t treat his severe condition. The doctors under whose care we was under stopped looking after him when he no longer had the requisite resources. And I thought Leah from The Apprentice was as cold a doctor as you could find. As a result this poor fellow was now scarred physically and emotionally and was not in a position to secure much work. A ridiculous, callous self perpetuating situation which left him feeling helpless and in a huge amount of pain.
And me, here in the UK?I pay prescription charges – a fraction of the money paid by anyone above for the huge variety of treatments that I have outlined in this blog. I am a self-emplyed itinerant player, the kind of figure I would need to match what my fellow flakies have to fork out is beyond my reach. The extensive and dogged campaign my condition has waged on my skin for the past 25 years would have required a serious finanacial investment, just so I could not endure excruciating pain and emotional shame every day. I’m surely a better citizen when I’m not like that? Had I had to practically bankrupt myself to maintain my treatment I probably would have given up – not because the condition is bearable, but because psoriasis sufferers allow themselves to go through much more than they actually should because what we have isn’t life threatening. For many years I endured an unecessary level of physical and mental discomfort because I thought that was my lot in life – it was only when the specialists at the Royal Free told me that I absolutely didn’t have to live like that that I was made aware that there was much that could be done and treatments which could have an effect I had hitherto only dreamed of (and that I didn’t have to pay for them).
Had that not happened, and had I neglected my treatment for financial comfort, I almost certainly wouldn’t have been able to work, so would have been a drain in the state rather than a taxpaying contributor to it. And to be perfectly honest, the level of agony that would have resulted from a cessation of my treatment, and the anguish that would have accompanied that … I’d have probably topped myself. And I don’t mean that metaphorically.
And that wouldn’t have made anyone laugh. I know I don’t contribute much to society, but I like to think that my continued presence on this Earth is worth something to some people.
Warning: This blog contains signs of the wear and tear of middle age.
1. Listening to music on public transport loudly. This is includes using those useless headphones that seem designed to leak whatever racket you’re numbing your aural and neural pathways with, just enough to give everyone else in the vehicle/carriage a sort of hip-hop tinnitus. Then there’s not even bothering with headphones and just playing it loudly with a swagger that suggests you’ve got a knife or have no fear about administering a punch to a remonstrator. This shows that consideration for others in this country is about as popular as brushing your teeth with a chainsaw or drinking a syphilis milkshake. It’s also a sort of challenge, daring the timid commuter to ask you to desist just so you can give them lip or bust theirs. You may like your music, and fair play to you. You’re welcome to listen to it – so long as you use headphones that actually do the job headphones were designed to do. Lest we forget, they are the key component of something called a personal stereo – personal, as in for your own, private use. Otherwise it would’ve been called a Bus Disco, Tube Rave, or Pendolino Glastonbury. There are things I enjoy doing that it might not be appropriate for me to do every time I would like to, and certainly not on the bus in the presence of other people. Like say, playing Twister, pretending to be a soldier in a film, or making love to my wife. And are any of these ear rapists listening to Suzanne Vega, Showaddywaddy or Daniel O’Donnell? I think not. My point is made.
2. Saying “yourself” when you mean “you”, and “myself” when you mean “me”. Using words of unnecessary length makes proceedings appear neither more formal nor more intelligent. It just makes yourself sound thick.
3. Shrinking TV credits. That our major national broadcasters think that the sudden appearance of the English Language on our screens will have us reaching for our remotes insults us. Yes, there are some people who do that, but in my kingdom those people will not exist. They will never have existed. Readable credits are a conduit behind the scenes, and a good theme tune stays with you forever and gives you a comforting shroud of nostalgia on a lonely night. They are essential elements of the viewing experience, not to be used as nests for the advertising cuckoo. If I want to watch what’s coming next, I will, but not because you’ve just shouted at me to do so and thus mucked up the ending of something into which I’d happily immersed myself. Would the Mona Lisa really be improved by having sticker in the corner with “Look, over there, it’s the Venus de Milo, she’s ‘armless!”? (the answer to that, by the way, is no). As punishment, any TV exec who sanctions this will have someone shout in their ear, every time they make love, “Coming soon, a melancholy feeling of at worst shame, and at best inadequacy – stay tuned” just at the moment of orgasm.
"You couldn't make it up," he says. And then does.
4. Treating the opinions of Richard Littlejohn with any seriousness whatsoever. This will be redefined as a hate crime and awarded the maximum possible sentence.
5. Dropping litter. I sometimes pick up discarded things like cigarette packets and say “you dropped this” and when they reply “oh, it’s empty”, I put it in the nearby bin and say “Oh, look, that was difficult wasn’t it?” This will, one day, get me killed. If you’re a grown-up who can’t use a bin, you don’t deserve democracy, frankly.
6. Sitting on a train where one of the few plug sockets is but not using the plug socket for anything. This will be a capital offence. With no right to appeal.
7. Tabloid newspapers quoting “a friend” of whomever they’re doing a hack job on, who speaks in apposite puns. You know the sort of thing, a friend of a cricketing cuckold’s mistress quoted saying that “after a short first innings his middle stump wouldn’t stay up for a second one” or the friend of a woman having an affair with a World War 1 veteran saying that when they first saw each other it was “The Phwoar To End All Phwoars”. It’s bad enough that they use something as precious as freedom of the press and abuse it to reduce national discourse to childish tittering. But to parade such dishonesty about using the weakest humour available to humanity on one page and then assuming the umbrage of the morally affronted on the next is worse than stabbing a sleeping child’s head with a pin whilst its mother isn’t looking.
8. Talking on the phone when you serve me in a shop. Can I take a call when I’m at work? No. Halfway through a set I’d be rightly pelted with eggs if I said to the audience “Hang on, this is more important than you” and answered my mobile. Bus drivers don’t do it either. Or teachers. I’ve never seen a judge dial out for pizza during a trial. I’m sure not even the most bargain basement lady of the night would break of her servicing of whichever inadequate requires a siphoning to book a holiday or ask about improved broadband services. So, shopkeep, nor should you when I’m purchasing a Wagon Wheel, crucifix or lingerie magazine.
9. Not tipping your waiter, who’s given you good service because “well, it’s optional innit.” Yes, you have the option not to tip if the service wasn’t very good, but not just because you’re not in the giving vein today. It’s optional for me not to batter your face with a cactus mallet or scythe your baby, but I doubt you’d take that as an excuse. If you had decent service and you don’t tip you’re a twat. Simple. Don’t try to intellectualise it by saying – well, I don’t tip person in x,y and z job, either. Waiters’ wages are kept low because of the tipping system. You’re not bucking that system or campaigning for higher wages by not playing ball, you’re simply denying the person who has worked for you all night what they might reasonably expect for doing a good job.
10. Being anonymous on the internet. This would suddenly emasculate the world’s keyboard warriors pretty quickly. Imagine having your name and address flash up every time you fancy yourself as a cyberspace Oscar Wilde (if Wilde was a witless hobgoblin who only developed a pair when cloaked in anonymity and protected by a monitor screen that serves as a vileness amplifier). They’d also, in true Bullseye! style, be shown all the real life girls they could have touched if they hadn’t spent their lives articulating their own crushing lack of self-esteem and achievement through a conduit of bile pixels that contribute precisely nothing of value to anyone or anything, anywhere, ever.
Oooh, what’s that sensation? Oh yes, my chest feels much lighter now.
Warning : this blog provides mild amusement at best.
Now then, in my blogging for a week experiment I have discovered that the (relative) pithiness of my Top Ten from the other day (Oh God, it was weeks ago: so much for “every day”) seems to have elicited the most popular response in terms of feedback and numbers.So I shall do a repeat (if it’s good enough for UK Gold it is good enough for me) but this time trying to accentuate the positive (a bit like in my book Running Through Corridors which lesser men than me would blatantly plug whilst warning that the first print run has nearly sold out).
As well as the best feedback it has also had the silliest, with someone telling me that my Ten Things That Annoy Me More Than I Think They Would If I Were A Reasonable Human Being were quite normal and that I had erroneously used the phrase “personality disorder” to describe my grumpiness. Possibly, or perhaps I was taking something that has a basis in truth and extrapolating it for whimsical or comic effect. Almost as if I was adopting the modus operandi of a professional comedian or something. Similarly, if I type a sentence like “I was so shocked I almost had a heart attack” I don’t mean that I was actually really having a heart attack or that I am somehow undermining the true suffering of heart attack victims. If you think that I am, I suggest you spend less time trawling the internet looking to take offence and find some stuff in the real world to get annoyed about as there’s plenty that doesn’t involve the application of semantic gymnastics to manufacture umbrage.
Anyway, positive, positive:
1. Tic Tacs – Just another sweet, sure, but a veteran of the confection world (he’s outlived the Pacer, the Banjo and the Texan Bar) who was never my first choice as a child but was always noted for its uniqueness. No other sweet quite rattled so in a box. Tics Tacs were also always mint – I remember the introduction (to my world at least) of the orange and lime flavours and was initially quite impressed if a little suspicious of this dual coloured interloper. Hitting Europe in my travels I’ve discovered a large number of varieties, but as with voting and love making, clearly we Brits can only be trusted with the most straightforward and uncomplicated varieties. Euro-sceptics could reasonably cite the recent creeping barrage of passion fruit and cherry flavour onto our territories as evidence of our capitulation to the continent, but most of us will simply enjoy the inspired taste-combination for its deliciousness. The lesser spotted sleeper agent that is lychee and grape, however, possesses that petrol fume flavour for which yer actual lychee is so inexplicably prized. And as an occasional weight watcher, that you can neck a box with apparently little threat to your waistline is final proof that these are little sticks of joy dynamite that blow your tastebuds but not your physique. In America they have cinnamon flavour, which almost makes up or their inability to spell theatre properly.
2. Inspector Crabtree from ‘Allo ‘Allo – ‘Allo ‘Allo isn’t the greatest comedy of all time. It’s not especially my cup of tea (I’m
"I am a TooVoo horoo and no mistook"
more of a satire/dry humour type of chap), but there are achievements in the world of popular entertainment that I don’t think are appreciated enough due to the fact that they were in, well, popular entertainment. And Inspector Crabtree is one – an absolutely inspired and well-wrought creation that was just one part of the make-up of a programme that became televisual furniture for years. Not a programme such as The Killing that makes you sound impressive at dinner parties, or like Brass Eye that demonstrates how savvy and maverick your tastes are, or even The Only Way Is Essex which blithely displays your sense of irony and lack of pretention (whilst unwittingly contributing to the destruction of the universe, may I add). This was just on and people just watched it. The conceit was simple with ‘Allo ‘Allo – take the fact that the actors playing Germans in the brilliant wartime drama Secret Army spoke in German accents and do the same, but with exaggeration (in addition to the comedy French accents which – unlike Secret Army – were given to our heroes). By adding a farcical element and catchphrase characters to the humour it somehow managed to dodge any squeamishness we may have had about a comedy set during an atrocity in which millions died. In series two, someone hit upon the genius idea that an incognito Englishman could disguise himself as a gendarme. In the logic of the ‘Allo ‘Allo world his inability to speak French well would manifest itself as inexpertly wrought English in a daft accent. The result was desperately stupid – and very, very funny. Add to that the mighty Arthur Bostrom playing the role absolutely dead straight and you have a comic creation of such brilliance it should be celebrated every time great British comedy is mentioned. Every time I hear the line “Good moaning” or see Bostrom’s face etched in earnestness, as he conspiratorially whispers that he was “pissing through the streets” I do an enormous amount of pissing, myself (pissing myself).
3. Ladybirds – You’ve got to love a ladybird. Most garden dwellers that are brave enough to hang about with us humans are of fairly mundane appearance (those black beetle fellows, greenflies etc) or nice enough looking of themselves, but not so much so that we don’t soon get used to them (you know, bees and things). But there’s nothing quite like a ladybird – a little compact nodule of colour, gamely crawling on your hand without being tickly or slimy or threatening, and then hoiking itself off optimistically as its dainty wings provide unlikely carriage for its Mini Cooper frame. There’s even a song about them, in which they are encouraged to save their children from arson. What’s not to love?
4. The Shipping Forecast on Radio 4 – It has no practical or entertainment value for me whatsoever. I don’t even know what it means. But the fact that it is there and always has been, I find rather wonderful and comforting. It’s something that interrupts something that the majority of people are enjoying to give vital information to a small minority, and nobody minds. That’s how life should be. It’s like aural mogadon – calming, relaxing, and the key to a less stressful life. Part of me does worry though, that it’s one big joke that’s got out of hand but that nobody has quite had the courage to own up to (I mean come on – Dogger? German Bite? Yeah, right).
5. The nice scrunchy sound my laptop makes when I send something to the recycle bin – I like it. It sounds scrunchy. And nice (see also, Bagpuss’s yawn).
6. Bernard Cribbins – if you need a reason you are not human. Even his name is brilliant. Bernard and Cribbins, the stuff that unassuming British institutions are made of. We all know he’s the charming, quirky array of voices of The Wombles, the comic crooner of Right Said Fred (why does that work? No idea, but it’s fab), and of course, the impossible-not-to-love Wilfred Mott, funny and heartbreaking in a trice in Doctor Who. But remind yourself of his fantastic turn as the irritating suspected Hotel Inspector in Fawlty Towers for a sublime piece of character acting. We don’t make ‘em like Cribbins anymore, and that’s a terrible shame. His knighthood is long overdue (after I drafted this his OBE was announced – well deserved but not enough).
7. Penguin Book Covers – I love a book. I like having books more than I actually read them. And there’s something about the simplicity of the penguin covers – a thick stripe of orange, sometimes green, a penguin, the title and author in a humble, undemonstrative font … classic design work. It’s like the No Frills of the publishing world yet brings with it none of that itinerant snobbery about cheapness. There’s something honourable about a raft of papers containing a great work of literature but being confident enough in its own worth not to carry a hefty price tag. It’s like the millionaire who wanders around with wellies and a hole in his jumper but is well spoken, erudite and intellectual. You can’t buy class. Except you can, in book form, and as I’ve demonstrated, for not very much money.
8. Cryptic Crosswords – Nothing in the universe can make you feel both abjectly thick and rather pleased with how clever you are than a cryptic crossword. You can stare at them, baffled, and make absolutely no headway, or you can make relatively decent progress. I’ve never actually completed one, and am certainly nowhere near to being an expert, but there’s nothing wrong with having something achievable to try to crack and improve at. Especially if it stimulates your brain cells and gives you something to do on the bus other than tsk at boisterous young people. I tend to do them when I’m in a play (I generally get cast in roles that have plenty of time off stage and require the acquisition of a hobby) so they also comfort me that I’m being gainfully employed. Favourite clues have included “Half of the alphabet is very small (4)” which is ATOM (A to M geddit?), and “Cowardly Balloonist? (7,2,1,6)” which is, gloriously, CHICKEN IN A BASKET.
9. The “Slippery Surface” Road Sign – because no matter how often I see it, I always try to rationalise the tyre markings which are surely impossible to achieve. It’s one of the Seven Wonders Of The Even More Modern World (others include that unfathomable feeling of approval and admiration one feels upon seeing an old man with a sculpted handlebar moustache, the creation of the name Barry Scott to conjure just the right naffness:knowingness ratio to effectively market a cleaning product, and The Tube Map).
10. The fact that even though raspberries are red, making raspberry slush puppies blue sort of makes sense – it does. They taste blue. I don’t know how that’s possible, but it is.
I thought by saying I would blog every day would make me do it. But it hasn’t. I am going to blog more though, so keep an eye out. I’ve also been doing some other writing, so watch this space. It’s worth noting that the one about how irritating things are was much easier to do than this one about things I enjoy. A sad reflection of humanity, its inherent grouchiness and alacrity for criticism (and by “humanity” I may well mean “me” but what the hell, if I’m going down I’m going to take you all with me).
Warning : This blog’s initial draft contained a reference to Jedward that was replaced with something marginally less predictable.
I’ve been supposed to be blogging every day this week as a test of discipline and to see if I can be remotely interesting, but haven’t posted yesterday’s up as it needs some cosmetic surgery and doesn’t quite make sense yet. I’d left myself plenty of time but I’d had a bit of travel hassle that led to my train journey and subsequent gig being cancelled. Then Doctor Who was on, I drank some Chablis and then the evening disappeared in a blur brought on by mind boggling continuity developments and Bacchus’s brain-fug juice. So I may post yesterday’s blog up later tonight or even tomorrow, which isn’t quite blogging every day but I could get away with it by saying it’s a clever timey-wimey manipulation, or, for the more down to earth, argue that it’s a bank holiday weekend and so one of the days somehow doesn’t count. Or, like the Sinclair C5, the coalition government or Cheryl Cole on X-Factor USA, you could just deem the “blogging every day for a week” thing a failed experiment and gloat.
Anyway, there are a number of things that annoy me that I’m perfectly happy annoy me. I am supposed to be annoyed by things like shrinking TV credits, that little evil plastic hair shard bit from a trainer that sometimes sticks into your foot and itches that you can never quite find or prise out or work out what it’s bloody doing there in the first place, and genocide. Being miffed about those shows that I am a righteous, frail and reasoned human being. But despite the fact that I think I’m generally quite benign, and pretty easygoing if you get to meet me, there are some things that annoy bat-shit out of my brain-cave that in my more contemplative moments lead me to think I have some kind of personality disorder. This isn’t that contrived “grumpy old man” oo-isn’t-Ikea-irritating nonsense. That’s been done to death. I’m actually worried that being irked by the following might just mean I’m evil.
I do hope not, it would be most inconvenient.
The following is best read in a voice of slightly strangulated indignation:
1. Finsbury Park Tube station has a tunnel that leads to and from the tubes. There is a barrier in the middle so people all have to walk in the same direction (decided by which side they’re on) and so not bash into each other. So far so good. However, the whole design is rendered useless when people walk three abreast on one side (making those behind them unable to overtake) and amble, chatting,
oblivious to the fact that people behind them might – what with all the tube trains and things lying about – be in something of a hurry (see also people who stand side by side on escalators and people who stop walking to chat or look at a map in a fucking doorway).
2. “There’s millions said Henry* all under one roof.” There may be Henry, but the backward R in Toys R (no, I’m not doing it on a point of principle … and because I can’t with this keyboard) Us isn’t the worst of your evils. There are millions Henry, not there’s millions, and it’d still scan if you said it correctly. You benefit neither your ditty nor your target audience by your slapdash approach, Henry. People make spelling and grammatical mistakes all the time – I’m no lexicographical fascist and can forgive this. To perpetrate such felonies on purpose to be either cool or branded makes you Satan’s fluffer here on Earth, Henry, you giraffe-bastard. No wonder our children are feral.
3. People texting or calling me when Doctor Who is on (I should put it on silent, sure, but I expect people to know and leave it on deliberately so that I can get annoyed).
4. I like to cook because I hope I’m quite good at it, I get a great feeling when people enjoy my creations, and like to think the whole process is creative, cathartic and rewarding. Speak to me whilst I’m doing it however, and I’m about as pleasant as a chlamydia sandwich at Jeremy Clarkson’s house.
5. My eldest son remembers the minutiae of television episodes and describes them in detail, without pause, recalling dialogue, jokes, and situations. I find myself getting grumpy with him for doing so despite the fact that it’s what I do for a living and what I did when I was his age (and probably to a greater extent).
6. The fact that the makers of Appletise bowed to public ignorance and renamed it Appletiser. Why? The public were wrong. Just because everyone pronounced it incorrectly wasn’t a reason to change the name. Especially as the people who did it will now think they were right all along. That’s like God ironing the Earth just to make the ignoramuses who thought it was flat feel good about themselves. Or Wendy Richard changing her name by deed-poll to Wendy Richards. Or the word “ask” deciding to spell itself “arks” because some cockneys can’t talk properly.
7. Fussy eaters. I hated loads of food as a kid. My Mum made me eat it. I learned to like it. Anyone else that can’t be bothered to go through that process deserves at best starvation and at worst, some sort of extreme food camp where desperately middle class fascists like me force feed them asparagus and wean them off Big Macs. A bit like those courses where batty Christians try to cure people of being gay, except morally right. “I don’t like any vegetables” I hear people say. As if vegetables all taste the same. That’s like me saying “I don’t like any people” just because some people – like you – can’t be bothered to see if your taste buds might have matured since you were six.
8. The fact that for about 7 years I didn’t realise that Jools Holland’s Annual Hootenanny wasn’t live. When I found out the truth it was, of course, so obvious – why would those high end celebs (no Big Brother winners here ) all give up their family New Year’s Eve to sit in a BBC studio to listen to Ladysmith Black Mambazo doing covers of Kajagoogoo’s back catalogue? Yet I was still crushingly disappointed when I found out. And I don’t even care about music. Or know who any of the people on it are. Except Jools Holland.
9. When I was a kid I did amateur dramatics with a woman called Glenys. That’s right, Glenys. Except my Mum always pronounced it Glynis, even when I’d corrected her more times than Keith Allen’s come across as a bit of a knob in interviews. When I hear her say it in my head, now, as I type, it bothers me so much that I’ve gritted my teeth enough to give me lockjaw. It’s like the mispronunciation equivalent of fingernails on a blackboard. She probably hasn’t done it for twenty years, but I know, deep down, that I can never forgive her.
10. I still haven’t thought of a reasonable excuse for not having done yesterday’s blog, and even though it’s up to me whether or not I do it and it doesn’t really matter, it still really annoys me, and it annoys me even more that I’m explaining it and justifying it in a massively uninteresting way but nonetheless feel the need to clarify my position even though I don’t know what that position is.
There you go. I never said they had to be enlightening.
* Before you both write in, the Giraffe Grammar Pervert is called Geoffrey (of course, alliteration is your friend when luring children into your den of imminent parent poverty) not Henry. I let my initial mistake stand because (a) I’m not afraid to admit to mine and (b) Glenys Barber (very good) who points out the mistake in the comments below does so in an extremely witty way and deserves credit for doing so.
Warning: This blog contains a number of justifications for hypocrisy.
I’ve had this blog for ages, but only really updated it sporadically because to be perfectly honest, and despite the fact that I have chosen to earn my living standing in front of strangers, demanding their attention and craving their applause, there is something that makes me view attention seeking as somewhat distasteful. Doing stand-up may seem to be the anathema of this point of view, but the way I – as someone who has to spends hours plucking up the courage to send an unsolicited e-mail to someone I like or to phone an official body – see it is this: with stand-up, I have been given permission. There is no way I would prat about in front of a room full of people going “Me, me, me” just for the attention, but the infrastructure of a comedy night is such that there is a stage and a microphone that people have chosen to pay money to look at and listen to. The people who have been invited to tell world class jokes (say, Gary Delaney), issue satirical barbs (say, Mark Thomas), or fume about trivial issues in a way which would be unacceptable in proper social situations (say, um, … me) have usually earned the right to get up there and do it. Usually through hard work, perseverance or talent, although occasionally through chronic lack of self-awareness, overweening arrogance and bewildering good fortune (say, err, … no, I’d better not say). Despite my job, I wouldn’t describe myself (or indeed, most comics) as massive show offs. Around my family dinner table I’m not especially keen on dominating a conversation and I find new social situations with unfamiliar people absolutely crippling. Give me a microphone and an obligation to fill the silence, and any urge to receive attention feels legitimised (but still has to be earned).
One of the things I’ve tried to talk about on stage recently is how dreadfully narcissistic we have become as a society. Self-expression without the need for social interaction to facilitate it has bred a generation of keyboard warriors and worriers. People go to forums to join with like-minded individuals to share ideas and spread the joy about their hobby, passion or favourite TV programme. And then fall out with each other quite vociferously when they find out that not everyone enjoys every aspect of their favourite thing in
exactly the same way that they do. The rise of the internet troll has suddenly given worldwide exposure to the most kickable members of the human race. In the old days, if you wanted to be a mouthy prick you needed to be able to run fast or cultivate a powerful physique. These days you just need an e-mail account and no self-editor.
Twitter is the ultimate one way expression outlet, and with it comes a curious hierarchy that says everything about how it works. If I follow Mr X because he’s a famous comedian, I’m showing that I, Mr T (and why not?) admire him and want to read his jokes and opinions. The thing is, I’m also in his profession, so if he follows me he is conferring status and affirmation to me very publicly (his followers will think that if this comedian they really like, Mr X, follows this other comedian Mr T, then Mr T must be pretty good). If, on the other hand, he doesn’t follow me in return, he is accepting patronage but tacitly acknowledging that I am not in his league, or worthy of his attention. Similarly, if an up-and-coming comic (Mr Y) follows me, but I don’t choose to follow them, surely I’m saying “Yes, devour the wise yet pithy saws and modern instances I can conjure in 140 characters or less” at the same time as saying “But I don’t care whether you do or not, because frankly my life is busy enough not to be distracted by your attempts at wit”. Not so much Mr Y as Mr Y Should I Be Bothered By What You’re Banging On About? By that logic, there’s someone, somewhere, who follows everyone and is followed by no-one.
You sir, are officially the worst human being on the planet.
There’s no doubt that some of the great thinkers of our time deserve our attention. Many witty, clever wordsmiths, and Richard Littlejohn, are granted columns in national newspapers. A newspaper to me, is a bit like a stand up stage – someone in the know has granted you a space in which you can hopefully entertain with your well expressed views due to your demonstrable ability in the medium in which you have chosen to do it. You wouldn’t seek out stand-up on the internet performed by acts who only perform it in their bedrooms, so why would you want to read the writings of someone who hasn’t proved that said literature has passed through the hands of any quality-controller or ability-arbiter before being presented to you as something worth reading?
But this is the world we live in. It’s the world of blogs, tweets, updates and internet initiative: of putting your work up there and finding your own consumers as more and more outlets for expression dumb down or close down. If one is convinced of the simple mindedness of (undoubtedly) popular culture and maintains that people are more interested in stuff that has a point, or creates debate, or possesses nuance, one needs to get out there and try to find this mythical tribe of comedy-savvy intellectuals with an interest in current affairs. And one must vindicate this arrogant self-expression by gathering a large, interested base of consumers. It sounds horribly capitalist doesn’t it? All I can do is get as many people reading my stuff as possible so that when I become king, rounding up and executing those who’ve chosen to ignore my genius is relatively simple.
So in a way, reading this has just saved your life. Well done.
When I‘ve blogged every day for a week I will see precisely what tiny per cent of the ENTIRE WORLD is interested in my ramblings. I’m not sure I would be, and what I discover may be most sobering. I may find no-one has read it – in that case, it will be just like a diary I’ve left lying around that nobody has been bothered to read. I think I can live with that. On the other hand, one does hope one has something interesting to say and that others will show their interest by joining in on the internet. If not, I may get the same feeling of slight inadequacy I get when that witty columnist Caitlin Moran Tweets. She’s funny, clever, writes well, loves Doctor Who and lives near me. But am I important enough for her to follow me on Twitter? Nope. It’s a cruel hierarchy. In following her, I was really asking to be her friend. Isn’t that what we’re doing when we make statements, offer opinions and write funny things on Twitter, Facebook and blogs. Aren’t we just saying “Please be my friend?”
If you disagree, you’re probably not my friend.
Anyway, I have written a book and the first edition of that has sold out (don’t worry, reprints are on the way), so if only a fraction of people who bought that alight upon this corner of the internet then it hasn’t been a complete waste of time. Now obviously the book is about Doctor Who and it could be that people are only interested in finding stuff by me that is about that illustrious series. In which case I’d have to keep inserting the name Doctor Who into my posts. That’s Doctor Who. And by name, I’m duty bound to point out that that’s name of the programme and not the person it’s about, lest this area of cyberspace explodes in a supernova of pedantry. What name are you talking about, I hear you cry? Why, Doctor Who, of course. Yes, that’s the one. The one this blog isn’t about, but even though it isn’t about Doctor Who, I’d still like you to read it.
Doctor Who related or not.
If, like me, you’re interested in Doctor Who, you could follow me on Twitter. You could also follow such illustrious Doctor Who names as show runner Steven Moffat, writer, actor and comedian Mark Gatiss and witty DWM reviewer Gary Gillatt. I do. Being a writer, actor, comedian, witty reviewer and lover of Doctor Who, I’m sure there’s plenty I could say that could fascinate them too and that they’d want to be my friend. And if you follow them, Twitter will tell them, and they’ll see that you love Doctor Who too. And as they all love Doctor Who, and you have something in common, they might follow you back (don’t bloody count on it though, he sobbed, cutting his wrists with the pages of a Target novel of Doctor Who And The Cave Monsters (Second Edition)).
Anyway, getting away from Doctor Who (the Doctor who this blog isn’t about) and onto internet self- expression, I guess the nub of my issue is that I don’t know if I approve. Thing is, I’m not sure I trust it. I am not sure it is healthy. I’m not sure we can trust humanity with it. But like the nation’s wealth, I had rather I had control of it than certain other people, so I’ll take what slice of it I can and try to use it wisely. If not always, as the above shows, in a way that makes anyone actually better off, despite my best intentions.
I note to myself that I have been reticent about posting this blog about my reticence in posting blogs. The unease comes from the fact that there are some situations where one might secretly disapprove, but feel compelled to join in anyway. In a football crowd perhaps. In a drinking game. At an orgy.
So welcome to my orgy. Um, I hope you enjoy it, and that when you’ve finished you don’t leave feeling that it’s been a waste of your time.
It’s not my natural inclination to defend the rich and famous, as I think society is generally weighted in favour of the well off and our media especially seems designed to demonise the most disadvantaged whilst eulogising the privileged and vacuous.
I also have absolutely no interest in football – though as a Doctor Who fan I’d be culpable of wanging whacking great rocks about in a greenhouse were I to poke fun at people who glean enjoyment from it. If it makes your day go better to enjoy a match then by all means go ahead and have fun, just please don’t sing on my bus about it, thanks. I’m no wilful ignoramus though: I know, for example, that Wayne Rooney is a very talented striker if a little bit of a grumpy one who has freckles, I’m aware that Arsene Wenger is manager of Chelsea (or is it Arsenal? One of the London clubs no-one really likes anyway), and I know Peter Crouch, despite having the gait of a giraffe played by a Weeble, somehow manages to be a “genius” or a “muppet” depending on whose side you are on (i.e. the same as any other footballer). And I know who Ryan Giggs is and that he’s a veteran Manchester United player who turned down the chance to play for England to instead have a far less glory-filled international career representing Wales.
I also know that he should be despised for being rich off the back of football as it’s such an easy sport to excel at, and a profession that requires no skill or hard work, and certainly isn’t one of the few opportunities for social mobility offered to young working class lads. Like the arts, anyone who flourishes in sport deserves at best our disdain and at worst our absolute contempt. Much as we consume both in vast quantities to provide us with entertainment, we are totally entitled to despise anyone who seeks to earn a living from them, the hate-filled, narcissistic bastards. It’s not as if the huge financial rewards the small, elite percentage of highest achievers get are in some way to make up for the fact that living in the public eye leads certain sections of the media to believe you are fair game. I know that any resentment I harbour for their success and lifestyle has nothing to do with my envy or frustration.
I also know that who such people choose to have sex is entirely my business.
After all, as a public figure who has the audacity to earn his living in the public eye, any usual reticence about nosiness should absolutely not be afforded to him. Why should he have access to riches and fame that I don’t have if I’m not allowed to take moral umbrage at the perfidiousness of his personal affairs? After all, when he scores a goal, doesn’t he celebrate by doing a cartwheel, raising his shirt, and mouthing the words “Anyone who is unfaithful to their wife is a beastly swine”? Doesn’t he chair the cross party committee on marriage fidelity in between training sessions? And doesn’t his pre-match warm up involve walking around punching the face of anyone who has had carnal liaisons behind their partner’s back?
Now listen, I think he was a fool to take out a super injunction, but don’t tell me those paragons of virtue The Sun and Max Clifford have been championing this case out of some virtuous appetite for moral crusades. It’s quite right that the rich shouldn’t have more rights than us due to the power of their wallets: in that case I assume The Sun going to campaign to outlaw private education and instead call for redistribution of the money individuals spend on that to invest in education that will benefit everyone? No? Why not? Because this isn’t about rich man’s privilege, this is about freedom of the press. We currently have a press that is free to quote “a close friend” of a star that it’s doing a hatchet job on. A close friend who manages to pour scorn on said individual and do so whilst speaking entirely in puns. Journos of my acquaintance have been quite open about just making quotes up to back a story. Yes, we have a press so free they can choose to ruin someone’s life as only the most rigorous purveyors of information and guardians of our national standards can be. It’s a freedom to cherish. And our free press has whipped the public into a frenzy, so much so that with a Guervarian zeal for revolution, the empowered British nation revealed, en masse, this duplicitous man’s shame, all the while intellectualising their rubbernecking by portraying it as some kind of triumph for humanity. Absolutely. Giggs had sex with Imogen Thomas, and a man having sex with a woman to whom he isn’t married is such a rare event it is worth the investment of our time – it’s like Halley’s Comet, but with fluids.
Now of course, should Imogen Thomas wish to talk about it to the press she should have every right to, just has she has every right to flash her vulva in a gentleman’s quarterly for a shilling if that’s her ambition – if people want this stuff there is nothing especially awful about her exploiting that to earn a living (though she denies that she wanted to do this, and I’m not going to doubt her as I don’t know her and that’s hardly the point in all of this). If a man is allowed to gag a woman after sleeping with her that suggests an uncomfortable dominance of the masculine perspective in the way we view such liaisons and suggests we need to grow up a bit (especially those of you expecting me to capitalise on the word gag to facilitate a cheap joke within these parentheses).
At the end of the day, it’s not Thomas, or Giggs, or even the papers that come out of this the worst. It’s us. We allow ourselves to be diverted by this stuff, dehumanise the real people whose lives are manipulated for our vicarious pleasure, and cry foul because a silly man’s reaction to something that’s none of our business has dared to stick two fingers up to the muck-raking denizens of Grub Street. It’s alright though, because thanks to people power the truth will out and we can count ourselves truly free. Tomorrow I hope we’ll be Tweeting that Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia and that Emmanuel Goldstein is a love rat, just to show what a truly liberated people who won’t tolerate a decency vacuum we are.
In the end, and on balance, I think super injunctions are not a good thing, but I also don’t think the stories the press have been trying to break, in these cases, are what a responsible media and evolved society should be proud of breaking. What really takes the biscuit though, is that the self-cast arbiters of standards in this have been tabloid newspapers. So the moral yardstick is now being measured and dictated to us by people who root through celebrities’ bins for a living.
It’s like being drilled in likeability by Piers Morgan.