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 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).
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).