Canterbury Tales

What on earth has happened to Question Time? Once a pillar of televisual political debate it has descended into some sort of dumbed down Wright Stuff. Whether that is a reflection on the BBC, popular culture or the state of politics in general is debatable. What is certain is that the late Robin Day would not have been impressed by what this show has become.

Last night’s episode had been built up by the Beeb themselves as a battle between the former addict and lethario Russell Brand and the acceptable face of the far right, Nigel Farage. At times the whole thing just collapsed. David Dimbleby seems to have just given up. Looking bemused at times, often not bothering to effecively chair proceedings, guests and audience members just shouted over each other.

The audience seemed to largely fall into Brand-ites, whooping and hollering at whatever he said like they were at an American stand-up gig and UKIP-ers baying for the blood of any potential immigrant within a 500 mile radius.

Canterbury’s finest were all there. The mad shouty woman, the shouty man with the stick and the classic, “now I’m not racist but…” lady. The local Head of Tourism must have been having cold sweats.

As light relief the potty mouthed, Tory diver Penny Mordaunt was there only to be reminded early doors by Dimbleby for her love of the word “cock” and she never recovered.

In truth the whole Brand vs Farage thing was an anti-climax. They might as well have re-booked that Welsh bloke from the call centre thing. Perhaps Question Time should go further and just book Anne Diamond,  Scott Capurro, any random Australian soap star and replace Dimbleby with Matthew Wright.

Buried Alive

It’s been a week of podcast controversy in and around the WWE Universe. Whilst the majority of the headlines have been concerned with CM Punk’s revelations, Steve Austin had Vince McMahon to probe via the WWE Network. As much as all eyes were focused on what Vince’s response to Punk might be there was something more revelatory in that interview which stood out for me.

Traditionally, Triple H is the notorious bringer of death to an up and coming wrestler’s career. If there is an opportunity to bury someone, Hunter is usually there spade in hand. However it was Vince’s turn to perform the last rights when he discussed Cesaro. He lacks “it” according to the boss leaving Cesaro buried alive.

You can go back and take a view at a long list of squandered potential throughout WWE’s history. You can make a case for a number of talents who literally forced themselves through the proverbial “glass ceiling” too despite, by and large, the negative shovel skills of a certain Mr HHH. (I’d suggest Jericho and more recently Daniel Bryan here for starters) Vince’s comments though will have been sure to sting The King of Swing. Cesaro has pulled off some great matches but WWE have squandered the opportunity to push him.

If one thing stands out from CM Punk’s talk to Colt Cabana (if we are to take Punk’s words at face value) it’s that WWE’s forward planning is somewhat lacking. Cesaro seems a case in point. Despite some quality in ring work WWE has had him lurch from one half hearted programme to the next. The lack of some clear direction has been key in Cesaro’s mid-card purgatory and no doubt a corporate lack of faith hasn’t helped either.

In the meantime all Cesaro can do is keep having great matches and hope Vince’s head can be turned. He might also take comfort in the fact that at least he’s not Fandango, whose re-package seems to be Rosa Mendez, new music and a shirt.

Terror at TESCO

A few months back, I popped into TESCO on my lunch break and wandered through the technology department. Amongst the latest tablets, digital cameras and video games was an arrangement of boxed television sets. Nothing unusual there you might think. However, on closer inspection I was intrigued by this display. In fact, I was a little bit concerned by the makers of these TVs, their name boldly emblazened on the box. As you might expect we’re not talking a ‘big name’ brand here. These sets were properly “cheap as chips”, except the makers seemed familiar, just not in the context of value for money technology. Who was this mysterious budget brand?

ISIS.

Yes, that’s right ISIS!

Now, I understand, thanks to our Home Secretary, that the terrorist threat is at the “we’re all doomed” level, recently increased of course from the previous “run for your lives” level. I wasn’t expecting terror in TESCO though! What was going on here? What sort of evil plot to bring down Western civilisation as we know it could involve the sale of shoddy tech at a popular supermarket? Should I report this somewhere? Surely, this is exactly the type of thing Theresa May has been guarding us to “remain vigilant” about.

In the end, I casually went and bought a sandwich, crisps and drink “meal deal”, also good value, although without the threat of terrorist activity and left the store and thought nothing of it. I figured that ISIS must just be an unfortunate brand name coinciding with the terror group of the same name.

That was until Black Friday, when the same cheap televisions, (now at seriously rock bottom prices) spawned apocolyptic scenes in the scramble for    a one-off bargain. Fighting, mauling, gouging, trampling, kicking, screaming. Oh the humanity!

Terror had truly hit TESCO and ISIS had won.

ISIS?
ISIS?

If only I’d warned Theresa May.

I’ve got Eurosong fever Ted!

It’s that time of year again. The 2014 Eurovision song contest kicks off in about an hour’s time from Copenhagen. It’s marmite quality undeminished, this year’s competition probably doesn’t have the strongest line up of songs (if that’s actually unusual) but for me is stll one of my favourite nights of the year. Here’s my view on what to look out for from each country:

1. Ukraine – The song is likely to be annexed by Russia as masked forces impound their hamster wheel.

2. Belarus – Discounted by the bookmakers at 300-1, I think this might actually be worth an each way bet. It is lyrically terrible but has an annoyingly catchy tune. Hey! This is Eurovision for goodness sake! Incidentally, replace the chorus with the lines, “Catchy tune, terrible lyrics” and you’ll be singing it for weeks!

3. Azerbaijan – Dull ballad not made any more entertaining by the trapeze act.

4. Iceland – It’s The Wiggles meets Show Waddy Waddy! Mid-table alternative vote.

5. Norway – This is a tip for some. Personally, I think it’s a dreary, monotonous ballad. Good opportunity to put the kettle on.

6. Romania. – It’s Ovi and Paula again! They came 3rd three years ago but I don’t think they’ll do as well this time around. You can always rely on Ovi for a gimmick piano and Paula for a ridiculously long and high note. Show offs!

7. Armenia – This guy could be the Armenian Dr Who! Decent chance in a Euro-phoric dance kind of way.

8. Montenegro – It’s like Dancing on Ice, except there’s no ice or Torvill and Dean or Phillip Schofield. The song? Just concentrate on the skater!

9. Poland – I don’t think the “everyday sexism” movement has hit Poland yet. Terrible song and soft porn style staging. Where’s my washboard?

10. Greece – Beware Greeks bearing songs already popular across Europe featuring a bloke from Hackney! Features the world’s first Plinth-o-lene!

11. Austria – Eurovision has to have a central talking point. In the past we’ve had the unstable transexual, the Russian faux lesbians and of course, Jedward. This year Austria present “the bearded lady”. Ok, it’s a man, in a dress with a beard, but this Bond theme styled ditty is one of the hot favourites.

12. Germany – Taking it seriously this year but the song is only OK and the singer can have tuning issues. No Bayern Munich!

13. Sweden – Powerful ballad and another hot favourite with the bookies. Went down very well on Tuesday’s first semi-final so hard to see past this one.

14. France – Ah! The French. The hilarious French. The zany, witty, comic land of France. Nul point!

15. Russia – Twins! Everyone loves twins don’t they? Well, apparently not if they’re from  Russia these days! Boooooooooooo!

16. Italy – Pink tribute act.

17. Slovenia – An angry looking woman with a flute. She could have someone’s eye out with that!

18. Finland – Bland identikit boy-band probably looking forward to avoiding paying tax in the near future, as I believe is the boy-band tradition. Allegedly.

19. Spain. – Dark horse entry from Spain who usually enter a joke act of the unfunny variety. Not a bit of it this year. Well worth an each-way bet on a strong ballad.

20. Switzerland – Roger Whittaker meets Mumford and Sons.

21. Hungary – Running, running, running to make another cuppa. Two sugars please!

22. Malta – The Corrs meet Mulligan and O’Hare. Next!

23. Denmark – Nice enough but stinks of not wanting to win and being to forced to host this money sapping contest again. Look what happened to Ireland!

24. The Netherlands – It comes to something when one of the best songs in the whole contest is a Dutch Country & Western duet!

25. San Marino – Have a lie down. You’ve come this far and you’ll need all your energy for the voting. Dull!

26. United Kingdom – Last up it’s us plucky Brits. At least this year, the Russians have slammed us in the most hated country in Europe stakes. Mid-table respectability beckons.

So, there you go. Sadly there is no man in a perspex box this year and the Belgian Go Compare man didn’t qualify. Take it easy. It’s going to be a long night!

Dirty, Filthy, Diseased Pets

Friday was clearly a slow news day.

Firstly, the story about four people in Newbury catching Bovine TB from their pet cat is certainly a newsworthy item. However, the analysis of this story transgressed into the ridiculous. It is thought that the infected moggies may have contracted the disease from a stray cat which, in turn may have contracted the disease from a badger or an infected rodent. Transmission into humans, such as happened in this case, is extremely rare. You have more chance of winning the lottery jackpot than Tiddles passing on his germs over to you. This didn’t stop the media though speculating on your beloved pet bringing down civilisation as we know it…

Dirty, filthy, diseased pets. They’re coming to get you! Run for you lives! Burn them! Dirty, filthy diseased pets! Yes, your dear, doting cat, sitting on your lap. DON’T STROKE IT! It really wants to kill you. It’s been conspiring with the neighbourhood badger. Effectively, it’s put a contract out on you. Dirty, filthy diseased, flea infested kitty cat.

Don’t trust that guinea pig either. Dirty, filthy, disease ridden rodent. VERMIN! VERMIN! Twitching its cute little nose, running on its little wheel. Keep it closely guarded in that cage. Electrify it! Rotten, plague infested rodent.

Lovely, colourful, chirpy parrot. Pecking at its mirror and happily sitting on its swing. Who’s a pretty boy then? Not you parrot! Psychotic, murderous, evil, attention seeking, feathered bird of death. Each squawk filling the air with the putrid, lethal stench of bird flu.

Fluffy, bunny rabbit. Floppy eared, carrot munching, hoppy, doe-eyed bundle of fun. Alas! Don’t be fooled! Bright-eyed bringer of the Grim Reaper along with its cousin the homicidal hare. Myxomatosis riddled, sharp toothed slayer! Be gone bunny!

Dirty, filthy, diseased pets. They’re coming to get you. Run for your lives! Burn them! DIRTY…FILTHY…DISEASED…PETS!!!

And now sport…

Jo Brand and the Art of Celebrity Discomfort

Forget selfies! Selfies are so last week! Trends change quicker than opposition teams scoring at Old Trafford. (#MoyesIn) Whilst selfies have been everywhere recently, such as at award ceremonies, second-rate talent shows and clogging up your social media feeds for days on end, the new selfie is the craze for celebrity discomfort.

In the age of multi-channel TV, social media and rolling news you might well be thinking that celebrity discomfort is not an entirely new thing and you would be right of course. The media and the viewing public love to see celebrities squirm. Celebrity Big Brother, I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, Celebrity Love Island, Hole in the Wall and of course that one where David Beckham’s kiss and tell whats-her-face got a bit too intimate with a pig.

Things have moved on though since these halcyon days of reality celebrity squirmathons. Recently a whole new level of celebrity discomfort has been reached as anyone who sat through Jo Brand trying to present BBC One’s The One Show will testify. Last week for two agonisingly long half-hours Jo brought all the warmth, charm and traditional sofa-driven, teatime faux chumsiness of a piranah in a packed swimming pool having not eaten for a month. She couldn’t have looked more uncomfortable on the One Show’s gaudy sofa if she had been asked to complete the whole show stark naked whilst the smiling assassin himself, Matt Baker, constantly threw itching powder at her. I haven’t seen someone look so miserable, irritated and less pleased to be somewhere than when Gordon Brown had to apologise to “that bigoted woman”. She made Jeff Brazier look like TV gold. Yes it was that bad! Never before has a nation breathed such a collective sigh of relief when Gabby Logan appeared to take over the guest host role.

Jo Brand however, isn’t exactly my point. The reason she was there in the first place was because Matt Baker’s usual TV wife, (do people still use that phrase?) Alex Jones was crying her way up an “impossible climb” in aid of Sport Relief. Here’s where the trend I’m talking about kicks in. We’ve always had a tradition of celebrity fundraising and in itself this is no bad thing, but recently the fundraising efforts have become centred all around “the challenge”. That challenge has to be immense too. Gone are the days when a marathon would do! If you’re a celebrity and you want to raise money nowadays we need to see a journey. It can’t be any old journey either, it has to involve one or more of the following:

  1. Months of tough preparation with a trainer who will push the celebrity to the limit whilst also being available to be a shoulder to cry on.
  2. A complete pre-challenge wobble, culminating in a breakdown with lots of tears and repeated use of the phrase “I can’t do this!”
  3. A pre-challenge injury or injuries which are extremely painful, involve tears and preferably even more painful treatment which is just serious enough to add some jeopardy to the challenge without being so serious the challenge can’t be started in the first place.
  4. Some sort of mental stress that causes the celebrity to reveal personal information about their lives whilst in a vulnerable state leading to more tears.
  5. The celebrity is close to breaking point and quitting the challenge mid-way through only to be comforted and refocused by a celebrity friend or random well-wisher, leading to more tears and the repeated use of the phrase, “I can do this!”
  6. An injury during the challenge creating heightened jeopardy but still just not quite enough for the challenge to be abandoned.
  7. The moment of sheer joy at the completion of the challenge, leading to uncontrollable tears, partial collapse or mental breakdown and the all important “big cheque” moment.

In recent weeks we’ve had Alex Jones’ journey of sobbing up a mountain and Davina McCall’s week long pain induced, hypothermia fueled sob-athon cycling, swimming and running across the UK. Ordinarily, I like a bit of celebrity suffering as much as the next person but I’m just a little uncomfortable with just how far people will expect celebrities to go before they decide to part with their hard earned cash in the name of charity. No doubt the bar will be raised higher next time around, but just what will we be forced to watch? Mel and Sue spending a week in a lion enclosure with only a toothbrush to help them? Andrew Neil jumping over 43 parked double-decker buses on a motorbike whilst being shot at by the SAS? Claudia Winkleman locked in a perspex box for a month without access to any eye-liner?

Whatever the next big challenge is, I just hope Jo Brand isn’t called upon to fulfill the guest host duties.

 

Beware!!! The Lazy Parenting of Others Can Turn You into Katie Hopkins

The other night my two daughters were performing at a local college’s theatre as part of their dance school’s annual show. I’m sure other parents will be aware of this sort of thing. Your child’s two minute performance will be by far the best part of the entire evening as that’s what you’ve come to see after all. The other three hours will be filled by a rag tag of show offs, ill fitting costumes and poorly executed wannabe Diversity routines which have all the grace and panache of a cat nodding off on a narrow ledge and inevitably falling off it.

Now, to be honest this particular show wasn’t too bad. Trust me, I’ve been to a number of these and there were no phoney American accents in a song and dance routine and there weren’t any outfits worn by the girls taking part to make you shuffle awkwardly in your seat whilst wondering why dance schools haven’t progressed along with the rest of civilised society since the Minipops. I could have sat there and had a quite enjoyable… OK, maybe not enjoyable… quite pleasant… OK then, relatively agreeable time apart from one thing.

Unfortunately for me, sat behind me were a young couple and their toddler. Don’t get me wrong, I realise this is early days in our blogging time together, I’m not about to call for a blanket ban on all young couples and their toddlers! Relax reader, I know you’re already reeling from the image I’ve conjured up of the Minipops earlier not to mention the reference to Katie Hopkins in the title but stick with me! I’m a reasonable man. This wasn’t a West End Show featuring that gobby one from Blackpool who won that Andrew Lloyd Webber thing and that bloke with the perm who was on the other Lloyd Webber thing who married Denise van Outen, who incidentally was a judge on that said Lloyd Webber thing. (I’m sure it was all above board and after all it was a long time ago and besides it didn’t last. Who’d have thought eh?) Anyhow, I digress, you get the point, this wasn’t Broadway, I understand a young couple might bring a toddler to an amateur kids dance show and the toddler might not quite understand the etiquette of watching any sort of performance.

However, there are a few things I might, not unreasonably, come to expect from said parents and toddler:

  1. Said toddler will no doubt want to start a conversation throughout the show, mainly starting by pointing at the stage and audibly shouting, “Wha’s tha’?!!” As a parent your response should be, “SSSSSHHHHHH!” and not encouraging the toddler by answering in full, generally having a conversation with the toddler and therefore not establishing the basic building blocks of theatre etiquette for later life.
  2. Inevitably, said toddler will point towards the stage whilst shouting, “Wha’s tha’?!!” I’m not a fan of having a toddler sticking and poking their fingers in my ears.
  3. I appreciate three hours is a long time for a toddler to sit still. I’ll give a little leeway here, as I find sitting still for three hours can be difficult too and I’m nearly forty! Now, when the boredom threshold of the beloved toddler becomes so thin that they resort to kicking the seat in front of them constantly, and might I add, not even in time with the music! At least teach the child some rhythm for goodness sake! As a parent, your response must be to stop them immediately rather than ignoring it whilst continuing making small-talk with the aforementioned toddler.
  4. As sure as night becomes day and Routine 33 leads to Routine 34 the unchastised toddler will become wary of merely kicking the seat infront of them, MY SEAT(!) infront of them and look to expand their horizons accordingly. My seat, provides some resistance to the constant kicking, if not to my growing sense of anger, at least to my lower back. My neck and head though are sadly exposed however. Ah! The wonder of kicking a random stranger’s head as an annoying little brat, whilst on stage a young man portraying Austin Powers shouts, “Oh Behave!” The irony is inescapable.

Now at this point I turned around and pleasantly gave the internationally recognised face for, “C’mon eh, keep your kid in check will you please?” You can’t risk saying anything of course, because you don’t want to cause a scene at your children’s dance show and Austin Powers is in full swing with his rendition of, “Yeah baby!” Mum is too busy making smalltalk with the foot toting bruiser to even notice whilst Dad begrudgingly utters a, “Sorry mate.” and nudges Mum to deal with the situation.

Ten minutes later and the kicks start again. I start to persuade myself that there should be some sort of Proficiency Test for Prospective Parents. Incidentally, I also think there should be a Proficiency Test for Umbrella Users, particularly for short people who can be literally lethal swaggering about with a brolly! (For the record I can’t tell you how happy I am to get that umbrella line in so early into these blogs. I used it for years on the radio and the sense of pride I’m feeling is immense right now!) As the voice in my head makes the whole Proficiency Test for Prospective Parents sound a valid vote winning policy for a brighter future, I start to see Katie Hopkins’ bile filled, screwed up face in my mind genuinely trying to convince me into believing it.

Immediately, I come to my senses and start to kick the seat in front of me.