Tuesday, March 06, 2012

MITHERING: Moans, rants, whinges

One of the poster adverts for Sky's new F1 channel sums up the 'sport' - a man about to change a tyre.

F1 is glorified Kwik Fit where tyre changes, types of tyres, engines and other technical jiggery-pokery determine who wins rather than the skills of the sportsman.

Why is F1 so popular and why does it get so much attention?

I've been to Oulton Park motor racing track and understand the excitement of watching and hearing two vehicles tearing around and trying to overtake each other. I've watched motorcycling races where the bikes are almost horizontal and the competitors are almost brushing their knees and elbows on the track.

But F1? The thrill of motorsport is one competitor racing past the other. In F1, this rarely happens. If one team has a technical edge, there is nothing the drivers of the rival teams can do.

It's like one football team having the equivalent of Billy's Boots from the Eagle comic without the charm.

Add to this the largely personality-free, overpaid drivers and the horrible 'pit babes' atmosphere. It all makes F1 possibly the worst sport on TV and radio.

Thank goodness the BBC has given some of it up so it can carry on spending money on its local radio commentaries on rugby league and football - now they are genuinely exciting sports.

I came across the most unappealing book title in WH Smith - When I Was A Nipper by Alan Titchmarsh. A quick flick through revealed it to be the biggest load of sepia-tinted hardship drivel I've seen in a long time.

The blurb reads 'Born in Yorkshire in 1949, Alan remembers a time of relative calm, when it was enough to return home at night knowing that the house would still be standing'.

Yes it's terrible nowadays. You can't go out for 10 minutes without these gangs of hoodies demolishing your house and taking it away for scrap.

And notice the irrelevant Yorkshire reference. Is Alan trying to take Parky's title of Top Professional Yorkshireman?

All the cliches are in there - outside toilets (it was cold in February), Sunday best, kids playing safely on the street, love of queuing. In fact the book seems to be a big list, although Alan does reveal some personal details such as when he was a teenager and girls were 'even more important than gardening'. I bet he was the Eric Olthwaite of horticulture.

Then he later reveals that 'Kath and I were regular clients of Dolly and Simpson on Blackpool beach'. Dolly and Sampson were donkeys and Alan charmingly remembers how the donkeys would go at the same pace now matter how hard you kicked them.

The subtitle of the book is 'The Way We Were in Disappearing Britain'. If Britain was disappearing then, has it completely disappeared now?

Ice cream vans, conkers, harvest festivals are all featured in the book. But aren't they still around now?

Perhaps worst of all Titchmarsh tries to make a virtue of this 'poor but happy' world. The blurb says it's a 'timely call to all recession-hit Brits to heed the lessons of austerity Britain: make do and mend, look on the bright side and take the knocks on the chin'.

Hurrah! I've still got a smile on my face even though I've lost my job and I'll tell you why. See these trousers? I knitted them myself.


I CAN’T believe people are whingeing about Jonathan Ross, a truly original and witty broadcaster and a sad loss for the BBC.

You only have to remember the excruciating Parkinson, with his long-winded questions that even he looked bored by, and Wogan, with his unfunny smarminess, to realise that Ross was a breath of fresh air – a quick-witted performer who established a real rapport with most of his guests and members of the public.

Only a humourless prude or the Daily Mail could describe Ross as crude – he had a Carry On-style humour leavened with self-deprecation and a real affection for women, unlike some of the laddish boors.

As for his salary, which included costs for his production team, no-one seems to complain about Wogan, the most overrated broadcaster ever, and charmless Jeremy Clarkson.

Do you think the licence fee will go down now Ross has gone? No, it’ll stay the same and we’ll get a load of bland presenters who don’t offend the professional whingers.

I've been to several gyms over the years, in an attempt to keep my vast arse in check and make more room for cakes and ale, and all of them have one thing in common - dreadful, bovine dance music.

Most of the songs seem to be one or two of the same notes on a synth, a woman saying 'rhythm', 'Hey DJ, 'Take me higher', 'Everybody' in various combinations, and underneath most of the songs the 'Huh/Yehs' from It Takes Two To Make a Thing Go Right.

One song has the lyric 'What more can I say, you take my breath away' and even though the singer admits she has nothing to say, she goes on and on and on.

I don't have an iPod (I like to have my wits about me in public) and I'm not sure it would drown out the gymnausea.

I have thought about asking the staff to change the music, but I fear the tanned and toned gods and goddesses will look at me like a mad dad complaining about The Sweet's hair on Top of the Pops.

There are plenty of uptempo numbers suitable for gyms - Weddoes' Kennedy for running, Maceo and the Macks' Cross the Tracks for cycling, Elmore James for sit-ups. Come on gyms - fix it!

Can anyone explain the appeal of Mika? He may be a kiddy's entertainer, with his cartoon expressions and loud clothes, but why is he so successful?

I saw him on Jonathan Ross looking like Zoolander's brother, performing something which sounded like Fame crossed with Springtime for Hitler, in a voice that occasionally lurched into a car alarm squeal, with lyrics that either had been randomly generated by monkeys: 'Teenage dream is a teenage circus' or by the Ood: 'We are not who you think we are'.

And he can't say golden ('gowl-din')

1 Parkinson "I'm not the type to get a knighthood as I come from Barnsley".
"Why would I not accept the knighthood? Are you joking, someone from Barnsley? I love being Sir Michael."
He lives in Bray, Berkshire.

2 Geoffrey Boycott Big hat. Shouty voice. I never hit that woman, the French courts were to blame.

3 Yorkshire Cricket Club It's Trueman v Close v Boycott v Illingworth. Notorious big(heads) in epic bickering fest.

4 Alan Bennett We went to a cafe in Keighley to avoid the drizzle but they'd done it up and it was all herbal teas. Mam asked for something soft as her teeth were playing up.

5 Cilla Black
Hat check girl in the Cavern. Brian Epstein. The Beatles. Look at me HURRRR, I've had it cut.
Lives in London.

6 Ian McMillan Lion-faced rhymester, beloved by the Lavinias who control Radio 4 when they realise they need a token Northerner on their pompous quiz shows.
Straight outta Baaaaaarnsley!

7 Barrie Rutter and Northern Broadsides Theatre Company Eeeh, it's t' Shakespeare in t'Northern accents.
T' be or not t'be, tha knows

8 Me
Moaning, cynical and surly, just like proper Northerners are supposed to be.
Tutting at "fancy London ways" even though I've lived there, thought it was a good place and most of the people were friendly
Putting on a strong Northern accent when workmen are in the house.

"Can I just ask you...er..what do you think when you're going up for an award, any award, whether it's big..or...or..small and you suddenly look down...and..er..you've just noticed your shoes aren't cleaned or...or.. your trousers aren't pressed...I mean what is that like? What does that..er..feel like exactly?"

Parky, Parky, Parky - he may have been big in the seventies when he had massive stars letting rip, but he's ended up as some mumbling, long-winded professional Yorkshireman who's barely interested in his own questions let alone the answers from his guests, sitting knee to knee to them while he looks down at his shoes, acting as a straight man with feed lines for the comedians and revealing nothing of interest about his other guests.

And he has the cheek to criticise Jonathan Ross, who apart from the occasional sycophancy towards big American stars, has a genuinely exciting and funny show.

Bye-bye Parky.

Camra fundamentalists
Whingeing bores give real ale a bad name
Two years ago I was serving behind the bar at the Huddersfield Beer Festival when the club we were in decided to show an important England football match. There was no sound, it was unobtrusive and several drinkers started watching. Just then, a man who looked like an extra from a pirate movie who had forgotten to take his blood pressure tablets, shouted: 'The whole festival is ruined'. What?!

Sadly this is typical of the Camra fundamentalist, who thinks a TV and a jukebox shouldn't belong in a pub so everyone can hear them bellow their opinions about the legality of ordering a third of a pint of beer.

They sit at the bar like limpets, trying to catch the landlord out with their knowledge of Maris hops while blocking the bar so others can't see what beers are on.

And they drone on about the importance of a full pint - which pub has ever refused to top a pint up and who says filling a pint to the very top is so good? They give all Camra members a reputation for nitpicking jobworthiness.

I Taught Men To Turn Over A New Page - that was the headline on a recent Observer piece "celebrating" the 20th anniversary of Arena magazine, in which founder Nick Logan "changed the face of magazine publishing".

What a load of old cobblers! I remember buying one of the first Arena mags - it was 40 pages of suits, 10 pages about caneoing up the Amazon, 5 pages of £800 corkscrews and an interview with a boring model.

Nothing about interesting women (or indeed relationships), little about music, sport, television or film - a magazine for the vain boss classes, whacking off in front of their mirrors in their Hugo Boss suits.

Logan reckons it was the first men's magazine which wasn't top shelf or specialist but I didn't know any men who liked it - even in London.

Once the mainstream media decide something is trendy and brilliant, no dissenting voices are heard and so, 20 years on, it appears that history records that Arena and its ilk were a fantastic success, even though the articles were overlong and humourless and the photographs were mannered - usually pictures of a ludicrous clotheshorse looking miserable because his flat was so minimalist he had nothing to sit on.

The clotheshorse was sometimes Robert Elms.

Ah Elms - the man who once went on Channel 4's The Tube in the mid-80s to explain the importance of having red stitching inside your jeans, even though no-one can see the stitching. When challenged about the stupidity of his comment, he called everyone "northern scum".

Showing that criticising fashionable clothes is the last great taboo in the media (as fashion ads bring in shedloads of cash and some rich folk have more money than sense) Elms has had a successful career, culminating this year in his book about his clothes.

This includes a story of how his gang of QPR-supporting mates saw off a gang from Coventry because the Midlanders' clothes were one month out of date.

Here's an extract (from The Guardian): "Some of Coventry's top boys were sporting Fila, which had gone out of fashion in London at least a month before.
Instead of launching ourselves at them, we were lambasting them for such gauche sartorial tardiness. As it dawned on them they'd been outdone in the style stakes, you could see their will for the contest wane. They'd been beaten and they knew it."

Three things here:
1 The depressing importance of inanimate objects over people which persists today. The fact you couldn't give a flying fork about anyone - their morals, their beliefs - just their shirts.

2 The use of the phrase "gauche sartorial tardiness". Elms has obviously been to his Thesaurus for the most inappropriate and outlandish alternative for "one month out of date".

3 The implausibility of the whole situation. As if some football hooligans are going to pull out of a fight because of their clothes, especially when they see Elms' gurning face.
"Er Gaz let's sort this QPR scum."
"Hang on Baz, look at our shirts - with this gauche sartorial tardiness we haven't got a chance."

Elms' excuse for being interested in clothes is that it's "a working class thing" - like being working class is free pass to tw*tdom.

Grunting gym weightlifters
NYAAAAAARGH! Hey Mr Steroid no-neck, who are trying to impress bellowing like a buffalo that's been bitten in the balls?

If it's too heavy, put it down. We don't care if you're lifting a supermarket, just shut up you chump!

People who say 'Political correctness gone mad'
Really mean they can't be as racist as they were before so they invent stories about black bin bags offending people.

Would you say cripple anymore? Well you can thank political correctness for that!

And as it's no longer politically correct to say political correct, call it good manners or respect for others.

Lord of the Rings
Overlong battle scenes, in which the goodies always beat overwhelming odds, punctuated by earnest discussions about whether the elves will help, or the goblins, or the dwarves, or Mr Wobbly from Wibbly Land.

Or maybe the tall trees can defeat Christopher Lee. Ooooh, the tall trees are going to save us from Christopher Lee!

And who are all these characters - Orlando Bland, what does he do again?

It's all completely humourless and is desperately in need of Brian Blessed SHOUTING LIKE HE DID IN FLASH GORDON. "HAWKMEN, DIIIIIIVE!" (When he was in his patrol car in Z Cars did he shout: "POLICEMAN, DRIIIIIVE!"?)

Lord of the Rings also needs editing but that would offend the prog-rock geeks who like it. Give me a Ray Harryhausen monster film any day.

Incidentally Tolkien was a real ale drinker (probably) as he used to meet CS Lewis in the Eagle and Child in Oxford (a Good Beer Guide pub). Despite supping quaffable ale all they could produce was second rate Greek myths and second rate fairy stories.
Blessed picture: Bradford University