Monday, 29 October 2007

Strictly Go Homing

I am really not sure about democracy. Leaving aside the huge problems it creates in government, which fiddles the system and then throws its weight about because it has "a mandate", the weaknesses in it are very plainly demonstrated by Strictly Come Dancing.

How come Gabby Logan - lovely, rhythmic gymnast Gabby, with her amazing figure (after TWINS, people!) and her staggering work ethic - is off, while Kute but Krappy Kate and Kenny live to dance another day? It is Democracy At Work. Or, to be more precise, another skewed and controlled system.

The Judges have always had first say, and distributed the first votes, and now, under a new, improved Gordon Brown regime, they have the final say, as well, cherry picking the "best" of the bottom two in a sadistic Sunday dance-off.

So this year the voters are really under the cosh, because now they have to keep those they hope to see again out of the bottom two. And it seems not to have occurred to the producers, or whichever fruit loop changed the system, that there is NOTHING people loathe more than knowing that Their Input Doesn't Count. The point used to be that the public had the final say. Okay, often this reflected painful truths about our society, or our taste in dancing, but nobody could claim it wasn't a straighforward system.

The reason Christopher Parker was kept in for eleventy seven episodes more than he should have been was partly the fact that - like God - we love a trier, but mainly because the Judges were utterly cruel to him. The nuttiness that keeps us great rose up in rebellion against the Voices of Sequinned Authority, and as a nation we voted for the Hopeless One to be given new challenges and represent our own uselessness. When Julian Clary proved nearly as poor, we cheerfully voted for him. Did we care that he moves like Andy Pandy might with a carrot up his little wooden bot, that he wore the clothes better than he wore the moves, that he had as much rhythm as a single vegetable rolling unfettered around the back of a transit van? Did we hell. He went on "It Takes Two" with Miss Erin Whiplash and Valerie the dog, and we remembered how well we like a little bit of camp, and voted, voted, voted.

This ends up with the Great Sadness of Gabby. In my book, she too was a trier. She had the misfortune, however, of being a succeeder. The tactical voters - voting to keep in the couples they hope will improve, or who they feel have had a raw deal (whose heart doesn't ache for Anton du Beke, who has Yet Another Celeb who can't cut it, while Brendan Cole has another glamour puss, this time clearly with ballet training?) fight it out at the bottom of the pile.

So perhaps the problem is not democracy, but the mistrust those in authority have over our voting habits. The more our powers are constricted, the more we weave, dodge and manipulate the system. And poor Gabby Logan, whom I admire for her determination and drive, fails to attract the vote by reason of her competence.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Bye Bye Wild Guy

The Wild Gourmets is at an end. This is sad, for the pointlessness of this series touched and moved me deeply. What were they hoping to prove? Viewers are most unlikely to be able to pop up to Scotland for the red deer cull for their daily dinners, so the programme fails to be like most cook shows, where you might conceivably improve your life by making some of the recipes. Equally, stomping about the Scottish Highlands with a land rover shows us very little that is unfamiliar enough to be a revelation, so the "wild" side of things seems pretty tame; a far cry from Bruce Parry or Bear Grylls.

Still, they earned my kindly if rather patronising respect because Guy can kill a deer with a single shot, poke it in the eye to check it's dead, and then gut it without turning a hair. Tommy can pick an entire salad from a mouldy old wall, and confidently identify berries that won't kill you so she can cook them for Guy when he returns with the Meat and Makes Fire for her. As old fashioned family values go, they are Poster Children. And of course, should anything ever bring civilisation to collapse, they would be good types to Take To The Woods With. Remember you read it here first.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Happy Snapping

This week the Wild Gourmets stepped up a gear by going fishing. Wading about the marshy shallows of East Anglia, they got a flounder. A flounder is, as any readers of fairy tales knows, a bloody good catch, not least because they often turn out to be magic speaking fish who offer you a statutory three-wish deal in exchange for not eating them (indicating a high degree of tastiness, when you think about it. Unless I was very hungry, I suspect I would be bought off with the offer of a single wish by any speaking fish. Or even just a nice chat.)

This fish did not speak, partly because Guy was so busy extolling its fleshiness it would have been well lucky to get a word in edgeways before suffocation kicked in. There would have been no point in his letting the fish speak, anyway, as he was so excited that any more stimulation would have caused expiration on the spot. He spoke so long and glowingly about the lovely fleshy flounder and what a wondrous fine, decadent breakfast it would make, that I began to think he would embrace the other fairy tale standby, and send it to the King, in the hope of future marital links to the Royal Household (going up in the world really has got harder, hasn't it?) But the longing for fried breakfast overcame his proper duty to his sovereign, and we cannot look forward to Tommy marrying a Prince any time soon. Disappointingly, as I have considerable respect for Tommy, even if she does celebrate the first days of winter by sewing herself into chunky knitwear.

On the subject of the Royals, I notice that William and Kate have been suffering from Papping again. I could almost feel sorry for them, because it must be so vile and horrible, being hounded by Mad-Max style mercenaries with long lenses when you have ALWAYS worn knickers in public places and thus done nothing to merit the intrusion of what seems very like a bunch of motorised psychopaths. But I can't, and it's to do with their insistence on having "an ordinary life". Rich people have no right to an ordinary life.

Firstly, to work. If you have enough money to live off without working, you should have no right to take well-paid work from out of the way of those who don't. Is Kate Middleton "middle class"? Not in my book. If your daddy is a millionaire, don't you sort of go up a grade? And rich people never get out of bed for the minimum wage. I say no. The rich should only be entitled to minimum wage. Work is for most people the ticket to a better life, and just how could people as rich as the Royals have a materially better life? The money from well-paid jobs should go to poorer people - ones who support children and work for a living, perhaps. And if they make a mess of running the BBC - well, so what? The men who gave us Maisie Raine need sacking anyway, and so do those who steal people's money on Premium Rate Phone-Ins.

Secondly, to being Defender of the Faith. You can't hold this title - or even be second in line to inherit it, imho - without realising that with the cash comes responsibility. Since I seem to remember that Jesus says the rich need to sell all they have and give the money to the poor in order to obtain heaven, I am Massively Shocked that none of the holders of the title, in its whole nearly-500 year history, have ever spent their time flogging off as many estates as they can, and making donations all over the shop, but they nobly choose to sacrifice themselves for us by keeping the poor out of the way of temptation or solvency or any of that nonsense. Thank you very much Royal Family, we say. But it's not an ordinary life, is it? So the Paparazzi hound you and it's frightful - but it's their cross, I guess, because that's the one they choose. So, one way or another, even though I do think it's an abuse of their human rights - I can't bring myself to feel much sympathy.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Give a Car a Break ...

Actually, I have given my cute little Corsakins a break - I drove it into a white van on Thursday morning. Eek. A break in its headlamp, front wing, bumper and bonnet. I was turning out of my road and I looked and looked the other way and checked the other way again and then drove forward and there was this van that had come out of nowhere! as people who don't look properly invariably say. Worse, I don't know if I saw it and didn't notice, or if I didn't look properly or if it really did appear through a rip in the space-time continuum - although given the enthusiastic appearance of a Witness for the White Van, my money's against this last. I got a really long way across the road before I hit it, so I suspect he had time to swerve, as well.

Then the twelve-year-old driving the van got out and said cheerily to my ashy green little face behind the feebly waving pencil, "Oh, it's far too early in the morning for all this, isn't it?" and when I had finished giving him my details, "Well, nice to meet you, anyway." Crazy earthlet. Doesn't he mean "We have to stop meeting like this?"

Anyway, now my car is in a Sorry State, so I, brave and foolish owner of only TPFT insurance, am seeking advice. Should I:

a) Get it properly repaired?
b) Get it partially repaired and resign myself to looking like I drive a scrapyard dodgem?
c) Not repair it at all and wait to see how long until I am arrested / it falls apart around me in the middle of the A370?
d) Knock the whole sorry thing on the head and buy a new car?

If any of you knows a bodyworker type who could be soft-soaped into charging me under £600 to do the job, let me know. (I could offer to coach his children in English in exchange, but I do realise that this may not be practical - and English teaching is probably much cheaper than car-fixing ... not for the first time I suspect I'm in the Wrong Job, except when I imagine just how bad a car repaired by me would look ...)

Like so much of life, it's a horrid nightmare, and next time I swear I'll look, I swear I will ...

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Not Getting Richer

STOP PRESS, CHICKEN LICKEN! The sky is falling! Oh my God, we're not getting richer! Forget about floods in Vietnam, child-stealing in China, the dodginess of local council services - this is important!!!

For too long we have allowed ourselves to be distracted from what's really important by piddling little issues like party politics, international humanitarianism, and illegal wars over the oil supply. Now comes the reckoning. We've been getting richer year on year since the 1950s, and now WE'RE NOT. What a chastening thought. Just because we have too many cars in the cities to find space to park them, too many waste computing and electronics items to dispose of without shipping them to the other side of the world, and children who totter to school jingling with mobiles, MP3s, iPods, assorted silver chains and Playboy Bunny charms like so many Christmas trees put out in a stiff breeze, does not suggest by any stretch of a wild imagination that we might damn well have ENOUGH. Hell no.

If we don't carry on getting richer, what will become of us? Will children have to pay attention at school because they can no longer text their paramours in neighbouring classrooms? Might we start looking favourably on flower-growing and vegetable cultivation, in our tragic desperation? Might we have a greater inclination to hold conversations than vast vats of beer chugging contests? Could the housing market realign itself with incomes, so that nurses and firemen could afford to buy a roof over their hardworking heads? Maybe people would begin to eat vegetables and home cooking instead of Ready Meals and die later and with a lower amount of obesity and farting. Oh it is all too horrible to contemplate. Quick, how can we solve the problem?

Friday, 5 October 2007

The Wild Gourmets - Dumb With Admiration

Channel 4 Tuesdays 8.30pm

I am dumbstruck with admiration by this programme. It has two Very Posh Types - one of each sex - running about the countryside causing annnoyance to local landowners by chirruping on about how you can Feast Off The Land FOR FREE!

Turns out stuff you need for this venture - and can presumably get for free - includes a gurt big shotgun, shooting licence, fishing rods, an extensive portable kitchen garden of herbs and olive oil, and a large Land Rover. Up till last Tuesday night I thought that getting these things for free was probably illegal, so I struggle to articulate the full extent of my frothy-mouthing jazz-hand-waving excitement at this good news.

I missed the first episode (which presumably covered the acquisition of these goodies in some step by step detail) to discover the mad naked people heartily throwing buckets of water over themselves while justifying this open [air] masochism with plucky references to "bush showers". It's all so splendid, and so utterly irrelevant to feasting off the land for free - though sadly Tommy (who is a Lady) is not quite as sporting as Guy, and often keeps her very Guernsey jerseyed outfits on.

Another splendid feature of this prog is the way that whenever they Utterly Fail to catch their supper, they say "It's not a supermarket, if you can take feast or famine then you'll live well off the land." What is this, Channel Four Fluffy Outdoor Eating Half Hour, or Rudyard Kipling? What a doodlenoodle headed thing to say. You said you were going to feast off the land, and now You've Failed. Eat grass, you posh mollynoddle, go on, EAT THE GRASS. But sadly they refuse the grass, and still more sadly refuse to poach salt-turf-eating sheep, and instead choose to trade turnip-cutting for a leg of lamb. I found this a bit poor spirited, but I suppose it is better than if they had shot the farmer from the other side of the Bristol Channel, cited that rather evil law from Very Long Ago that says English shooting of Welsh people is legal, and then appropriated his whole flock and family, which is how I understand is how the upper classes have traditionally lived for free off the land.