Lost in London

A look at London and life in general through the eyes of someone who sometimes can't bear to watch.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Teenage kicks

Given the amount of time that I spend flicking through the channels on my much-maligned Freeview 'digibox', E4's trailers for its new big hope Skins have been hard to avoid. Cliché after cliché presented itself to me as average-looking but overstyled teenagers writhed, puked and smoked their way through 30 seconds of 'Standing in the Way of Control' by The Gossip.

I hate feeling as if I'm being bullied into watching something but such was the media onslaught I felt that I'd simply be a cultural refusenik if I didn't tune in to the first episode. This was screened last night and lasted an hour. The premise is simple enough: a group of 21st Century teens do what teens are supposed to do, or at least do what producers ten years their senior think they should be doing, which according to 'Skins' is steal cars, buy £300 of weed, have eating disorders, self harm, swear a lot and be generally irritating. So far, so run-of-the-mill. Skins' USP was that although each show was scripted by 'adults', no one on the production team (or scriptwriting team; I can't remember) was over the age of 26. Not only that, but scripts were written by, among others, ex Popworld host Simon Amstell and the writers of some episodes of Shameless. But hold on, it gets even better. In an attempt to be even more ground-breaking, much of the dialogue was provided by real life, actual teenagers, for that extra dash of authenticity. I had forgotten the latter fact, and it was only as I wondered halfway through why it was so unnervingly SHIT that I remembered.

This attempt at being authentic was the first mistake and the reason that the whole thing seemed so contrived, so pointless and so fake. I remember writing plays and short stories in my teenage years. The teenage characters all spoke to each other like they were shit and swore incessantly. This wasn't what real life was like for me at all, but in my then limited experience, that's how I imagined cool, chilled teenagers would speak. They've get pissed and sneak out behind their parents' backs, have loads of anonymous sex and generally behave like the teenagers in Skins. So, had the show's writing team been rifling through my old manuscripts or is it that when asked to portray teenage life, actual teens will exaggerate and beef it up big time in an effort to appear more interesting, exotic and unusual? They'd love to be going to parties in huge houses and wrecking the joint before escaping in a stolen Merc while been given a throaty BJ from an exchange student, but it just doesn't happen that way, does it?

Of course, the teens didn't write the whole thing, although Channel 4 have hinted that if the show is re-commissioned the teenagers will write the scripts themselves with more experienced writers tidying them up. Perhaps if the programme lives to see another season, we can look forward to the teenage boys spunking all over Angelina Jolie's tits, winning the World Cup single-handedly or taking part in space travel while all the girls will fight over Orlando Bloom and do endless shoe shopping in New York.

Skins is, essentially, a two-way fantasy. With the exception that they're difficult to like most of the time, the teens depicted in the programme bear little relation to any real life teen holed up in their bedroom watching it. Not only does the show describe the daydreams of the teens involved in its development, but it's also an outlet for the long-lost desires of the twenty-somethings on the production team. This dope-smoking, effortlessly cool, overachieving, have-it-all group of multicultural teens of both genders are the adolescents that the show's staff always wanted to be, but never were. Just as its stablemate Shameless is a crap, cartoonish middle-class idealisation of what it's like to live on a rundown council estate, so is Skins a holiday in Hollywood-style teen perfection, with scuffed edges to make it more 'real'. It's escapism masquerading as a window on the world. Even Footballers' Wives had more of a grip on reality. I realise I'm way out of this show's target demographic, but it's as unconvincing as it is dull.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

I'm with stupid

If there's one thing that shows like Big Brother has taught us, it's that we don't like to see thick people do well.

It's been hard to escape from Jade Goody this week, and God knows I've tried. I stopped watching Celebrity Big Brother before she was evicted, have attempted to close down a web page whenever I see her picture and although I did buy the News of the World which featured her confession that she was indeed Oswald Moseley's long-lost granddaughter (well, almost) I only did so I could look in horror at the fact that someone was so desperate to salvage their public profile that they'd allow themselves to be photographed looking so terrible.

In all the press that I've seen about Goody and from most of the talking heads queuing up to denounce her, a common theme is her supposed lack of intelligence. I've been hearing all kinds of moans about her: that she's famous for not doing very much or that as a nation we 'celebrate stupidity' like hers.

Goody-bashing is now like shooting fish in a barrel. It's just too easy. Like a gazelle throwing itself into the jaws of a lion, Jade has resigned herself to the fact she'll have the piss ripped out of her by the media and man on the street for the rest of her life. While Jade's loud-mouthed, bullying behaviour shouldn't be excused, I can't help but think she wouldn't be getting such a rough ride if she had a degree and knew how to say East Anglia properly.

The UK is a nation of snobs and that's just fine. There's no getting away from it. We all need somebody to look down on and I can be one of the biggest snobs on the world using such criminal acts as eating with the mouth open, being over-loud at parties and drinking wine from the bottle as perfectly valid reasons for excluding someone from my social circle (I'm not being entirely serious). One thing us Brits love to think is that we're better and more on the ball than everybody else. We don't look kindly at all on people who are less intelligent and, horror of horror, choose to freely admit that they're not the sharpest tool in the box. What programmes like Big Brother have done is replaced half-arsed quiz shows and daytime TV as the realm of the pea-brained and brought them into our living rooms at prime time, in glorious Technicolour. In turn, it's made them famous, given them riches and established them on the celebrity circuit. No more stuffed-shirt announcers and ladies with tasteful hair. The real world is on our screens and it isn't going anywhere. And guess what? Stupid people do exist, after all.

People have been waiting for Jade to trip up for some time. Just as Jade was threatened by her housemate Shilpa's wealth, calm demeanour and intelligence, so are the chattering classes fearful of Jade's stupidity, success and enduring fame. But people have become famous for nothing for decades; it's nothing new. Just ask Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies. If people want to read about and pay for the products of somebody who is famous for 'nothing', then why not let them? Apart from the fact that Jade Goody is annoying and gets up people's noses, what possible reason could anyone have for saying she doesn't deserve the success she achieved between her stays in the Big Brother house? Because a singer, Leo Sayer for example, deserves it more? Sienna Miller perhaps? A leading scientist? A politician? No, it's because she was a working-class dental nurse from Bermondsey with no discernible talent, intelligence or beauty. If you can't be brainy, you should at least have the decency to be a hottie if you want the public to forgive you your sins. While I'm of the opinion that Jade is much more clued up than she lets on, she's hardly a boffin. The thing about fame is that anybody can experience it. You don't have to go to school, you don't have to sit exams and you don't need to be rich. You just have to be in the right place at the right time. For a while, Jade was.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Carry on camping

Shipwrecked was one of the pioneers in the type of reality TV which throws people together and hopes to goodness they won't get on. Heaping a group of people on a desert island for an unspecified amount of time, it made a star out of Jeff Brazier, who had the unenviable task of not only living with, but impregnating Britain's new public enemy number one Jade Goody, and the show has always been good candy floss TV for anyone who likes to watch young twentysomethings get browner and thinner over the course of a few months.

Yesterday, I caught around three minutes of the latest series, which has just started on Channel 4, the new graveyard of the tasteless. The clip I saw was filming a young gay man who was clearly pissing off the other males in his team by being useless at doing manly things like building shelters and scratching his testicles. I didn't hear the gay man, Joe, speak, but one of his male team mates was quite vocal about him and made me look up from what I was reading when I heard him say that there was no need for Joe to act as camp as he does and that there were loads of butch gay men and why couldn't he be more like them? He then went on to compare Joe to a fairy. A fairy? I haven't heard that derogatory term for a gay man since, oh I don't know, the Second World War! And I wasn't even alive then! I switched over at that point and could therefore not witness any of Joe's behaviour but it made me think about why men- straight and gay- seem to have a problem with those that are on the camp side. When I was younger I think I was guilty of feeling this way. I remember way back in my teenage years when I was firmly ensconced in what is known as the closet -a term I hate because it's yet another stick for gay men to beat other gay men with- and cringing at the camp, raucous behaviour of a couple of gay guys my mother knew. My face would burn bright crimson at every feminine mannerism and every loud cackle and I would sit in my room and think that if that was what being gay was all about it, then I'd sit that particular dance out, thank you very much. All these years later I am, of course, a much more open-minded individual and tolerant of others, but it seems that not everybody is this way. The love that dare not speak its name may now be the love that won't shut up, but there is still a secret society which modern homosexuality would like to sweep under the carpet, unless presenting TV quiz shows.

I remember sitting in a bar in Camberwell a few years ago with a large group of friends having a few drinks. Three other guys in the 'party' were also gay, one of whom was my partner, and as they danced, a girl I didn't know particularly well but was a friend of a friend sat next to me. "You know," she said, her speech slurring slightly, "you'd never be able to tell that X, Y and Z were gay, would you?" I looked at her and then looked over at the guys, one of whom was doing an admirable impression of a Kylie dance routine and then back at the girl. "Really?" I asked. "Well yeah. Whereas you, well YOU," she continued, "you're, y'know, a total queen." I sipped my drink and tried to work out whether I was insulted and if I was, then why. I turned back to the girl who was staring back at the dancing gays, who were now into full on Tina Turner mode. I tapped her on the shoulder and when she turned around I said "Their predilection for cock kind of gives them away as homosexuals but apart from that, yeah, I see exactly what you mean." And with that I turned to talk to somebody else. She'd pissed me off because while I know I'm hardly a bear, I'd never considered myself as being so obviously gay that someone couldn't help but comment on it. It was only when I thought about this that I realised how ridiculous I was being. First of all, the fact that I had a boyfriend and spent most of my time with this person kind of ruled out any ambiguity over my sexuality. Secondly, quite why I gave a toss what some girl I hardly knew thought of me, especially when her then boyfriend gave off such a whiff of lavender that I could hardly breathe, was beyond me. What she said was strange, though, and as you would know the sexuality of the other three guys within a good twenty minutes of conversation, she'd singled me out. I think she was trying, in her own way, to tell me she didn't like me. My loss, clearly.

It's very common amongst gay men to wish to deny the existence of camper men or to distance themselves from such behaviour. Gay campaigners want to see wider representation of gays on TV and in films, but not those who conform to 'stereotypes' like, I assume, Graham Norton or the wonderful Sean from Coronation Street. While I accept that many gay men on TV are sexless and could be viewed as stereotypical, it is madness to pretend they don't exist. Why can't we all just get along? Perhaps all these 'straight-acting' gays- acting being the operative word here- want to fit in with heterosexual males and wouldn't want to miss out on a bit of casual homophobia. I think that's one kind of equality we don't need.

For many people, being gay doesn't mean that you want to wear a dress, go on marches all the time, love Kylie, live for Old Compton Street, have a booth at the Shadow Lounge, wear the tightest PVC trousers you can, call each other 'she', cry at Judy Garland movies or can't leave the house without a jar of poppers in your handbag, BUT if it does for some, then good for them. And if you want to stay firmly in the closet and keep your sexuality to yourself, then that's fine too if it works for you. Live and let live. Let's hope the homophobe-in-training on Shipwrecked gets to know his camp castaway friend and realises that beneath the flounce, there's a person who's just like everybody else. Well, we can hope.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Welcome to the house of fun

Resistance is futile, so here goes nothing. It's the inevitable Celebrity Big Brother post.

I don't usually comment on programmes I've barely watched. I started a blog the other day about Saturday night TV but realised that it a) wasn't interesting and b) I probably hadn't 'witnessed' enough to have an informed opinion. I think 'witnessed' is the right word, too: I felt like I was party to a huge crime against the collective brain cells of the UK.

I've mostly given CBB a miss this year. I'm not overly fond of the 'celebrity' format and don't need to watch a major politician wash his smalls to know that 'they're just like us'. Like a dog that's trying to tell you it doesn't like the dried food you've laid out for it, I've nosed into the show every now and again, found nothing of note and got on with my daily business. There hasn't been one celebrity about whom I'm curious enough to sit and watch and my first assessment was that they were all dull. I couldn't even be lured by the 'comedy' of Jade Goody's mother Jackiey shouting obscenities and getting the back up tabloids and viewers everywhere due to her lack of intelligence. If there's one thing your average viewer can't stand to see on TV, it's thick people who make no apologies for it, hence some of the harshest red top headlines I've seen in a while.

But now I'm watching, thanks in part to what Victoria Wood would probably call a hooha or a ding-dong relating to one housemate in particular. Shilpa Shetty is a 31-year-old actress whose fame is at skyscraper levels in her native India. She's beautiful, spoiled and has a certain amount of dignity. Sometimes she looks like she's got sour cream wiped under her nose. Under normal circumstances she'd be finishing in sixth place and nobody would remember her. Thanks to Jade Goody, Pat Butcher from S Club and Brookside Barbie, she may well walk out a winner. Jade and her tag team of dunces have been singling out millionairess Shilpa for quite a few days. Jade's 'boy'friend Jack Tweedy (calling himself 'Tweed' on the show, but Tweedy it is) is on the periphery of what is starting to look like a hate campaign. Shilpa can't do much without her three detractors leaping on her, be it her Indian accent, the fact she bleaches her facial hair or the very notion that she undercooked a chicken/ threw some stew down the loo/ breathes in and out. I don't mind Shilpa, who seems both bemused and upset by her new enemies. Shilpa's not a particularly fascinating character but the fact that indirectly she is leading to the mass career suicide being undertaken by Jade, Jo and Teddy Sheringham's girlfriend means that she is doing Britain a great public service and should be rewarded. So far, Jade has been able to control the cameras following her every move in a plethora of docu-soaps about her perfume launch, her beauty salon and her search for a PA. In the years since she waddled out of the house to cries of 'chipstick' she's amassed a fortune yet has learned nothing about publicity. She also forgot the golden rule of Big Brother: he's always watching you.

What annoys, or rather saddens, me about Jade isn't her ignorance, her shop-bought idiocy or the fact she's adopted a third child who masturbates on her leg live on television, it's that she wears her 'upfront and genuine' persona like a badge. To Jade, Jo and Danielle, being 'fake' in what is essentially an artificially-created environment is wrong; you have to be yourself if you're going to play the game. Unfortunately the 'real' Jade is a reactionary, spiteful, tactless bitch and she's not being upfront, she's being rude. When did having the audacity to slag someone within earshot under the excuse that you're being 'honest' become a good quality? How exactly is telling someone what you think of them to their face any better than slating them to your cronies? Dress it up in a frock of 'real' and adorn it with trinkets of 'genuine', 'honest' and 'upfront' all you want, but it is still nothing short of cuntery. Big Brother, you have been evicted.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Dear diary

As shown by one blogger losing his job for being a bit too frank in his entries, you never know who's reading out there.

I've been a bit busy at work recently so haven't had much time to catch up on any news stories, but this tale in the Press Gazette amused me no end. It also made me think.

For those who can't be bothered to click on the link, the story tells of a manager of a Thornton's chocolate shop in Barrrow-in-Furness in Cumbria, who was so unimpressed by his forced relocation to the 'gateway to the Lakes' that he branded it a shit hole on his MySpace blog. The guy was at the end of this tether: he thought the town was rough, had had his shop window smashed in the day before opening and was surprised to find the shop was falling victim to a few local shoplifters. On publication of his comments in the local newspaper, Barrow inhabitants descended on the shop and attempted to lynch the hapless 20-year-old, causing the parent company to remove him from his post for his own safety.

Ever since blogging became widespread, there have been tales of people being reprimanded or losing their jobs because of a few unfortunate comments. Some people treat a blog like an online version of a diary, but diaries can be found and diaries can be read.

I did keep a written diary in my teens: a collection of scribblings on cigarettes smoked, bottles of Thunderbird drunk and mouths kissed. I think at the time I thought I was Laura Palmer. I abandoned the diary when I simply couldn't be bothered any more. As the old Mae West quote goes: 'Keep a diary and it'll keep you'. I started again briefly about six or seven years ago, but got so sick of the sound of my own, er, writing that I flung it in a corner after just a few weeks.

Unless you use your blog software's privacy settings, you may as well read your diary over the PA system in a supermarket; anybody could be reading. It's for this reason that I don't talk much about personal life, friends or job on my blog. Reading other people's diaries is loads more fun anyway; I find the lives of others very interesting. I suppose I see my blog more as a column, where I can spout my opinion on most things and, sometimes, give an insight into what's going on in my life, should anyone be interested. I spend all day writing for a younger audience so it's nice to write for grown-ups every now and again.

The mistake that some bloggers make is that they think nobody could possibly be interested or reading their daily musings and so attach no significance to what they're writing. As the Barrow-in-Furness heretic discovered, there's always someone watching.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Murder most horrid

Corrie's leaving its credibility in the cloakroom once again as it stages yet another smack over the head in an attempt to grab the last viewer doing nothing at 7.30.

I gave up watching soaps avidly when I went to university, not because of some new-found snobbishness, but purely because I was too busy getting drunk. Back then, soaps were on around three times a week and took up far too much of anybody's time as it was. Now they're on constantly: you can pretty much turn on the TV at 5 and sail right through to 9 pm watching soaps alone.

The only one I catch up with these days is Coronation Street. It's quite funny, has some brilliantly-drawn characters and is my mum's favourite. EastEnders, with its mouthy, poe-faced Cockneys, can't compare and don't even get me started on Hollyoaks and its army of Barbies, the waste of air that is Holby or any of the Australian ones. While Corrie, as it's affectionately known, hasn't been realistic for decades, it's usually kept at least one foot on the ground when it came to sensationalism. Sure there's been the odd car crash and the viaduct has a habit of falling on people and burying them alive, but on the whole it's not impossible to imagine some of the goings on featured on and around the cobbles are happening on a couple of similar streets somewhere in the UK.

It's with surprise then that I learnt a few weeks ago that the Street is to feature yet another murder, its fifth in as many years. This time, tearaway teen turned wide-mouthed temptress Tracy Barlow is to smack her boyfriend over the head with a statuette, after months of portraying him to the rest of the neighbourhood as a wife beater. This follows the murder of the house's previous male occupant two years ago. He was whacked on the head with a monkey wrench. A year earlier, in the house next door, a young mum was bludgeoned to death with a crowbar, killed by the financial advisor who lived a couple of doors down.

The killing off of characters is nothing new at all, but showing violent murder at around eight in the evening seems a bit odd for the Street; we'll be treated to a full 'blow-by-blow' (sorry) shot of Tracy wielding her figurine like a crazed antiques fanatic before landing a fatal strike on the bonce of her monkey-faced lover. In showing all of these brutal crimes, Corrie is losing sight of why people love it. Sensationalism was best left to the body-burying farce that was Brookside, which made the mistake of substituting shock tactics for realism and paid the price as viewers became bored when they didn't see a shotgun for three scenes. Brookside was cancelled in 2003. The last episode featured someone hanging dead by the neck from an open window. A storyline editor, perhaps.

As Brookside discovered, melodrama and scandal may grab viewers' attention monetarily and get you a tabloid headline or two but ultimately comes at a cost. Coronation Street may have been running a hell of a lot longer but how many characters can they decapitate with an ornament, disembowel with pinking shears, explode in a Ford Fiesta fireball or throw under a tram before viewers yawn and turn over to watch a dictator get executed instead? Corrie, know your audience; we're not all homicidal maniacs.

Monday, January 08, 2007

On a night like this

I went to Wembley Arena on Saturday night to see Kylie live in concert as part of her Showgirl Homecoming tour, her first London shows since being diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2005. Wembley Arena is an odd venue. It's gone, in the space of a couple of years, from being little more than a cowshed surrounded by burger vans to what is now somebody's idea of a slick, major venue. The hospitality bars and restaurants inside resemble school canteens and the stark walls and sameness of the entire thing meant that I spent about fifteen minutes walking into the wrong toilets. And I've been there before! Only a few months ago!

Security was as contradictory as ever. Inoffensive secretaries were searched like terrorists, their cameras snatched from them and 'NO photography' bellowed in their ears, while my partner and I sauntered in after a very casual search by a three feet tall bouncer. As I made my way to the bar, I noticed cameras for sale in the merchandise shop. Tut tut. The crowd was the usual weird hotch-potch you see at concerts like this. People who must have been at least thirty when Kylie first appeared on the scene mixed with parents carrying their three-year-olds. We saw more bad haircuts than you'd see in a 1983 Top of the Pops, many pairs of distressing jeans but lots of smiling faces.

Anyone who's been to a big gig will tell you that you've got at least half and hour to forty five minutes after the time on the ticket before the 'talent' comes on stage. Imagine then, the surprise of pretty much everyone who was midway through a glass of chardonnay when an announcement- the first of the evening- said that the show would start in two minutes. TWO. I refused to believe this and carried on chatting only to wander downstairs and hear the music start up. I had to suffer the ultimate shame of being shown to my seat at torchlight, just as the top of Kylie's head-dress appeared from the bottom of the stage. Further embarrassment ensued when our allocated seats were occupied. Four women who looked like builders in drag had decided that their seats, around a foot and a half to the left of ours, weren't good enough and so commandeered ours and the seats of some other latecomers. They got a bit funny about being ejected but I let the steward deal with it all as I rolled my eyes like cherries on a fruit machine. Luckily the rest of the arena was giving Kylie a standing ovation before she'd even sung a note so I didn't miss anything.

The show was only further interrupted by the arrival of another gay couple who had the seats next to ours and spent the entire concert going to the toilet or for something eat (my Scottish partner was horrified to catch a bit of their conversation and discover they were also from north of the border) and a pint-wielding woman from before who kept bumping into me as she danced in the aisles, which you are not allowed to do. She must have been flung back to her seat a thousand times by the steward yet carried on unabated, each time with a seemingly fresh pint of whatever the fuck she was spilling all over the place.

Considering that Kylie hadn't been on stage for quite a while and she was quite clearly emotional, the atmosphere was strangely non-existent. It was almost as if people had just bought a ticket to come and have a look and they were happy with that. Kylie made a fatal error in doing a whole section of slightly older stuff that absolutely nobody bought or knew; almost the entire audience stood with arms folded wondering if they'd blinked and missed another act come onto the stage. Her collaboration with Scissor Sisters was also similarly rebuffed. She redeemed herself though by having highly-sexualised Cybermen on stage with her for a rendition of 'Can't Get You Out Of My Head'. All in all, it was good. It was nice, as my grandmother would probably say, to get out of the house.

Going to see live music always seems like a good idea, yet in reality is usually more trouble than its worth. Whether it's straining to hear an ant sing at the other end of an aircraft hangar or being nose to nipple in a scuzzy bar watching the next big thing smoke heroin through a tuba, the thing about the 'live experience' is that it can be just like real life: disappointing, sleazy yet occasionally pretty exhilarating. And always a rip off.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Hooked on a feeling

New Year, new smoking deterrent. Does the shock tactic work when it comes to encouraging nicotine fanatics to give up the dreaded weed?

As I've mentioned before, I walk to work. Usually, I'm not taking too much notice of what's around me, apart from badly-hemmed suit trousers or loud mobile phone users, because I officially count this as sleep. Such is my auto-pilot mode at this time of the morning, that if I ever changed jobs, it'd take years to deprogram me of the walk from Tower Bridge to Shoreditch.

One thing I have noticed is the new anti-smoking advert. I have noticed it because it looks quite strange when you first see it. A model, there are male and female versions, appears with their head jerked to the side and their mouth or jaw distorted. On closer inspection, it appears they have a fishing hook puncturing their cheek and are being reeled in by an unseen predator: a packet of fags, so it would seem. Last night, I saw the television version of the ad. Again, a model is yanked away by a mysterious fishing hook to the place where they usually smoke a fag. The slogan: get unhooked. Ooh, I see what you're doing there. Clever. Or is it?

While the aim is clear, to stop smokers from smoking over five thousand fags a year each, I don't believe this supposed shock tactic will work. I remember previous campaigns such as the British Heart Foundation's 'Give up before you clog up' campaign, which portrayed smokers' arteries as fat-producing slimy pipes and the previous NHS campaign which showed the viewer a woman reliant on oxygen and a man terminally ill through smoking. I'm not saying they won't work on everybody, but the shock ads make some committed puffers even more determined to stick at it, flying in the face of 'goody-goodies'.

The new ads are to promote the NHS's 'Smoking Cessation' clinics: bizarre support groups which take place in creaking, dirty hospitals and can have upwards of fifty people taking part, all talking about cigarettes and nothing else. Participants are 'buddied up' with another potential quitter and instructed to phone each other for moral support when they get a craving. Given that us Brits don't really like to talk about anything but the weather and take years of therapy just to admit they're not fond of Battenburg, I'm not sure of the efficacy of such measures. My partner used a cessation clinic a couple of years ago and would dread the inevitable phone call from his 'buddy', as well as the sweaty, confined meetings full of people who'd been smoking since the Nixon administration and were only giving up because they'd had both their lungs taken out or the council had threated to take their flat away.

I gave up four years ago through that old fashioned thing called will power. I was realistic: the first few weeks after New Year can be murderous so why make it worse? I really wanted to stop but decided to wait until late January and smoke myself into a coma to make me really sick of it. I refused to use patches and such as I wanted the nicotine out of me as soon as possible; why perpetuate the addition with substitutes? It worked like a charm and four years later, I'm still 'clean'. You can show pictures of catarrh-encrusted lungs, lardy arteries and smokers getting decapitated by fishing hooks, guillotines or axe-wielding lesbians, but unless a smoker truly wants to quit, they're going to find it an uphill struggle, whether covered in nicotine patches or not.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

That's life

And so it's 2007, and Happy New Year to you all. I'm feeling, as I always feel, the deflation of just having had a fairly frantic few weeks with only the prospect of absolutely nothing happening stretching before me. It is for this reason that I will wait until absolutely the last minute to take down my Christmas tree.

They year started promisingly, as I managed to totally miss the New Year fireworks by standing on the wrong bridge. You can't see them from Tower Bridge, you see, so God knows how many millions of my borough's contributions went up in smoke. I could just about make out the odd bit of colour through a crack in the buildings. My mother, 200 or so miles away, described them to me over the phone as she was watching them on TV. Oh well.

Three days into the New Year and already two disappointments. Fireworks was one thing, but the mess that was This Life +10 was quite another. I don't really know where to start. The characters had 'evolved' so much over the last nine years (the '10' referring to the number of years since the show made its début) that they were almost totally unrecognisable. The script was execrable. Why Amy Jenkins was let back on board for this one, I have no idea. She may have devised the show but the second series was so much more superior and with no involvement from her. The documentary plot made me cringe. Urgh. I mean, no! This has been done.

Moving the group out of London and onto a country pile owned by Miles, now a hotelier with weird hair, robbed the reunion of the greatest character the show ever had: London. From grotty gay bars, grimy City pubs and trudging over Southwark Bridge, London was central to the storyline and was what held them all together. Removed to a big house in the country rendered the show to nothing more than some middle class, unfulfilled whingers on a boring holiday. Did they have to meet at a funeral? Couldn't they have got together for the book launch? Halfway through, I was longing for the credits to roll and the elements of farce (Milly falling off the horse, Egg falling in the lake and Warren locking the camerawoman in the bathroom) served only to dishearten me further. If it was trying to be real, it achieved one thing: it showed just how boring some people get in their thirties. There wasn't one part of it I enjoyed.

After it was finished, I turned to my partner and said: "I'm just going to try and pretend that never happened". And now that I've written this blog, that's exactly what I'm going to do.