Thursday, August 17, 2006

Because I'm worth it

It’s annual school cliché day – the day when kids get their A-level exam results and TV newscasters who’ve had a whole year to think how they could present the subject in a different way repeat the old worn-out shots of postmen arriving, students opening results letters on camera and going ecstatic and hugging each other at the results - which researchers have already checked out to make sure that no one says ‘Oooh shit’.
Such a situation would be unusual because the pass rate has increased every year for the last 24 and is now 97%. By 2008 it will be impossible to fail. Cue next cliché, which is head teacher and/or Education minister denying that the exam is getting easier.
It’s just another cinematic cliché, like those multiple pipettes (or whatever they’re called) that you always see on research stories, or those canisters with what looks like steam coming out that go with artificial insemination pieces.
Director, needing 35 seconds for an NHS item: ‘Nottingham today guys – get Boots to let you shoot one of those girls in white hats filling bottles with pills – coloured if possible. The pills, not the girls’.
Crew: ‘Aw c’mon Gary, we’ve got miles of that stuff on file’.
Director: ‘It’s got to be authentic. Nottingham - you can charge dinner and two nights’ hotel.’

I’ve got this new doctor – the old one retired. The new one is young, eager and apparently competent - Dirk Bogarde to the old one’s James Robertson Justice. (Wait a minute, aren’t they both dead?) The old one had ‘Ah well’ disease - when you complained of an age-related symptom he would glance at his screen, tell you your age, and start to talk like a garage mechanic, as in ‘Ah well, what do you expect? You’re – how many? - x years old…’
Look, Doc, already know how old I am – I just want it fixed.

When I worked in France I had this cartoon on my desk showing two Roman centurions trudging through pouring rain in the process of invading Britain. Says one Roman, ‘Have you been in Britain before?’ The other says, ‘No’. And the first one says, ‘If you like the weather you’ll like the food’. French colleagues would often remark on this treason. There was this Frenchman on Radio Four today – Antoine de Cohn I think. He has a programme, Eurotrash, which takes the piss out of the British - on British television. The interviewer asked if there was a parallel programme on French TV. ‘No’, he said. ‘It couldn’t happen in France. They don’t laugh at themselves.’ When you think about it, few nations do. The last American to do it was Al Capp, and he’s been dead thirty years. A United flight to Washington was diverted to Boston and tailed by military fighters because a woman had smuggled some face cream on board. Did that mean she could do less damage in Boston?

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