Monday, 29 April 2013

Stan Butler
It's interesting that, although you can easily miss the short runs of genuinely worthwhile repeats on ITV3, it's almost impossible to avoid On The Buses. This has been the case for several years now. (Unless you have the strength of character not to watch ITV3, obviously. But come on.)

I won't insult you by suggesting that you don't know the bare bones of the set-up at the Luxton and District Bus Company between 1969 and 1973, but in case it's slipped your mind, the key personnel are Stan the bus driver, Jack the conductor, Blakey the Inspector and Olive, Stan's sister-in-law. One is a cocky yet sensitive everyman, one is a priapic, snaggle-toothed heart-throb, one is a put-upon jobsworth, and one is a vilified, sullen laughing-stock. Hilarious. I honestly don't think I'm addicted, or anything like that.

It's a very bad programme: lazily performed, barely rehearsed, repetitive, deeply boring. The writers can't seem to help returning to the same few feeble devices over and over again. These are chiefly: the pursuit of smashing, randy birds; the pointless outwitting of the management for no clear reason; the evasion of hard work in favour of smoking; and the overcrowding and chronic money worries of the Butler household, which lead to a lot of sexual frustration and domestic strife.

There is also a strange, perhaps unconscious, fixation about playing with food. Stan often finds himself in situations which require him to conceal sausages in the breast pocket of his bus driver's jacket, stick oysters and fried eggs down his trousers, or hold several extremely hot potatoes in his mouth for comical reasons.

The other thing is the relentless, torrential use of the word blimey. Naturally, you would expect working-class ladies and gentleman in a 1970s sitcom to do plenty of mild swearing, but the blimeying in On The Buses surpasses all normal usage. It exceeds anything that might punctuate the dialogue to help comic timing. It's just incontinent. Once you notice it, you can't focus on any of the other totally crap factors at play - all you can do is prepare to flinch in the face of the next blimey.

Am I making myself clear? Well, this is what a typical episode, The Lodger, sounds like if you remove all the dialogue except the blimeys:

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Went to see the Juergen Teller show at the ICA, and it was only when I arrived that I realised it was called Woo! and not Wool, as I had thought until then. This happens to me quite a lot. I often misread burn as bum, which is pretty funny if you are British and childish. The font in which I'm typing this seems reasonably clear, but the EPG on my television is completely ambiguous: Bum After Reading, Bum Notice. Teller is one of those people I can't help surrendering myself to and trusting. He's so open and confessional and off-hand that he seems terribly mysterious. He is not a needy bore, like Terry Richardson, and I imagine he must hate fashion a lot of the time. There are a few self-portraits, of a kind. I suppose it must take plenty of self-confidence to present your anus (but not your face) to the camera while balancing on a grand piano being played by Charlotte Rampling; but it is a funny sort of self-confidence.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

I was walking up Church Road on Thursday, past the closed-down newsagent, Hove Newsagents, when I noticed two unhappy-looking men standing in the street ahead. They were facing me, but their heads were bent over something one man was holding in his hands. From a distance it looked like a wallet full of highly-coloured foreign bank notes. They were very absorbed in some sort of complicated discussion in a language I didn't recognise. It all seemed quite exotic, but once I was close enough I realised that they were leafing through a small packet of processed ham, very carefully separating and counting the slices. That is a true story, and I thought it was worth passing on.