Gabby Logan-led patriotism is the worst

Poor, innocent, uncorrupted, little me. I was living such a happy existence, a worthwhile, meaningful life with a promising future. I had a new job, a new house, a new fuckbuddy (well, I say ‘new’, there was never an ‘old’ one) and all was coming up roses. Then one night two weeks ago, I took a fateful decision, the ramifications of which are still being played out, fated to end with my brain shredded into millions of little pieces, left to gather dust in the corner of the mausoleum that is my dignity.

I pressed the button and waited for it to start. Jaunty music, a forced sing-along, a studio audience that’s far too cheerful to be drunk on the elixir of life alone, and there we have it, ‘I Love My Country’ – a new BBC light entertainment crapfest which ironically has become the biggest factor in my belief that I would be better off in an Albanian forest, chasing wild bores and growing my beard so long I trip over it.

Some television is so bad it’s good. For example, the Eurovision Song Contest is a riot of poor taste and shit music, like Chris Moyles’ old Radio 1 breakfast show but with more sequins and compulsory French translations. Eurovision is utter toilet, undoubtedly ruined by the debacle of block voting. When Montenegro were fighting for independence a few years back, I can’t have been the only person to wonder whether the freedom fighters of Podgorica were secretly battling for the right to give another Eastern European shitehouse douze points. Then there’s the hosts that would make lobotomised chimpanzees look like the height of professionalism.

But it’s engagingly daft, off-beat and bonkers. It’s knowingly cheesy and it brings everyone together. Russia’s worrying recent moves to criminalise and suppress homosexuality would surely be remedied if it were hosting more Eurovisions, as the event is so unapologetically camp it could make Vladimir Putin shout “ooh matron!” while scores of chest-baring hunks breakdance behind an Icelandic siren to a catchy yet vacuous Euro-disco beat.

‘I Love My Country’ is so bad it’s bad. It has zero redeeming features. Mind-numbingly mundane and stupid, it rolls around drunkenly in a Union Jack flag and then vomits down itself while trying to remember the words to ‘Jerusalem’. What terrifies me is that a BBC programme developer obviously sat down with a bigwig at Television Centre and pitched the following idea for a comedy-cum-entertainment Saturday night hoedown:

“We need Gabby Logan, an undeniably steadfast sports presenter but one without a funny bone in sight. If she could look like a worried school teacher dancing at a school disco because the boys and girls are on opposite sides of the hall, nervously tapping their phones and pretending they can’t see each other, more the better. When the house band plays the introductory music, Gabby needs to awkwardly shift her body from side to side, in what could be considered ‘dancing’ by pasty uncool white boys in a hip nightclub.

“Then we need captains, because the rules of the universe governing entertainment shows dictate ‘funeth cannot be haveth without thy teams in suppos’d conflictation’. For such a vital role, we need versatile characters, two Machiavellian chancers who will bring the giggles and good times, making up for Gabby Logan’s matchstick man routine. Both captains should be distinct in all ways possible with the single exception of their species, to allow for the increased hilarity of having two diametrically opposed people engaging in jokey conflict for the benefit of viewers. They will be decreed as Frank Skinner and the unthinking man’s Frank Skinner, Mickey Flanagan. Both will adopt ‘banter’ as their modus operandi, preferably upmarket japes, such as a run of gags in the opening episode about a panellist whose surname is ‘Salt’.

“You may be thinking, “Ah, this appears to be a titular variation on your average game show” but this is not so. We are not pitching ‘Have I Got A Question Of Would I Lie To 8 Out Of 10 Cats?’. This show has a difference, a unique selling point which makes up for the various rounds and aspects we stole from celebrity panel shows down the years. Are you ready for this? This is going to blow your mind to the outer reaches of The Milky Way and probably beyond. Take a seat right there. Here we go. The panellists – ooh, I can’t wait to spill the beans – will all be STANDING UP. Yes!! None of this get-comfy-and-‘ave-a-cuppa nonsense. Audiences have got tired of chests and heads, we want to see LEGS. Lovely lovely legs. Especially the legs of fruity actresses who contribute nothing to the show aside from their olive-tanned pins. PHWOAR!

“To top off the surrealism, we would like Jamelia to head the ‘house band’ which plays off-colour renditions of famous songs, like an instrumental version of Vic and Bob’s ‘Club Singer’ round on Shooting Stars. You might be wondering why we can’t afford a more respectable singer, especially when the budget for chairs has been slashed to nothing. But I promise you that she will join the spirit of things and occasionally lean over a white fence to deliver bon mots to the delight of all present.

“Another aspect of the show is the way points are distributed. Tired formats generally reward skill or intelligence with points or prizes. Not us. We prefer to scatter perfectly good points on Z-listers that can locate Peterborough on a map with a Yorkshire pudding. Or, I kid you not, if they win a glorified game of pass the parcel. A massive, Saturday night, celebrity game of pass the parcel! The trailers must practically write themselves.

“The show will be jacked up on its own spirit, with a yelling, whooping, hysterical crowd presumably rescued from a damp basement after an earthquake, as that’s the only thing less preferable than playing along. The team captains, Messrs Skinner and Flanagan, shall wonder up and down their team to infuse a collective atmosphere of harmony and communal spirit, mainly by describing how gorgeous the token blonde bombshell is and gesturing rudely to the opposing team.

“Lest anyone be confused that the country we’re supposed to be proud of it Britain, the set shall be decorated lovingly with giant Big Bens, a steam train set, more red telephone boxes than even exist anymore, random meadows of bluebells and a recreation of Stonehenge. If you’re thinking “That sounds like a monumental sack of wank”, you will have to see the real thing to appreciate the awe-inspiring vulgarity of it.

“So please, find it within your hearts to allow this show a place on your network. The advantages are manifold, but the most important one is that it will make everything else on your schedules shine like a beacon of hope and glory. Any dodgy new drama with a few windswept moors and a sinister-looking farmhand shall be forgiven on the basis that it is not ‘I Love My Country’. The next time Ben Elton decides we need anything written or produced by him to be broadcast to the nation, we can be safe in the knowledge that whatever plume of cack blossoms from his quill, it will never come close to replicating the bile-flecked, disgusting terrorism that has been wreaked across the airwaves with ‘I Love My Country’. I rest my case”.


Pensions ‘n’ loans ‘n’ detergent

I write this prose from my new abode, my new home, my crib, my blessed plot of land. From here there shall be no stopping me as I claim my rightful place in this frightful world. Or I shall do what I have done for the past four nights in a row and play computer simulation games, followed up by the latest episode of ‘Pointless’ on BBC iPlayer. After several worrying viewings of sewers masquerading as ‘student housing’ in the city of Brighton, I have finally managed to bag a new headquarters.

It’s quite nice too. There are four walls, which may not seem like a big deal but some of the places I viewed looked one tap on the windowsill away from crumbling like a rich tea biscuit in a mug of hot chocolate. There are appliances of differing working order, not to mention a wine rack which is currently filled with empty bottles of Weston’s organic cider to give off the impression we have enough money and sophistication to warrant one.

The washing machine is the most useless piece of junk in the history of kitchenware, bleating whenever you ask it to do anything beyond rotate at a leisurely pace for half an hour. Not that I would know whether this was what a washing machine should do. Three days in to my house share I had to sheepishly ask my fellow tenants how it worked. Of the many things I learnt while living at home, how to wash clothes was definitely not one of them.

On the advice of my housemates I had to buy fabric conditioner. Who knew that something so simple should present so much choice? I was standing in the washing aisle at Sainsbury’s and felt like I was in a laundry-themed version of The Matrix. Do I want my shirts to smell like raspberry or citrus? Persil or Bold? Should I use a capsule or a tablet? This is where capitalism has gone wrong. Give me a plain plastic bottle which says “DETERGENT” in size 24 Times New Roman font and I can lead a fulfilled life, albeit with clothes that don’t smell like raspberry, citrus or fomented banana peelings. Why do we have to walk round smelling like a fucking fruit bowl all of a sudden?

A long time ago, when I first mooted the idea of leaving home, I remember Mum mentioning something about learning life’s essentials.

“What do you mean ‘essentials’?” I asked, as all I could picture was the fruit and veg aisle in Waitrose.

“You know, changing a light-bulb, reading the gas meter…”

“Mum, I need to stop you there. I’ve got a real actual job now. A proper one. If I need anything doing like that, I’ll get the man in. I’m too lazy and potentially middle class to understand the ins and outs of a boiler. If anything goes wrong, I will unplug it or kick it, as is the custom. What will all my thick mates do if they can’t attend to the electrical and plumbing woes of dwellings like mine? By staying blissfully unaware of these so-called ‘essentials’ I am merely providing employment to the labourers who must put in a decent shift for a day’s pay. My ignorance is feeding the virtuous circle”.

Obviously, that’s what I should have said, but I think I mumbled “whatever” and went upstairs to weep over Morrissey b-sides. Besides, I take my cues for modern life from Friends and Frasier, a glitzy, fabulous world in which you never see the characters washing up or hanging the clothes out to dry ‘cos it’s so tedious. Realistically, I remember thinking, when would I ever need to de-scale a kettle? To make life easier, I’d probably just buy a kettle without scales in the first place.

Now that I’m here and entirely self-reliant, I have travelled further along the winding road to adulthood than I ever expected. There I was, cocooned in my child-like shell, playing Rollercoaster Tycoon 2 and trying to get the fictitious little people who only walk diagonally to ride my helter skelter (not a euphemism). Now I’m getting a bill for council tax.

Council tax!? How did that happen! What have they ever done for me? I have concluded that the only thing the council do to improve my well-being is plonk two massive skips for rubbish at either end of my road and recycle a few tin cans and glass bottles every fortnight. And I’m paying £100 a month for this nonsense? For that fee I expect the mayor to personally come round, make me herbal tea and ask how my day at work has been. If he’s not available, I would be willing to accept a councillor, although not a Green as they will criticise my lifestyle and berate me for not recycling my used toilet paper or stocking up on Quorn.

They might organise the heist of my £100 with astonishing haste – barely had I stepped over the threshold of my new residence when the bill was pushed through the letterbox – but they can’t get a carer for our psychopathic neighbour, Brian, a well-known celebrity (in the utterly-batshit-Tom-Cruise sense of the word) on the Brighton scene.

He’s a harmless old biddy but he wanders up and down my narrow street from dawn til dusk, raging against the injustices of the world, such as sweet wrappers on the floor and people wearing sunglasses – “how the hell do you see out of them?” Some days he’s ‘with it’ and can hold a civilised conversation, or at least as close to a civilised conversation as you can get with an unkempt septuagenarian wearing waist-high jogging bottoms who talks to himself. On other occasions, when the pills are running low, he’s incomprehensible, a jabbering mess and the bane of our existence.

Then there’s the guy next door who spends a large proportion of his day skipping in the garden to cheesy noughties pop. I know its 2pm when I hear S Club 7’s ‘Reach’ followed by the crack of a continually rotating whip. So when Alex, one of the two guys I’m sharing with, Skyped his Dad in America, he gave a not-entirely-convincing response when asked “Is the neighbourhood good?” After several minutes of looking for a response which wouldn’t elicit a panicked visit from his folks back home in Maine, he said “It’s interesting” and left it there.

What’s weird about moving out is that it doesn’t feel weird at all. Despite all the signifiers that I’m growing up, it still feels like a natural progression rather than being dropped in at the deep end. I may change my tune in a couple of weeks when I’m on the dog and bone to home, begging for a simpler time when the only bill I had to worry about was at the end of a date. Now I’m getting three a month (utility bills, not dates, in the unlikely event that you misunderstood) and my robbing bastard employers have started taking money for my pension and student loan repayments! But I’ve flown the nest and to be perfectly honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way.