Thursday, February 28, 2008

Anyone can fall in love...

They know when the line is to be delivered, and demand a subservient silence from the waiting throng. If there’s a raised platform nearby they will quickly scramble to it, demanding any available lighting be concentrated on their primed and dignified face; a face ready to the deliver the line they are certain will elevate their social status to someone who could call the Queen their bitch.

And then it comes: ‘I don’t watch soap operas’ they announce, back straight, eyes into a distant, better horizon. Usually they’ll further punctuate this by appending words such as ‘they’re all a load of rubbish anyway.’

It isn’t the fact that someone doesn’t like soap operas that annoys/amuses me. That is a perfectly sane and valid opinion to hold. It’s the insistence of some individuals to use their dislike of this genre of television as a boast and calling card. As if on hearing this startling insight, the recipients are suddenly going to reassess their opinion of this person; realise they’re dealing with someone capable of winning the final of Mastermind with the specialist subject of ‘The hardest questions you can think of Hawkins’. As if A-Levels and Degrees should be abandoned in favour of having a group of people with clipboards accessing people’s disgust when forced to watch Coronation Street. That maybe job adverts should stipulate that an applicant ‘Must have a full clean driving license and hate at least five “continuing dramas” including Emmerdale.’

And always the people that have ‘I don’t watch soaps’ in the Skills section of their CV, will at some point, unprompted, announce, ‘It’s ridiculous, anyone can be a celebrity these days.’ Well maybe not all of them would say this precisely, but the podgy middle aged bloke with Bristol’s most unnecessary moustache chatting away to his mates ( some ginger ) in the Bishops Tavern, was making this very point.

But I’m not a celebrity, the bad-tash man wasn’t and if he’d have looked around he’d have probably realised the most famous person in the room was the barmaid; and her fleeting brush with celebrity was with the occupants of the pub. Her claim to fame: ‘she serves us beer’.

If ‘anyone can be a celebrity’, it seemed a massive coincidence that all the fifty or so people in this pub had shunned the dirty lure of fame and casual sex to work in open-plan offices or mobile phone retailers. Or maybe I had unwittingly entered a bar that only allows in people who haven’t had the inadequacies of their body detailed by Heat magazine.

We were the clever ones. We’d realised that jumping into the swimming pool of minor celebrity could have you treading water in the urine of daytime television. The risk of turning up to a cocktail party attended by Paul Burrell would be unacceptably high. I still firmly believe that the phrase ‘Diana’s rock’ was a reference to an improvised weapon the Queen of Hearts was planning on bringing into fierce contact with her butler’s head.

If you are a celebrity with no discernable talent that would traditionally class as you as such, then you’re just a picture in the Daily Star; a naive volunteer; your life picked apart like a drunk negotiating a KFC Bargain Bucket. And then when you realise that no one’s taking you seriously; that all you really want now is credibility. You look in the locker to see what you’ve got:

You give up watching Hollyoaks.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

There I was sat at my desk looking in the second drawer down, trying to cope with the realisation that I had run out of apples. One of which I would normally consume for a mid-morning snack. I think it was either Jesus or Father Christmas who said, ‘Apples are great’, and who am I to argue with such pithy truth from magical people.

As another hour passed, I learned to live as a man without apples. By eleven, it was fair to say I had adjusted, was making the best of things. I even felt strong enough to make a humorous and unnecessary remark about Devon.

I took a walk down to the canteen to purchase a cup of tea. Standing, ready to pay, I took an unscheduled glance towards the exit and noticed a bowl of fruit by the door, a bowl which contained a number of apples. With 35p racked up on the till, I asked that the price of an apple be added on so I could pick one up on the way out. This was done bringing the total up to 75p.

My walk to the canteen exit was swift and untroubled. I approached the bowl and placed my hand on top of a reasonable looking Granny Smith and span it around in my hand to check its suitability as an edible piece of fruit. Satisfied, I extracted it out of the bowl and placed my other hand around the door handle in preparation to pull it open. My eyes caught sight of a new employee I was unfamiliar with; his stare was straight at me and noticeably hostile. My baffled returned ‘what?’-stare dissipated quickly as it dawned on me that this man would have been unaware I’d already completed the financial transaction in respect to this item of fruit.

What could I do? I could have returned to the till with the apple, but, a) this would be an admittance of guilt; the motivation of my action a consequence of being caught in the act of fresh produce thievery; and b) what would I do when I got there considering she was aware that I’d already paid? Hold it up and say ‘What do you think of my apple?’

I could have tried to nip the misunderstanding in the pip by addressing my perceived accuser, but my confidence that I had correctly read his previous facial expression as one of someone looking at an apple thief, had slightly waned. I envisaged his reaction to a comment such as ‘I have already paid for this apple’ to be one of bemusement. It would undoubtedly eliminate the risk of being considered a fruit-snatcher, but may instead label me as a man who arbitrarily presents information on insignificant instances of his life. If this got around, people may consider me to be having some kind of breakdown. My job of sitting in front of a computer, typing stuff, might be considered too high-pressured for me to handle. I could be demoted, shown the door, forced into sitting in front of woman in a tweed jacket to talk about my ‘feelings’. I’d have to fabricate a childhood trauma to explain the whole dirty mess. So I kept quiet and exited quickly and uncomfortably, probably amplifying any slight suspicions this man had of impropriety.

I hoped that the man would report the ‘crime’ to the girl at the checkout. This would allow her to clear my name. Allow her to wash the stain on my character away with the Daz Automatic of British justice. I suspect though, that this didn’t happen; that apple crime, for him, fell into the low-level category. I was just another hoody type spraying graffiti over the crumbling foundations of this once great country. He would see himself as a powerless bystander drowning under a swelling tide of immorality.

The apple cost me 40p. That’s usually enough to buy three of them. Society in a very real sense owes me two Granny Smiths, yet I am seen as the wrongdoer. Be sure of this though:

I will rise again.