Column 8: TV, 29th November 2002
You have to wonder about the quality of TV programmes these days. Looking at the channels on satellite or cable, it seems you can set up your own TV station for about fifty pence. With a few out-of-work actors, I gave it a go. Here’s what’s on today, peppered with adverts for Ocean Finance:
11.00am Teleshopping Could you possibly live without a device for steam-cleaning your pet rodent? Do you dream that one day you’ll own a telescopic whisky bottle holder? Do you yearn for something to take the stress out of opening packets of crisps? If the answer to any of these questions is “no”, you must be completely mad - in which case, you’ll definitely want to check out our Sensomatic - Guaranteed To Make You Sane Within 21 Days!® And if you’re not completely satisfied, you probably just forgot why the hell you bought it in the first place - so we’ll also send you, absolutely free, our Boost Your Memory Kit, consisting of notepad and pencil!
3.00pm Changing Tombs Historical gameshow in which two contestants redesign the last resting places of the Pharaohs of Egypt in order to give them a more modern feel.
4.00pm DOC WON NUT Letter-rearranging gameshow presented by RIDE WHIRLY CHEAT and CRAVE LARD, MORON.
4.30pm Little Silly Denzil Surreal children’s programme made in 1967. Supposedly the creators of this programme were high on drugs throughout making it, although today they deny all memory of ever working on the show. In this episode, Little Silly Denzil takes his dog Canine Abyss to see Dee l’Air about his problems growing the crop Cow Cane on his fields. But a large strawberry-flavoured platypus sprinkles a fine white powder over the little town of Pirtdica, making everybody really really hungry.
5.00pm Strange Hill Drama set in a tough inner-city comprehensive school that deals with the issues relevant to most children today. In this episode, Chubby and Fat Wanker get caught by Mrs Dappy having anal sex in the playground, Kris has her head blown off by a rocket, and Pete gets kneecapped.
5.30pm You’ve Been Maimed! Hilarious family video camera footage of all those home accidents! Quite why Shirley from Basildon was filming her husband using the chain saw to trim the hedge, we’ll never know, but at least the family will always be able to remember what he used to look like, and the side-splitting consequences of that slippery dog poo!
6.00pm Holiday: You Say Where Special version of the holiday programme where viewers tell presenters where to go. In this episode, Jamie Theakston visits a minefield in Afghanistan.
7.00pm The 1980s House The series that transports a modern family back in time continues. In this episode, teenager Becky is fed up of listening to Bros, while Stuart gets to grips with a BBC Micro. Meanwhile, Mary is having trouble with her shoulder pads.
8.00pm Nigella Sucks Cookery series featuring Nigella Lawson. In this episode Nigella makes a cheese sandwich.
Column 7: Machines, 22nd November 2002
It was 2.58pm and I was on my way to a Physics tutorial which started at 3pm. I pushed the button for a lift and then waited for 27 minutes until, finally, a lift came that was both heading in the right direction and wasn’t so full that I would likely suffocate.
Twenty minutes later and we’d made it as far as level 9, where everybody else got out, leaving me alone. The doors shut. Then there was a thud. Then a wallop, a bang and a clang, followed by a shudder. Then a kind of wibbly-wobbly boinging motion that doesn’t really have a good word to describe it. The doors opened, and I found myself on level 9½.
Finding all of this rather too odd for a Tuesday afternoon, and seeing as I’d missed my tutorial now anyway, I decided to go down again, but this time I thought it would be a good plan to take the stairs. Heading towards the Physics common room, I couldn’t help but think that things looked a little different to usual.
I’m not sure whether it was the old woman serving gruel from a large cauldron, or the stagecoaches passing outside, or the students sitting around writing with quills onto parchment, but things seemed to be a little more old-fashioned than normal, even for the Physics department.
I sat in the common room on an oak chair, near to some students wearing top hats. Somebody was fighting with what looked like a clockwork coffee machine.
“Please, sir, I want some more,” said the student.
“More what?” said the coffee machine, sounding very much like an old man with a cold.
A sneezing sound came from the coffee machine. “That’ll be four guineas, six farthings, two crowns, three pounds, eight groats, five shillings, sixpence ha’penny please.”
The student handed a coin to the machine, which then gave him back his change in a wheelbarrow. Several whirrings could be heard and then an elderly hand reached out to give the student his coffee. He sat down near me.
“Why this coffee, I liken it to a foul broth of intestinal fluids,” he said.
“Pray yes, of that it doth remind me also,” said another student, with a large boil on his nose.
“Verily, for much displeasure hath this coffee brought upon insides”, I replied, which was odd because I don’t normally talk like that.
The student with the boil looked at his pocket watch. “I shall now depart for the typewriter suite, for I must send a letter to my lecturer via carrier pigeon. I have vainly tried to pit myself against a difficult problem sheet,” and he left.
“Away we to the union this fine eve, for a night of idle pleasures?” said a girl to the student with the coffee. He appeared to be itching to get into her corset – or was that just because of the fleas?
I left, to try to find a way back to the twenty-first century.
Column 6: Charity, 15th November 2002
“And now on BBC1, we interrupt all half-decent programming to bore you to death with this year’s… Children in Need.”
Suddenly your eyelids are descending faster than your bank balance. Consciousness is fading quicker than the chances that you’ll stick to your resolution to do “a bit more work” this term. Your body collapses in a heap, just like the analogies in this paragraph.
Then you wake up to hear Toby Anstis say “And now we cross over to BBC Dullsby…”.
“This crazy man is sitting in a bath full of maggots!” shouts Gaby Roslin.
“They’re crawling up my nose. I think they’re biting me inside.” He’s a man sitting in a bath, as part of a line of men sitting in baths, and the baths are full of the typical “cray-zee” things that baths get full of at this time of year. You know: custard, gunge, mud, goo, gunk, jelly, acid, faeces, molten rock, water.
“And what about you, what’s this bath full of?”
“Razor blades” says a man, in a bath full of razor blades.
“Owch! You must be completely mad!”
“I was almost sectioned.”
“What’s your name?”
“I’m Sir Derek Roberts, Provost of UCL”
“And how much have you raised for Children in Need?”
“Children in Need?”
“Yes… the BBC charity entertainment phone-in extravaganza type thing.”
“Actually I’m raising money for Imperial College and UCL… Richard Sykes says we’ve got no money at all. He made me do this. The razor blades were his idea,” he says, glumly.
Standing to one side, there is a deep laugh. “Keep up the good work, Derek!” says Richard, with a cackle. “It’s this or the top-up fees, you see,” he says, turning to Gaby Roslin. “Surprisingly warm, under the glare of these lights,” he says, fanning himself with a large handful of fifty pound notes.
Back to the studio, and there’s Nicky Campbell from Watchdog. “Right, we’ve got Will Young and Ann Widdecombe in the studio, and as we said earlier, if we didn’t have four million pounds by now, Ann will be performing a striptease. And as if things couldn’t get any worse, Will will be singing. Let’s check the totals…”
A minute later and the hell is in full swing. Ann is in her underwear, while Will serenades her with “I want to take this moment, and make it last forever…” You wonder whether he really means it.
“Give us your money, give us your fucking money, now, please!” sobs Bob Geldof, eerily reminiscent of his famous Live Aid quote, although this time the anger is replaced by terror, and there are tears in his eyes. “The smell is appalling… people here are dying!” he says, as Ann’s bra comes flying in his direction.
Will’s song reaches a climax, Nicky Campbell wipes the sick off his chin and while Ann is dancing, her breasts knock out two cameramen. She moves a large fold of skin out of the way and reaches for her knickers, and then…
Column 5: Booze, 8th November 2002
I’m sure Imperial could sort out all its financial difficulties if it just replaced the optician’s on the walkway with an off-licence. Lack of spectacles and alcohol-induced bleariness might mean a small investment in replacing the library’s textbooks with large-print copies, but it would mean no top-up fees – and, regardless of background, students will all still have exactly the same opportunities to come to university. And get completely rat-arsed.
Probably because alcohol has destroyed my memory, I don’t remember what age I started drinking at, but it was probably quite young. Some people think targeting alcopops at children is morally wrong, but I disagree – the more kids we have lying unconscious in gutters, or in hospital beds undergoing liver transplants, the less of the little bastards we have taking up all the space in McDonalds. If they’re spending money on alcohol, they won’t be spending it in HMV, and perhaps that will mean the charts will be free of S-Club Juniors. So, we should be promoting alcohol more heavily to the under-16’s. There could be an advertising campaign like that badly dubbed Kinder Egg advert of several years ago…
The Scene: A Supermarket. A woman is standing in the drinks aisle with her three disgusting children.
Woman: Right, shut up, and I’ll buy you something.
Precocious Child 1: I’m hyperactive and thirsty – I want a drink full of artificial colourings!
Irritating Child 2: I’m too happy – I want a natural depressant!
Ugly Child 3: And I want a surprise!
Woman: Artificial colourings, a natural depressant… and a surprise… all in one… it’s not possible… it’s not possible…
Announcer: NEW VODKA SUNNY DELIGHT!
Woman: What a good idea! There you go kids.
Ugly Child 3: But where’s the surprise?
Woman: The surprise is that I haven’t given you a good wallop for being so bloody impertinent.
Ugly Child 3: What a rubbish surprise.
Woman: OK then – you were adopted. Surprise!
Getting kids into drinking also means that they should be well prepared for university life. Students would come to Imperial with a greater alcohol tolerance, which can only mean more money into the college coffers. And perhaps we’d see less vomiting in the union.
What better way to finish a fun night out than with your arms around a toilet bowl, retching so hard you can almost see your own intestines? While feeding your new ceramic friend your previous meal, you can find yourself asking questions – like, was there ever a man called Armitage Shanks? What is the Ideal Standard? All that graffiti on the cubicle wall – just why did all these people take a pen into the toilet? Why isn’t Kimberley Clark among the 100 Greatest Britons?
Just think, if it wasn’t for our Kim, you’d have nothing to clean the sick off your jeans with, except perhaps for spare copies of Felix. Now, this column may be full of bile, but I don’t want to see bits of sweetcorn in it as well.
Column 4: Procrastinate, 1st November 2002
Why go to the effort of doing something today, when you can safely put it off until tomorrow and spend today happily vegetating, drinking beer and wallowing in your own filth? Who knows, you could be decapitated by a stray Frisbee tomorrow, and you’re not going to be thanking yourself for spending your last day alive doing Problem Sheet 18 then, are you?
If a new form of life evolves from a piece of leftover pizza, multiplies rapidly and sends an army of giant killer lobsters to take over London armed with garden forks, and then, as one of the foul-breathed, large-pincered pink crustaceans grabs you by the throat, will your last words, as he jabs those three prongs into your spine, be “Thank god I handed that lab report in early”?
Probably not. No, my advice is just to put off whatever you can for as long as possible. And keep a large pan of water always on the boil. You never know when the lobsters will come.
When they do come, hopefully it will be in the afternoon. Mornings are just too painful. What fool decided the working day should begin at 9am? If some bastard timetables a lecture for 9am, that means I have to leave the house at 8.10, and if I’m going to be ready to go, fully prepared, clean, fresh, fragrant and dressed before I leave, that means I have to get out of bed at 8.07. That’s at least six hours before a man should naturally wake, and the results can clearly be seen in lectures.
At school, you were told off for falling asleep in a lesson, and could expect to be on the receiving end of a well-aimed board rubber if you dozed off. But at university, you’re supposed to be mature enough to maintain consciousness throughout your education. Just like you’re supposed to be organised enough to get those problem sheets done without anybody having to check up on you. Carte blanche to do bugger all really. As students take advantage of their “responsibilities”, whole lecture theatres begin to resemble dormitories, or perhaps the scene of a carbon monoxide leak, with students unconscious on A4 pads and a man at the front shouting mad gibberish.
You know when you’re falling asleep and you get random sentences coming into your head? Well, maybe it’s just me, but if it’s 9am and you’re trying to write lecture notes, you have to be careful not to let the brain noise get in the way of what you’re supposed to be studying. If you’re not careful, you can end up writing notes like “In time t, if an energy E is transferred to the man standing on the brick goalpost with his battered, gelatinous hand clenched around a whale’s kidney, the conjecture is true for all k.” That’s not much help come revision time – you can’t write that in an exam. Perhaps I should have done a Philosophy degree. Then maybe nobody would notice.