Friday, February 24, 2017

My Life: The Brand New Series!

This week my life began what was once dubbed 'a new chapter' but which I see as 'a new series' with all the hyped hyperbole that entails - "New faces, new challenges, new adventures... nothing. will. ever. be. the same. again!"

This time two weeks ago I lived in a bedsit which I had originally planned to be a three week stop-gap shelter but ended up being home for two and a half years; a testament to my intense aversion to organising, packing, and lifting.  

I lived a type of existence which was obviously signed-posted for and end of series twist. One where the protagonist almost gives up on this weary world only to win the lottery (having bought tickets thrice weekly to hurry this final twist along). The twist never happened. Instead I just moved. 

I went from what was a bleak comedy (without the comedy) in the style of Rising Damp, mis-matched souls bound together in a bedsit divided house, to what is closer to the show I always hoped adult life would be like - This Life

I'm now living in a house-share of young(ish) professionals though with less wine-swilling and ill-advised shagging and instead much more tea, early pyjamas, and scoffing at the telly. 

Am I alone in sometimes considering life as though it's a TV show? It may be because it is literally my day job as a TV producer, it may be because my generation were weened on simple story constructions with happy endings and dramatic cliffhangers, or more likely it's because I'm a raving narcissist who sees the world around him as a mere backdrop to his boring adventures. 

This thought first occurred to me at a friend's wedding a few years ago (there have been approximately 34 such occasions in the last five years, all brilliant). We were all friends from our teenage years but were soon to separate across the globe, our diverging paths and differing life choices clearly marked. As I took in the group drunkenly embracing and howling out Westlife's 'We Got A Little World of Our Own' (this has become oddly standard at Irish weddings), I remarked to a friend, 'God, this is just like an end of season finale!'. 

And it was. Old feuds were resolved, old romances put to bed (or brought to bed), everyone united in nostalgia whilst acknowledging deep change was ahead. Freeze frame on group happiness. Fade to black. Insert frustratingly small text on black background giving poignant updates on what happened next. 

And so my next season begins. Much may change but some show standards are expected - villains from past make unwanted reappearances (boo! hiss!), fresh romantic interests will prove unrequited ('jeez when will he learn? It's actually boring now'), and old fan favourites from seasons past will make welcome special reappearances to spike interest. 

Ideally the series' go-to storyline of 'hangover-never again-again-hangover-never-again' will finally die off due to critical mauling. Could I also request some episodes might slip into a post-watershed slot? Maybe that would push the limits of believability. We don't want to jump the shark. 

I'm on Twitter @theroryjohn

Monday, February 6, 2017

A Basic Bert

I have realised that I am more Bert than Ernie.

Despite what my autobiography may one day refer to as 'the questionable cider decades', I am not a wild child. I am no rebel. My spirit is not free. My spirit wears a cardigan and insists on strong tea. My Fitbit told me so.

For those who don't have one yet (they are an inevitability), the fitness tracker gives your arm a buzz when you reach the daily target of steps. My daily target is 10,000 steps which I always reach on the way home... outside the exact same Spar.

This may not seem surprising (or lets face it, even vaguely interesting). I take the same route to work and home so it adds up to much the same and YET this also means all my caffeine-addled dashes to the kettle, my impromptu consultations with colleagues (aka bad office flirting), toilet trips, lunch-break wanders, and any free-style jigs I partake in all add up to the exact same amount, give or take a margin of five steps. Sit down Alan Partridge, that's world champion level dull predictability.

Further evidence of this bludgeoning of spontaneity came with a recent trip to Topman. I bought two fresh identical plain black jumpers as the two identical plain black jumpers I already have are sometimes in the wash. These are always worn with one pair of my six pairs of identical plain black jeans. Topped off with one of two identical plain black hats. To add a cheeky dash of excitement to this outfit  I chucked in two identical plain black t-shirts because why the hell not? I was thrilled with myself. Or as thrilled as someone who dresses like Goth Rosie from Corrie (2005-2006) can be.

I have previously talked of my love off being a cafe regular and so it could seem my lust for ordered routine is turning into a mild obsession. But I just prefer to run the background bits of life on autopilot as much as possible. I know how some folk embrace the challenge of assembling a statement outfit and can imagine how creating and stepping into a fresh character each morning sparks joy as they strut the pavement. I whole-heartedly admire a put-together 'look at me' look in others. I'm just not arsed myself. I was not put-together, I hit the snooze button three times and nodded off again in the shower.

While I still have an Ernie side (yes, I have had spontaneous fun, reasonable night transport home allowing), I will always champion the Bert. The Bert side is old enough to know what it likes and how it likes it. The Bert side welcomes buying the same jumper again because the last one went bobbly in the wash. The Bert side shamelessly orders the same lunch five times a week because it's what you like to eat. The Bert side savours getting to bed before midnight. The Bert side doesn't need every banal life choice to be a whizzbangpopper of an adventure.

If you don't know (and secretly love) your own Bert side yet, you will. He's coming.

I'm on Twitter @theroryjohn

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Don't Have a...Cow!?

Some phrases are stealth nonsense. They creep into daily speak and hide in plain sight for generations. Accepted, maintained, and passed on without assessment or particular affection. But one day you might catch their shifty eye and see them for what they are - gibbering bullshittery.

Which brings me to, as ever, my bone-achingly dull commute to work. Somewhere between Mill Hill Broadway and Hendon I wondered where 'Cor Blimey' came from (I was fondly reminiscing over the rooftop sunset scene in Mary Poppins "...the rooftops of London, 'cor what a sight!", as you do)

With a quick google I discovered it's a corrupted pass-me-down of 'God blind me', which is an odd way of saying 'I'm quite surprised' to begin with.

Slipping down an etymology Google hole, I discovered that 'Crikey' was a mid-1800s substitute for 'Christ!'. It seems a decent chunk of our vocab stems from that familiar scenario of beginning to curse, catching your mum's eye, and swerving the end of the word - "Oh shhhhhhhh... ugar".

Another prominent example of a cursing u-turn is Bart Simpson's 'Eat my shorts'. A phrase the show trumpeted back when Bart was a t-shirt slogan spewing rebel and 'The Simpsons Sing the Blues' was THE cassette album to have.

(Note: Once I casually mentioned this album to a work-experience college student. They had never heard of it. Nor 'The Bartman'. To be fair this is because the album came out 27 years ago. Darkness fell across my emotional landscape.)

'Eat my shorts' was not a Simpsons invention and had previously been used in 1985 classic 'The Breakfast Club'. Looking at it afresh it's a very obvious censor-appeasing swerve on 'Eat my shit'.

And what of Bart's "Don't Have a Cow Man"?

Roughly speaking it means "don't freak out like you're trying to push a calf out of your down-below bits". It stems from "to have kittens", a more familiar phrase on this side of the Atlantic which means 'freaking out' as cats are notoriously nervy during kitten-birth. 'Don't have a cow' became the US adaptation, because Americans just had to go one bigger.

And about other early 90s tshirt-friendly-cartoon-slogans? (And nothing is more early 90s than a tshirt-friendly-cartoon-slogan.) 'Cowabunga' long predates Michelangelo. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Michelangelo that is.

The pizza-loving 'party dude' brought it to a new generation but surfers used it when catching a 'narly wave' in the 1960s, and it debuted on the 'Howdy Doody Show' in 1953. The wild-west puppet show featured some questionable Native American stereotypes, as was the fashion at the time.

On some lowly corners of the internet it's rumoured to be derived from the actual Native American exclamation 'Kwa Bungu', though it seems to be a neat coincidence considering 'Howdy Doody' writer Eddie Kean says it was pure nonsense babble he made it up.

If you can think of any other familiar slogans or phrases you'd like me to investigate just give me a shout (because let's face it, this is what I do with my weekends now).

I'm on Twitter @theroryjohn