Saturday, February 04, 2012

2012 - 5

Reflections

It's not been a bad week. I had this horrible feeling that my cough was coming back with a grudge yesterday, but I think it was just a symptom of a long week, made more difficult by people being off sick (so now I suppose I know what it's like when I'm off).

Yes, I hate the weather. Getting up in the morning has only been tempered by my close proximity to radiators and the walk from the car to school has been hampered by this odd feeling I've had that I have to take my hat off before I even get out of the car; which is strange, as my boss has been wearing gloves since November - inside the building as well as out.

As you might imagine, a school is a warm place, especially my office, which is toasty and a bit too cloying at times. However, my assistant's room is a mass of windows, is a bit larger, and she has been complaining since November that it's bloody freezing. Every time either of us has gone to the caretakers to ask for the heating to be put up, we've been told it is on maximum. As a result, she went off sick with a chill on Tuesday and I was left holding the fort.

Fast forward to Friday. My assistant comes back to work, walks into the room and is greeted by her own breath condensing in front of her. Later in the morning, still wearing her coat and fielding complaints from blue-tinged children, the head caretaker comes into her room, looking for me. When asked if he thought the room was cold, he expanded and said he thought the room was freezing. He went to the thermostat, which only they can change because it is locked in a little box, and discovered the heating had, in fact, been turned off in that room entirely...

Now, I know that we both work with the kids who are already being condemned to having no future, but seriously, is killing them through hypothermia a solution? I admit, it's something that often needs to be considered, but maybe a little more subtly.

That chilly room aside, I coughed my way through the week and finished it actually feeling that I'm now part of the furniture. I think it's a moment all new employees hope for - the start of being a cog in the wheel rather than just trying to fit in.

I seemed to spend a lot of last week explaining things that I'm sure other people are better qualified at doing, but one student, who is working on a history project about JFK, found that my knowledge of Lee Harvey Oswald, his wife Marina and what he did before he killed the president was just totally awesome. It helped that I'd just read Stephen King's JFK book, which, as the afterword says, extrapolates on known facts about the assassin. I also spent the end of the week explaining why people shouldn't use the word 'Pikey' when talking about Travellers. It's a strange situation really; having to dissuade people from being judgemental about a group of individuals I have the same amount of respect for as my charges.

I also discovered that people at the school have me labelled. The students all think I'm like Greg Davis's character from The Inbetweeners - the head of 6th form, I believe. I am yet to watch it. While a group of my colleagues all think I remind them of... fucking Rik Mayal or however he spells his untalented and irritating name. One year 10 thinks I look like Justin Timberlake's dad... Not his actual dad, just what she imagines his dad would look like!?!?

Out Foul Spot

Chris Huhne allegedly perverts the course of justice. John Terry gets sacked as England Captain and the government accepts it was wrong to allow a top civil servant to subcontract his position to himself to allow him to avoid paying any tax or NI because he registered his company off shore. All this while Harry Rednapp is involved in a high profile tax avoidance court case for a sum of money that compared to every other bugger getting away with not paying their dues, looks like nothing more than an opportunity by HMRC to make the average person think they're doing something about tax avoidance.

It seems that Labour have laid down and accepted it was their fault that the country is in an economic mess, despite their fault being only a small percentage of the actual mess and that (apart from nobody particularly being impressed by Ed Milliband) seems to be the entire reason for thinking that David Cameron is now destined to lead the country eventually without his LibDem crutch. Here's a fact for you. Including the last Tory government's 18 years in power and Labour's 13, there have been a number of scandals that has resulted in ministers losing their jobs. So far governments with Conservatives in them are beating Labour 3:1 in terms of losing jobs because of illegal or inappropriate activities.

It seems that the country as a whole doesn't actually, really, care about whether our MPs are honest, decent and trustworthy, or, for that matter, our football captains or our HMRC...

Release the Pressure

My latest TV obsession (and another that's about 10 years after every one else) is Family Guy. A TV series that is essentially The Simpsons but much more anarchic and therefore considerably funnier.

Family Guy for those of you who haven't been bombarded with it on BBC3 or FX is essentially an animated 'sitcom' featuring the Griffin family of Peter, Lois, Meg, Chris, Stewie and the talking dog Brian, who is undoubtedly the most intelligent of the group, even if he is a dog. It is a similar set up to Homer and Bart's show - stupid dad, bright but misunderstood daughter, a wife who is intelligently bi-polar, a son who is dysfunctional and a baby. They all live in a fictional town, Peter drinks at the local bar with his usual gang of friends and the family get involved in all kinds of weird adventures. Except weird and adventures are not really what happens. Unlike The Simpsons which relies heavily on the family as a central theme, the Griffins don't so much have weekly plot developments more like a rough plot that is allowed to follow a bizarre stream of consciousness. Plus, despite Peter's similarities to Homer, the yellow skinned over-biter is considerably more intelligent than his Quahog counterpart. Lois is similar to Marge Simpson in many ways, except she is capable of some of the most bizarre and ill-thought-out ideas. Meg differs from Lisa in that Meg is ugly, fat, disliked and the butt of almost every one's jokes. Chris is no Bart Simpson; he is depicted as being slightly more stupid than his father and while the character is one of the most underused in the show, I think that's done deliberately. You often just see him standing around staring at walls or into thin air. The real differences are with Stewie, the baby of the family. Where Maggie Simpson does nothing but suck on a dummy and get into mishaps, Stewie wants world domination, hates his mother, loathes his father and has little or no time for his siblings, while simultaneously loving and ridiculing Brian the dog. Shaped like an American football, Stewie is equal parts baby, murderer, psychopath, evil genius and lovable scamp, therefore his antithesis is Brian the dog, who is intelligent, but moral (despite smoking and having a love for sex and booze) and is the ethical fibre of the Griffin family, doing everything he can to keep the family together, while lusting after Lois.

Among many things, the show specialises in bizarre cut away vignettes to quickly tell the story of a reference made by whatever character is talking, or in most cases to leave you blinking at the screen wondering how on earth an American writer could come up with something so surreal, yet so incredibly funny. I like to think it's how The Simpsons would have been like has Terry Gilliam produced it and insisted the script team cannot work unless they are under the influence of drugs. It also pushes the boundaries of common decency to a level I've never seen on US television and there isn't really any sex or nudity in it that would concern anyone, because it is done in a cartoon way.

Like the show it is often compared to, Family Guy does have its fair share of duff episodes, or can start brilliantly and then run out of steam, especially if the writers are deliberately trying to force a point they all feel strongly about that week. So, therefore, like The Simpsons there is an element of moralising, even if it's just an excuse to do something gross or bizarre.

One perfect example is an episode I watched on Wednesday night that, to be as brief as possible, involved Peter running up a $34,000 chemists bill, exchanging his daughter for the debt and the subplot of Stewie's new babysitter. These plot details are immaterial really, because it is the set piece scenes that tend to steal every show and they rarely advance the story. Part of Peter's debt to the chemist involves him basically taking anything he wants from racks of greetings cards to bottles of laxatives to play drinking games with. Said game involved drinking an entire bottle of the laxative (normal dose a teaspoon full) and seeing who can go the longest without throwing up - the winner getting the last piece of pie in the kitchen. By the time Peter, Chris, Stewie and Brian had covered the entire living room in vomit, I was laughing so hard I was worried I'd wake the wife up and I missed half of it stifling guffaws.

One of the funnier trademarks of Family Guy is its willingness to linger rather than have the joke and move on. What they effectively do is stretch the joke so far it's starts being funny, stops and then gets funnier again - a trick The Fast Show used to its advantage. I sometimes wonder what the Americans make of some of the jokes that seem to just last far longer than their usual attention spans, but for me it's one of the real highlights of the show and it's used sparingly, so as not to become repetitive.

It is also a show that I've been aware of for years and occasionally dipped into, but I don't think I was ever prepared for it until now and it is worth persevering with, because you'll be laughing before you know it.

Perseverance

Still getting free lobster spam. I'm also getting spam from someone called Anthony Morrison and it appeared the day after I made 'friends' on Facebook with someone called Morrison. That's a coincidence a little too far, I think. Might explain how Facebook make so much money considering they don't charge their 500 trillion members.

However, that extrapolation suggests that people who work for Mark Zuckerberg know the faceless wankers responsible for so much spam flying around the world and surely that's good enough reason to kill them all?

Huh?

The rest of my day is going to mainly trying to think of something to do for dinner, which wouldn't be so bad if I hadn't gone food shopping yesterday. It will also involve a chilly dog walk and will probably end with a night curled up in front of a roaring fire waiting for the impending blizzard that has been forecast. The weather men seem to all agree that it should start snowing in Northampton between 5 and 6:00pm and will continue until the wee hours of tomorrow morning, delivering up to 10cm of snow, which will then freeze causing death and carnage on the roads. Yet according to the BBC Live Football updates it was snowing heavily in Stoke-on-Trent at 1:00pm and that is just 100 miles away by road and actually about 75 miles as the crow flies. The skies are growing cloudy and I wouldn't be at all surprised if it didn't arrive here by 3:00pm.

We had the street light in front of my office turned off in the summer; the wife was pleased about it, but I miss it, especially during the winter, because it allows me to keep an eye on the immediate world outside and obviously tell you all about some of the strange things I've seen and heard. However, I'll really miss it for something altogether relaxing. In the 12 or so years we've lived in this house, a huge swathe of those years saw little or no snow at all, but the last few years have been more like winters we've been led to believe happened every year.

One of the most relaxing and pleasant experiences I've had on cold week nights, after the wife has gone to bed, is to turn off the lights in my office, sit back in my chair and watch the snow fall around the street lamp; watching as my part of the world transforms from being a typical dull town street into a winter wonderland and one that few cars come along to spoil. I just find it really peaceful, the same way I like listening to rain on the conservatory roof as I try to get to sleep on wet nights.

The most amusing aspect of this impending snow fall is the look of disappointment on the faces of my colleagues on Friday when they realised that the only snow of the year so far will fall on a weekend, thus stymieing their chances of getting a paid day off. It's not like we get enough holiday already, is it?

1 comment:

  1. I was aware of Family Guy, but didn't really follow it until I watched that very same episode, and that very same scene, and then fell in love with it.

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