Tuesday, 9 August 2011

There’s Nothing to Fear, except Fear itself - oh and Angry Rioting Mobs.

Ever sat at home watching a really good disaster movie, a very realistic one in which familiar places are being destroyed. Then it dawns on you that this isn’t a disaster movie, it’s the news, it’s real - at which point your anal sphincter opens wider than Davina McCall’s mouth and you need to reupholster your settee. Which is exceedingly hard when every sofa store within fifty miles is ablaze.

In case you’ve locked yourself in a secure vault, possibly not the worst idea I’ve heard all week, you won’t know that over the last few days a number of places in London, and across the country, have decided to twin themselves with Tottenham. As civil disturbances, which are generally as welcome as a Jim Davidson comeback tour, spread the land. Rioting is generally better, I find, when it is happening somewhere else, Libya, Athens or Bradford. When it’s happening down the road it’s particularly scary.

The rioting has sparked a number of questions, such as what was the initial trigger for such acts? What are the socio-economic conditions that have caused such violence? Have the police been using the right tactics? And how is it possible to loot a Vision Express? I mean seriously, what was there to take from Tottenham’s Vision Express? Ok, so there’s the till, but that’s just simple burglary, to loot you’ve got to do more than that. What did they do come away with hundreds of pairs of dummy glasses and a lifetime’s supply of contact lens solution? Perhaps they turned up late and there were no shops left to loot, either the opticians or an estate agent and they realised that hundreds of pairs of glasses were better than a load of pictures of houses they don’t own.

Ok, so I’m making light of a very serious situation with some very sad consequences. To some extent I have to, simply in order to keep myself sane – if I actually thought about this seriously all day and night my brain would have a fit, then explode and dribble out my ears, and we’ve already had far too much stray bodily fluid in this post.

The truth is I am supreme worrier, I can worry about anything and everything and frequently do. If worrying were an Olympic sport I wouldn’t compete because I’d be worried the starting official might accidentally fire the gun when pointed in the wrong direction – seriously has that ever happened? Should I be worried? Thank god I didn’t get those Olympic tickets. I’m the kind of person who walks past some broken glass on the street and worries that someone could fall over on it and DIE! Or that at any moment standing on a balcony the railing could rust and we’d all plunge to our deaths. It may seem overly paranoid here in text, but in my mind these are just the tip of the iceberg of the very real threats that plague my every waking moment.

As you can imagine this situation hasn’t been improved by the fact that I passed through the corner of Clapham Junction, by Debenhams, just an hour or so before it descended into full scale anarchy last night, nor the fact I’ve been watching the BBC News Channel non-stop all day (thankfully I didn’t watch Sky News or I’d have died in a fatal stress attack at about 11am). Television and film tend to have a very worrying effect on my psyche, far more that mere newspaper reports, radio or idle conversation can achieve. I’m not quite sure why that is, it must be something in the moving pictures convincing me that terrifying situations are indeed real – even when they’re not. After seeing Jurassic Park 3, I remember being extra anxious walking the streets of my hometown for fear that a velociraptor might leap from a dark corner and rip my body limb from limb at any moment, this of course didn’t happen, but it didn’t stop my brain from cycling through the potential consequences in alarming detail.

I’m particularly “good”, at imagining myself within films – not in an egotistical, “starring myself as the lead hunk” kind of way. But in “I wonder what would happen to me, if I was the character in the story”, invariably these unstable psychosis based simulations don’t end well for my imaginary self. I’m never the hero of any situation, simply the shrivelling wreck who lives a highly implausible but unfortunate life. Few of you may remember the 2000 film The 6th Day starring Arnold Schwarzenegger (you probably blocked it from your mind), but our good friend Arnie wakes up to discover that has been replaced by a clone who is currently living out his life and must battle to uncover the highly unbelievable, sinister multinational company plot that has given him two roles in this film. You probably remember it for the dodgy acting, two hours of your life you’ll never get back, and the creepy dots the clones had on their eyeballs. All I remember is the fact that I spent most of the next week worrying about what would happen if I were replaced by a clone, and concluded that even though my clone would also be a pathetically weak individual I would lose out to him, and he would end up sitting all my university lectures. Obviously a pointless waste of my worrying energy which could have only been more misused, had I spent my time worrying about the prospects of entering a long term relationship.

So bad has this odd psychosis become that I can no longer watch end-of-civilization-epoch-shattering-apocalypse-disaster movies any more, as my chances of survival in the resultant imaginary sequel featuring myself are so remote that I end up deeply depressed. I don’t know when this happened, as a child this didn’t bother me. I remember going to see Independence Day at the age of about 12, and practically bursting with joy as aliens, who really should have renewed their Norton Anti-Virus subscription, blew city sized chunks out of humanity. I suspect that I’d been spoilt by a diet of sanitised children’s television in which no matter the number of explosions or bullets everyone survived (except Bambi’s mum) and no one had to rebuild their destroyed lives, as a quick swish of a broom tidied up even the worst of explosions. Perhaps if I’d grown up with the high body count of the current Doctor Who, or watching the surprisingly dark Captain Scarlett, I’d have had a more realistic appreciation of the consequences of alien invasion. Because it actually turns out having a sizeable chunk of the White House smack into your face at high velocity can really put a dampener on your career prospects. Certainly by the time I caught my last disaster story - when I accidentally watched the BBC’s reimagining of Day of the Triffids last year, my priorities had changed. Rather than marvelling at the special effects, and odd casting of Eddie Izzard, I instead spent the entire programme worrying about the poor sods who’d been blinded by a solar flare and then eaten by a geranium. And then the rest of the week going to bed with a bottle of weed killer under my pillow.

Given that in the real world I’d lose out in a bare knuckle boxing match to any one of the Cheltenham Under 8s Ballet Class members, in my fictitious simulations of any of Hollywood’s civilization destroying scenarios I meet the same fate. I end up surviving the initial mass destruction meted out to mankind, but in the process have my sanity utterly mauled by the horrific scenes I’ve witnessed, only to then die straight away in the “new world”, as the “character that dies pointlessly, just to prove that even though the volcano/rampant virus/alien invasion is over, the world is a dangerous place”. If I’d been in Lost I’d have been the guy who, after living through the trauma of a plane crash and emerging on the deserted island, promptly gets sucked through the plane’s jet engine and chopped into a rather messy fifty billion piece jigsaw puzzle in episode one - just to prove to dear viewer how dangerous the island is. Still at least I wouldn’t have had to live through trying to work out the remaining six seasons.

And in real life that’s probably a good thing, I mean if civilization really does come to an end, what use am I going to be? How long after the Domestos style destruction of 99.99% of mankind, and the subsequent collapse of all society, will someone with the skills of a children’s television producer actually be useful? I reckon it’s going to be quite a while, in the meantime there’s going to be lots of cold winters and my rotisseried buttock flesh will probably end up keeping those doctors and civil engineers from going hungry. Oh well, it’s for the good of civilization I suppose.

So as not to end on a sour note, I’d like to go off on a complete tangent and recommend one of my favourite shows of the moment Only Connect which returns next week for a new series. The show’s everything that ITV2 isn’t, surely that should be sufficient encouragement to view? But it’s essentially a logic based quiz-show which is unashamedly high brow, full of questions so fiendish that if you’ve scored zero by the end of the of the programme, you’ll be quite proud. So make sure you tune in to BBC Four at 8.30pm this coming Monday, provided you haven’t been vaporised by Lord Voldemort in the meantime. I mean it could happen… I knew I shouldn’t have gone to see Harry Potter.

Oh and please feel to comment below, only nice things please – actually sod that I’m a lonely attention seeker I’ll take abuse to, just any kind of comment or message just to prove I’m loved. Or apparently if you put your e-mail address in the box at the bottom you can subscribe to this blog, I have no idea how it works, maybe you do?


James Robinson said...

Nice post... if a little graphic :)

Kirsty said...

"Going to bed with a bottle of weed killer under my pillow."

I laughed so hard at this it made my nose run. Nice. :)

Holly said...

Gosh... I had no idea what it felt like to be you. I'm exhausted!