Tuesday, 19 June 2012


It may have been simple prejudice on my part, but I couldn't suppress a little giggle when four burqa-clad (from top to toe) women went up to Gok Wan who was passing me in Bermondsey street and one of them said, "We are your greatest fans"

Dear darling David Cameron must rue the day he decided to set up the Leveson enquiry.  Of all the headlines he could have wanted, I doubt the text from Rebekah Brooks saying 'We are in it together' was one he wanted at all.

I'm a little alarmed by the headlines today.  According to Ofsted, playground banter is the seed of bullying and should be stopped.  I'm not doubting the severity of playground bullying...indeed it was apparent to me at our last Old Boys re-union that some of my contemporaries had suffered all their lives from the consequences of bullying.  I think my concern stems from the thought that some faceless bureaucrats are taking up the issue when it is probably better managed by teachers who are in the school, in the playground on a daily basis.  Bureaucrats have a habit of imposing solutions that don't work in the real world...and in this case, the danger is that new rules are imposed that destroy children's creative spirits.  Far better that the people who spend their days with the children and help them develop into responsible adults have a handle on this rather than zombie-inducing political correctness being introduced from Whitehall.

The faceless bureaucrats issue came to the fore in a TV series that I'm just catching up with - The Secret History of our Streets which is absolutely fascinating.  The first episode tells you about prosperous Deptford High Street.  If you know London now, you'll know it's anything but.  Town Planners, local planning committees and health and environment officers conspired to destroy a centuries old community by turning London into a 'machine' (their words, not mine).  If you get the chance, watch it on the Beeb.

Back on the tarmac an interesting dynamic has started to develop.  In my group there's about 75 of us under the guidance of two teachers/co-ordinators.  One of them is a softly-spoken Australian (I know that stretches credibility) and there was a gentle titter went round when she started calling the 'county' we're in Burkshire, as opposed to Barkshire as Berkshire is called.  She's lovely, but is working against a background of the whole thing changing as we go along...that is inevitable with such events....especially as we're doing something that has never been done before.  So in the last couple of weeks, one of our number.  Let's call him 21.  21 has taken to 'helping' our Aussie by barking out orders and directions to the rest of the team.  Amusing at first, there is a swell of antagonism growing.  In the meantime, number 52 has decided that he knows best (truth be told, he's always thought he knows best right from the start) and is trying to throw his weight around.  Consistently...without exception in fact....he's wrong. As he's 'retired' in his words there are sniping comments about him being bullied at home.  That may explain why he started to pick on the guy in our group who's partially paralysed after a stroke some years ago.  He may be a little slow, but he gives it his all, remains enthusiastic and a couple of weeks ago organised the Jubilee celebration in his viallge in Norfolk.  In the meantime, there are the moaners and groaners...a fair few of them, there are the ones who want to know what they're going to be given for doing this.  And then there are the rest of us who have decided to put our head down and just get on with the task in hand, waiting for our great moment in the stadium.  For us that is reward enough.

We bid farewell to Dagenham this last weekend.  Our last rehearsal there was on Sunday, and from this weekend we're in the Stadium itself...and that is immeasurably exciting.  I can't say that I got to like Dagenham, but it was fun being there and you got a real sense of how difficult it is to pull together something like this.  The stadium will be something else...and the impending sense of what we are there to achieve may yet overwhelm us...

Another programme we're just catching up on is Episodes, which is now on its second series.  It stars the magnificent Steven Mangan and Tamsin Greig (as well as Matt LeBlanc).

We watched the first series with growing disillusionment as it went from being light-hearted to quite bitter in its humour.  We vowed not to watch the second series until persuaded to by favourable comment from UP, and it is an absolute gem - sharp, witty with a vary daring bitter-sweetness which means you can't relax and roll with it for a moment.  If you're feeling brave give it a whirl....but be warned it'll bite you just when you're least expecting it.  And it is good to see Greig and Mangan begin to reprise their 'will they, won't they' relationship which they did so well in the absolutely classic Green Wing