5 things I learned from the Brits

5 things I learned from the Brits

1 Ant & Dec are not funny

Brits 2015 Ant & Dec
Ant & Dec

Whether it is presenting the Brits or any of their turn the handle TV shows, Ant & Dec are not funny. With that sentence I will probably have upset half the people who read this (both of you!), but it has to be said. I saw them referred to the other day as the new Morecambe & Wise. Hang on a minute! Eric Morecambe was a brilliant comedian, with perfect timing (even when the material was mediocre). Ant & Dec can’t even get the timing right and the material is never better than mediocre. Ernie Wise was a consummate straight man, while these two are both straight men – they forgot the comedian bit. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with being amiable, professional Geordies who pop up on just about everything. It’s just that there are far funnier things from Newcastle. Ross Noble for a start. Hebburn was brilliant and the Newcastle United back four are funniest of all.

2 Madonna is a true professional

Brits 2015 - Out damned knot out
Brits 2015 – Out damned knot out

Madonna’s wardrobe malfunction and double back flip was fairly spectacular but did have an upside – the singing stopped (albeit briefly). By that, I mean she was actually singing. Sometimes at these events there is a strong suspicion of miming to pre-recorded performances. Just to show how professional she is she got up and, despite being in obvious pain, continued with the routine. Not bad for a 56 year-old. Certain footballers would still be rolling around now trying to get the cloak sent off.

3 If easily offended – don’t book Kanye West

Brits 2015 - Kanye West Censored
Brits 2015 – Kanye West Censored

Have any of the ITV production staff heard of Kanye West (other than being married to someone famous for being famous)? Had they listened to any five minute spell of any of his albums they would know that there may be a little choice language coming up. I suspect there was also a rehearsal which could have alerted them, though with 500 people on stage this would have been a touch chaotic. So, what was the tactic for making sure we didn’t hear language that may offend us – muting the sound every few seconds. Far better not to  show the performance, surely? Having said that, it was after the watershed which I thought meant adult programming? While I am in full flow, language will rarely offend me. Charlie Brooker’s Weekly Wipe (now that is FUNNY) is shown at about the same time with very choice language and no muting. Back at the Brits I was slightly uncomfortable with the pseudo military imagery on stage which went completely uncensored. Was it just me who thought having flame throwers that looked like rocket launchers coupled with the style of dress looked a bit intimidating? Still, so long as kids don’t hear on TV the sort of language they use in the playground where’s the problem?

4 Paloma Faith is a star

Brits 2015 Paloma Faith
Brits 2015 Paloma Faith

Looking at the lineup before the show, you would have put money on Madonna turning in the most polished and imaginative performance. Obviously, the dodgy knot in the cloak impacted things but, even without the slapstick, surely the performance of the night would still go to Paloma Faith? The Arena’s scale allows the sort of dramatic staging we saw but the tiny singer certainly made the most of it and turned in the best singing in the rain since the aforementioned Morecambe & Wise.

5 Two presenters of awards doesn’t work 

Brits 2015 - Two presenters doesn't work
Brits 2015 – Two presenters doesn’t work

Time and again, producers of this kind of show think that having two presenters for each award somehow adds to the spectacle – it doesn’t. (With the possible exception of Rita Ora’s dress – her mum should have made her wear a vest to avoid catching her death). Rarely do the scripted ad-libs work, nobody knows who speaks next and usually, at least one of them is the worse for drink. Once again, it was left to Russell Crowe to show how it should be done. It looked like he had come straight from his taxi as he strode down the catwalk with his coat on. No clumsy jokes, give Ed Sheeran the award and get off again – class. If only the hosts could do the same. Where’s Mick Fleetwood when you need him?

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A short story – Champagne please

I saw her from across the bar. An image of a porcelain figure flashed through my mind as she slipped into a seat in the corner. She was making a note in a small leather diary as I moved towards her. I sat at the next table. She looked up and smiled. I fell in love immediately with her sparkling blue eyes. She spoke first.

‘Nice bar.’

‘Yes, very nice’

Oh, great start. She’s going to be hooked by your devilish sense of humour now isn’t she? I tried again.

‘It’s my one vice, staying here whenever I’m in the area. How about you, been here before?’

‘No, I was just passing and decided I deserved a drink.’

‘Please. Allow me.’

She smiled a perfect smile.

‘Thanks, but I must warn you, I’m celebrating.’

‘So it has to be champagne then!’

She tilted her head slightly and smiled again.

‘Yes. I think it does.’

Champagne bottle and glasses
Champagne bottle and glasses

For once, the waiter was looking straight at me as I turned towards him. A bottle and two glasses arrived in seconds and the conversation flowed. At her invitation I moved across to sit opposite her. We introduced ourselves.

‘So, Emma, what are we celebrating?’

She thought for a moment before looking up at me and smiling again.

‘Let’s just say I’ve got rid of the man who wasn’t making me happy any more.’

She raised her glass and we drank a toast to getting rid of unhappiness.  I accepted the cigarette she offered and produced my lighter. Her cool fingers touched my hand to steady the flame. That smile again. She slipped off her jacket, revealing an expensive looking cream silk shirt. As she twisted in her seat to place the jacket behind her, I started to think of what may lay ahead tonight.  She seemed different, not like the rest.

He was already there as I made my way through the bar. Nice suit. Clean shaven. Too much cologne, but expensive. He seemed nervous. Maybe he’s not like the others. Always too sure of themselves. Probably a rep. Used the hotel before, not like me. Must do OK, sprang for champagne. The waiter kept staring at me. Still, easier to order drinks. He was quite entertaining once he relaxed a bit. I started to enjoy myself. Eyes out on stalks when I took my jacket off. Maybe he is like the others. It’ll cost him! 

I ordered another bottle. This was getting expensive but I figured it was an investment. I don’t suppose my boss will pick up the tab but I had a decent commission coming this month. Let’s live a bit. The waiter lingered just that little bit too long, eyes fixed on her all the time. No tip for you mate.  She asked about my job.

‘I sell surgical equipment: everything from the humble scalpel to huge body scanners.’

‘You must be good at it, judging by the suit and the expensive taste in drinks.’

‘It keeps me off the streets. What about you?’

‘Publishing. Magazines mainly. The glossier the better. Lifestyle, travel, fashion, you know the kind of thing.’

‘Sounds interesting. Who do you work for?’

‘I don’t. They work for me!’

With that, she excused herself and glided towards the bathroom. Alarm bells sounded in my head. Out of my league! My slight exaggeration of the scale of my job and this bombshell scared the life out of me. It was more than a slight exaggeration as well. I sell stationery. I calmed myself. This is just a bit of fun. A one night stand, nothing more. I could flash the cash, bluff my way through and try to get her upstairs. By morning it will all be over. A bit of fun, that’s all – unless she turns out to be just like the rest. Then it won’t matter anyway. Relax, enjoy yourself. This could be fun.

She smiled as she slid into her seat.

‘Are you hungry?’

‘Absolutely.’

‘Great, this is on me – no arguments.’

That was fine by me as the champagne had set me back nearly a hundred already. The waiter carried the remains of our drinks into the restaurant and we were soon settled behind huge menus.

I offered to pay for dinner and he accepted. Conversation was easy but I would bet that he lied about his job. It doesn’t matter of course, we all do it – even me. Twice his eyes lingered a little too long when he thought I was reading the menu. Maybe he is like the rest. When I suggested we take brandy and coffee in his room his eyes almost popped out on stalks. Come into my web!

As we walked to the lift I fingered the ring in my pocket. I must remember to put it back on in the morning. With the other hand, I fingered the blade, cool against my touch. My heart pounded in my chest and ears. She smiled, just like the rest.  I heard a swish of silk as we turned the corner; mouth dry. I fumbled with the key. She laughed and said not to be nervous. If only she knew.

He almost dropped the key. I took it from him, my hand brushing his just a little longer than necessary. A suite – nice.  I took the armchair opposite him. A tap at the door as the drinks arrive. The waiter actually winked at him as he left. Just like the rest. I teased him as we drank. He leaned in to kiss me. I placed a finger on his lips.

She suggested I take a shower while she made herself comfortable. I looked back from the bathroom door as she shook off her jacket. She kicked off her shoes and laughed, pointing to the bathroom. I ducked inside and soon the hot jets of water heightened the pleasure and anticipation. Wrapping a towel round my waist I took the knife from the pocket. Casually draping the jacket over my arm to conceal the blade, I took a deep breath and opened the door.

As he emerged from the bathroom I was ready for him. He hesitated a moment when the bed was empty. He actually turned, eyes bulging, pleading as the knife slid expertly between the ribs. A twist, pull and slash – he fell to the floor, throat gurgling. I wiped the blade on his jacket. Then I saw the glint of metal in his lifeless hand l. I smiled. You can’t trust anybody can you? Just like the rest.

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Referee – well done sir!

Referees in rugby league, on the whole, do a great job. There, I have said it. I’ve maybe lost one or two brain cells to alcohol over the last few weeks but I believe it is true. A couple of things brought this home to me this weekend.

Firstly, I attended the Huddersfield v Hull game as a neutral. The only let down of the whole afternoon was the constant moaning of a number of fans about the referee’s decisions. I couldn’t see too much to moan about (other than the home side was taking a beating). The ref never dropped the ball or missed a tackle. He seemed to show enthusiasm for the task – more than some of the Giants could manage.

Referee in action
Referee in action

Secondly, the resumption of @RFLreferees #asktheref discussions on Twitter. As far as I know, this is a first for any major sport. The concept is blindingly simple but very powerful. If there was a decision at the weekend that incensed you, simply ask what the thought process was. The referees in question provide the answers. A clear explanation of why a decision was given is often enough to stop the rant about the quality of his eyesight or the validity of his family tree. Sometimes you may still disagree but at least the ref has explained his thinking. Refreshingly, there is the occasional “hands up – I got it wrong moment”. Just this admission gains the referees so much respect in my book. How many of us can honestly say that we never make mistakes in a working day? (You should have seen the number of spelling mistakes in the first draft of this for a start – no need to point out any that remain!) I remember the ex-boss of ICI, Sir John Harvey-Jones doing a series on British business years ago called Troubleshooter. The quote that stuck with me through the years since was on the lines that the only people who don’t make mistakes are those that do nothing.  Our referees are making hundreds of decisions without much help (what do touch judges actually do?) and may just get a few wrong. With most of them, they don’t have the luxury of a dozen camera angles and endless replays. An interesting contrast to this open approach is the FA where referees are censured if they attempt to comment on decisions. Again, Rugby League points the way and other sports will eventually follow (with Rugby Union taking the credit).

While I am at it, well done to the powers that be for following the NRL model and getting the referees to make the try / no try call before going to the video referee. This worked so well in the NRL it was very frustrating  to see so many referees abdicating the decision on virtually every try.

My wish-list

So, is everything in the refereeing garden rosy? No, things could still improve. It would be nice to think there won’t be a mid-season change in emphasis or interpretation on some rule or other, leading to dozens of penalties and total confusion. This usually peters out after a few weeks but is very frustrating. Rules being applied consistently, regardless of who is the referee and what stage of the season we are at will surely go a long way to changing the image of the merry whistle blower. I would like to see a return to referees being seen but not heard, particularly on televised games. Explain decisions by all means but I don’t need a running commentary of “hold, move, surrender” etc. Certain referees almost wander into coaching teams to keep them onside – OK in a school match but surely not needed with professionals?

Maybe I am now being too idealistic but for a sport that prides itself on players being able to knock seven shades out of each other for eighty minutes then shake hands, wouldn’t it be good to applaud referees off the field? OK, probably a step too far but one thing is for sure, without a referee there would be no sport. I for one would not want to do the job but, starting now, I will be more understanding of those that do.

Now, if somebody could just explain where the knock on was when Michael Withers put Leon through against Saints I could start to sleep again!

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