Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Column, February 19, 2008

THERE are any number of ways of knowing you’ve hit rock bottom.
When a drink with friends involves a park bench and the sort of tipple that could double as paint stripper; waking up in police cells; or when the only callers that ever darken your door are the bailiffs.
As low as those predicaments all seem, there is one situation that is the true nadir of human existence, a pit of Stygian gloom so murky only the glare of TV studio lights can penetrate it – an appearance on the Jeremy Kyle Show.
If you have yet to sample the delights this daytime TV show, and surely it can only be viewed by the clinically obese who cannot make it to the remote to turn over, then see if any of the following apply to you:
· My brother has at least seven children and is still sleeping around
· Can you prove your son's my brother?
· I'll prove I didn't abort another man's baby - the results
· You stopped me aborting my baby...please let's be a family again
· Confess you're a cheat or I'll prove I'm the father of your eldest daughter
· Deserted by my dad every time he gets a new girlfriend
These are just a few of the titles of Mr Kyle’s shows and yes, I was confused as you were by the injunction to “confess you’re a cheat or I’ll prove I’m the father of your eldest daughter.”
The titles give a small hint of just how chaotic the lives are of those that appear on what passes for daytime entertainment nowadays. Like a car crash, its viewers know it’s going to be messy, but all the same they can’t help rubbernecking at the devastation of the lives of others.
When Jean-Paul Sartre said hell is other people I’m guessing he didn’t know Jeremy Kyle would one day be selling ringside seats to witness the fact.
One who surely must be contemplating the wisdom of appearing on the show is Craig Platt, of Kinmel Bay . He had agreed to appear because his wife Jane’s ex-boyfriend had wanted to find out who the father of her baby was – yes, I’m lost again too.
Platt, eaten up by jealousy following the show, according to his barrister, ended up pointing a loaded air rifle at his wife, who escaped through the bathroom window.
The producers of Kyle’s show, of course, deny that the parading of his wife’s alleged infidelities before the nation – or rather that dysfunctional portion of the nation who watch the show – had anything to do with his decision to chase his wife round the home with loaded air weaponry. He willingly took part and neither he nor anyone else involved was manipulated, they said.
Perhaps not, but there are a number of ways in which relationships under strain can be patched up. Airing your dirty laundry in front of a studio full of whooping morons and a wider moronic TV audience is probably not at the top of Relate’s list of marriage guidance techniques.
Of course, my sympathies for Platt probably end at the point at which he decided a reasonable way out of his difficulties was to pick up his trusty air rifle. But nonetheless, you do have to ask yourself whether his incarceration, at taxpayers’ expense, might have been avoided if he hadn’t been humiliated in front of millions.
It is like the Bedlam of old, where people would pay to look at the lunatics, only now it’s not the mad who are on display for entertainment, it’s the sad, ill-educated, inarticulate underclasses, who have to turn to Jeremy Kyle, God help them, to express their rage at the pathetic misfortunes visited upon them in their lives.
Everyone needs someone to listen to their woes, and maybe Kyle, as he says on his website, is a good listener, doing what any mate would try to do. Only your mate doesn’t listen to you in front of TV cameras. Your mate doesn’t have researchers working on your problems. Your mate doesn’t enquire, as the Kyle show website does, as to whether a lie detector test would save your relationship.
No, my guess is that if your relationship has reached the stage where it is suitable material for Jeremy Kyle, then it’s time to call in the lawyers; start divvying up the CD collection and decided who gets custody of the dog, because you’ve reached the point of no return.

THE British Army don’t mind being outgunned.
In fact, while building an Empire that spanned the globe, most of the time they did so in the face of overwhelming odds.
One who had to face them said the British infantry was the best in the world, and it’s a good job there are so few of them.
They have, for centuries, fought our battles in foreign fields and many of them were buried there before we decided to bring them home for funerals.
But what we should mind, what we should mind very much indeed, is servicemen and women putting their lives at risk and being sent into battle without at least a decent amount of kit with which to fight our battles.
Last week yet another coroner laid into the parsimonious incompetence of the Ministry of Defence that was sending Paras into battle against overwhelming numbers without night vision equipment so they could see who they were fighting.
Inevitably, one of their number, Captain James Philippson, was killed in a firefight with the Taliban. The Paras had repeatedly asked for night vision equipment to be provided, and scandalously, even after Captain Philippson’s death, the kit still was not delivered to the troops.
Here’s a quick question: Do any government ministers have a son or daughter serving in Afghanistan or Iraq ?
I’m guessing the answer is no. Do you think the under-equipping of our services might be solved overnight if they did? Answers to that one on a postcard to 10 Downing Street .

No comments: