After a hugely-positive response to his first column about the perils of being middle aged, our brilliant new writer Steve Tucker explains another irritation when you reach that point in life!
What on earth is going on? Did my generation not bother fighting a war for things to end up in this sorry state?
I refer, of course, to the modern trend that seems to insist that everyone who graces our TV screens nowadays has to have some sentimental, tear-inducing back-story behind them. Sure this is not a new thing. For years on the X-Factor for example, you could not simply get up and sing, oh no, that would be far too straightforward.
You had to appear, declare: “I’m singing this for my Uncle Trevor who stood on a Lego brick this morning”, burst into tears, murder something by Lady Gaga, have a Christmas number one and pay for Simon Cowell to buy a yacht to put on his yacht.
It didn’t happen back on ‘Opportunity Knocks‘. Oh no, then we would merely learn that Dave was a builder from Wolverhampton, he would belt out a version of ‘It’s Not Unusual’, go backstage and drink 14 pints of Double Diamond before punching Hughie Green. Job done.
But this, it seems, is no longer enough.
Now this desire for sob stories and cloying sentimentality has probably reached its zenith in the BBC’s coverage of the Winter Olympics currently going on in South Korea. First off, anyone of my generation is probably wondering, why the hell are we paying any attention to the Winter Olympics anyway?
Back in the day, our entire Winter Olympics squad consisted of some chinless young prat from the Home Counties who would finish a reassuring 48th in the men’s downhill. OK, we had Torvill and Dean gliding about in costumes which looked like they had been stolen from Duran Duran’s 1984 World Tour wardrobe, but their success was the exception rather than the rule.
We had Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards too of course, but at the time we weren’t aware of any lachrymose stories attached to him, he was just rubbish. That was the British way back then.
All the medals were won by the Norwegians or the Austrians, people from places where they actually had snow, not by people training on a dry-slope in Slough while local youths nicked the hubcaps off their cars.
And even if we did enjoy sporting success, there wasn’t such a song and dance made about it. At the Summer Olympics in 1968, for example, hurdler David Hemery would win gold, go home and smoke a pipe whilst listening to Elgar in his dressing gown. And we were all much better off for it.
Now, no one is denying the incredible bravery, skill and commitment of our ‘boys and girls’ (another annoying phrase) in Pyeongchang. It takes a very special person indeed to hurtle down a sheer wall of ice on a tea-tray in an outfit so revealing people can tell how many Shredded Wheat you had for breakfast.
No, I’m not for a second decrying everyone’s efforts, but does it all have to be so, well, so sickeningly sentimental? Let’s be honest the BBC coverage has been so saccharine you need dialysis after watching it.
Sure you can be on the curling team, but much better to be on the curling team having recently overcome West Nile fever despite the fact you come from just outside Inverness. Family members are dragged in willy-nilly. They say: “I’d like to thank my father who got up half an hour before he went to bed to take me to skeleton training every day. He can’t be here today because he obviously died of exhaustion 10 years ago.” Cue Coldplay…
Commentators seem to have been through some sort of weird BBC finishing school where the ability to say anything even remotely controversial or critical has been surgically removed. They say: “No Pippa, we haven’t lost, we have merely failed to win and Emma has spent the last six months in an iron lung, remember?” Cue Leonard Cohen…
Indeed, it seems any form of criticism by anyone is outlawed anyway, and a lot of the blame for that lies at the door of social media. Anyone who has the temerity to wonder aloud why our world champion speed skater can’t actually finish a race at the Olympics without falling over is immediately fired from the job and has the kids taken into care whilst the police launch an investigation.
Heaven help us if there is another war, with the overarching sensitivity and mawkishness prevalent today: “I’m afraid Tompkins can’t go over the top today sir. His cat Bootsy went missing last week and has still not been found despite extensive shares on Facebook and retweets.”
Look, the expertise and courage of our athletes out in Pyeongchang speaks for itself, but for goodness sake, let’s cut down on the schmaltz, shall we?