Tuesday, 11 January 2011

A Scrum in Borneo? I'd Rather Have A Box Set

'Together we faced Genocide in Equatorial Kundu, a suicide bombing in Israel by a Palestinian Splinter Group and a shooting in a United Baptist Church in Abilene, Texas'. 

I’d like to get something out of the way. It’s a guarded secret from my dark past, and to this day I wake up in a cold sweat screaming, ‘no, I can’t form the pluperfect in Latin, and I’ll never need to’. The secret: I went to a private school.

I was, of course, the worst- and most unnatural- public school boy ever. I, through claiming to have a variety of illnesses- from flu to Smallpox, and from a sprained wrist to Rickets- managed to get through school without playing a single game of cricket or rugby. To this day, I have no idea what one does in a scrum, nor do I comprehend the meaning of ‘owzat’. My own experience of schooling has also led me to create the C.A.C.C.R. (Campaign Against Cross Country Runs), as it is a ‘sporting event’ so horrific that it must be in breach of the Human Rights Act. Indeed, the only positive thing about it was that you were able to sneak off into the woods and bum a cigarette of old Mr Fernley, who really was a lovely man and an inspiring teacher, despite his drink problem and wandering hands.

Where I did fit in to the private school cast, however, was in what I chose to do after school: I took a gap year.  As much as I dislike admitting that I took a gap year- I seriously question whether anyone needs to find themself at 18- I am more ashamed to admit that, during my year off, I did very little. I didn’t build an enclosure to protect Chimpanzees, nor did I help ease the plight of the Bornean Sun Bear. I couldn’t even volunteer to teach rugby and cricket to children in a developing country (because of my Rickets, obviously). Instead- apart from a few hazy Jägermeister-fuelled weeks in Biarritz- I stayed at home and watched TV box sets.

And, oh, what a time I had! All I had to do was insert a The West Wing DVD and I was in the Oval Office with President Josiah Bartlet. Together we faced Genocide in Equatorial Kundu, a suicide bombing in Israel by a Palestinian Splinter Group and a shooting in a United Baptist Church in Abilene, Texas. And then, with as effortless an action as changing a disk, I travelled to Boston where- alongside Ally Mc Beal- I attempted to sue God, argued that three people should be allowed to marry and learnt how to dance to Barry White.

I will, reluctantly, admit that I- once or twice- turned down nights out because I was dying to watch the next episode of The West Wing, Ally McBeal or Boston Legal. But then, come on, why would I want to be out on the town, knocking back cheap Wetherspoon’s Chardonnay, when I could find entertainment in my own home, sit in my jammies and not have to worry about hair straightening, Touche Éclat-ing or manscaping. 

And the box set brings further liberation: you are free from the restrictions of the TV schedule, and you don’t have to put up with adverts. I was, therefore, able to watch The West Wing at 4am without being asked to ‘Compare the Meerkat’, ‘Go Compare’ or being shouted at by a man named Barry who, apparently, has a ‘Cillt Bang’ (whatever that is).

Despite what this post may suggest, I am not actually a loner, nor do I believe that television should replace interaction with other human beings. But, as the long winter nights seem reluctant to come to an end, and- if the news is to be believed- we are all poor, unemployed (or soon to be) and obese, let’s escape from our problems with a good drama.

So- in spite of my last post- I am making a New Year’s resolution: to buy a new box set. 


  1. Moving to DC and being saddled with the vapid horrors and bizarre ad-segues of American television, I too have turned to the box set. (Or in some cases, the download equivalent.) I recently lived the Edwardian dream courtesy of Downton Abbey; wiggled my way around Don Draper's New York; found out who killed Laura Palmer; engaged in a spot of Suburban Shootout, and Gossiped with Blair Waldorf. I've never been much of a telly-addict, so I had become a little concerned about my appetite for CSI and Friends repeats. But now I'm watching things that I really WANT to watch, not just because they are on. I am culturally better for it. And I am really looking forward to The Wire landing with Doc in a week, and our subsequent excursion to Baltimore : )

  2. I took a 'grown-up gap year' a couple of years ago and although I did spend much of it either travelling or volunteering, the rest, I'm not ashamed to admit, was spent becoming word-perfect in Sex and the City, Golden Girls and Murder She Wrote. So not only am I well-travelled, I can lip-synch five seasons of Jessica Fletcher. Which I'm sure will come in handy one day...