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Room 101

In order to offset the boredom induced by the period of non-walking during the foot-and-mouth crisis  I started thinking about the TV programme Room 101. What would I include in my own Room 101?

The Way We Were

I was listening to the radio as I drove into work the other morning. They were interviewing a guy who they said “was a former senior executive with Marks & Spencers”. This really grated and typified the misuse of the word “former” amongst broadcasters. Once you are a former something-or-other you continue being one (unless you go back to being an actual one, of course) What they should have said is that “he is a former senior executive” or that “he was a senior executive” (actually I prefer the second as it is simpler but that’s a matter of taste, not accuracy). Instead they just mixed the two out of ignorance.

The worst people for this are sports commentators, especially when describing those who used to be champions. One phrase which is creeping in is “the former Olympic gold medallist”. Surely someone who wins an Olympic gold medal (and I for one am in awe of such people) remains an Olympic gold medallist. They don’t have to hand the medal back for the next Olympics. There’s nothing “former” about it. So cut it out; it’s just pretentious.

What I can accept is that there is only one Olympic champion in a particular event at any time. That is the reigning champion and everyone else is a former champion. What I can’t accept is that someone is a “twice former champion”, a term which is also entering commentator-speak. It’s mixing up terms again; it should be “twice champion” or “former champion”.

I suppose that you could argue that at the end of each reign they become the former champion, thus justifying the term "twice former champion".  But there are three things wrong with this argument:


it only works if someone else became the champion between the person’s two successes; if the two successes were consecutive, (s)he only ceased to be champion once and therefore only became the former champion once. 


when the person regains the championship, (s)he would be both the reigning champion and the former champion at the same time. This is not a logical possibility.


To see the silliness of the argument apply it to Steve Redgrave; he won gold in the coxless fours in 1984 and 2000. By the argument he is the twice former champion in this event. However he also won gold at the coxless pairs in 1988, 1992 and 1996 and so (despite winning the competition more often) he is only singly the former champion at that.

 No, the argument simpler doesn't wash. These commentators don't know whet they are talking about. It's a Room 101 job.

I also dislike the sports commentators' term "fellow countryman". Isn't it sufficient to describe someone as your "countryman"; doesn't this get over the fact that you both come from the same place?

Returning to the subject of reigning and former Olympic champions, it does beg an interesting question about the last winner of a lapsed event; is that a reigning or a former champion? There’s a classic quiz question: who are the reigning Olympic rugby champions? The answer is the United States who won the last Olympic rugby tournament in Paris in (I think) 1924. They won because the rugby playing nations didn’t send their full national sides.

4x4 Vehicle Owners

Here is the classic picture. The 4x4 powering its way across a hostile environment.

Utter rubbish!

The typical 4x4 owner is a suburbanite who owns the vehicle not in response to needs but much more to overcome his own feelings of innermost inadequacy. Most of them would welcome a drive over harsh terrain about as much as they'd welcome a piranha in their bidet!! 

They just sit there, perched on high, looking down on the rest of humanity. A bunch of smug gits with egos the size of the planet!! And as for those stupid cow-catchers!!

Ban the damned things. Or at least make the owners pay substantially more road tax. There is only one thing worse than a 4x4 and that is one towing a caravan.

And don't talk to me about off-roading. It's just a quick way to gunge up the countryside and spoil it for us poor walkers.

Drop them in Room 101 pdq, preferably with a couple of mountain bikes on each one.

Police Speed Cameras

OK. I've been done a couple of times for speeding so I am biased on this subject but consider the facts.


I was on my way to walks so I reckon that I'm allowed to drive 10 mph quicker just for that


They occurred at 7:30 am on a Saturday and 8:30 am on a Sunday so there was nobody about


One was on a 50mph restriction on the M6. But there were 3 lanes open and there were no workmen about so why on earth had the limit been reduced so much

Besides all these speed cameras are a safety hazard. We have ridiculously low speed limits ( a number of which were designed to reduce petrol consumption rather than improve safety) and you spend all your time watching out for the cameras rather than watching the road. Why not just drive slower? Because modern cars are designed to go quicker and have better brakes in compensation.

What we could really do with are high tech speed limits signs which can be varied according to road conditions.

And another thing. Have you noticed how many tractors there are on the roads nowadays, with some rustic airhead on top doing about 12mph. They are clearly part of the Police campaign to remove traffic from the roads. They're probably even getting an EU subsidy for doing it; I reckon it's about £50 per mile on A roads and smaller amounts for lesser roads.




No; it's not Ann Robinson or the Weakest Link.

When AR appeared on Room 101, she caused great controversy and allegations of racism by suggesting the Welsh should go there (although no-one cared at all Des Lynam wanted the French to go in). She reckoned they frightened her as a child in Liverpool.

Well, I approve of all this xenophobia. I have a lot of sympathy with wanting to get rid of the French and the Welsh (especially their rugby commentators!!) but there is one lot that irritate me far more. I'd get rid of all the Scousers. They reckon they are so great, loveable rogues, the scallies. But basically they are unlovable rogues, the first to winge when they are found out or they come to harm as a consequence of their roguery.

I recently caught one of these TV holiday programme. They had sent a family of Scousers to Benidorm, whence Beryl and I had just returned. I was delighted to find that we hadn't done any of the things that they had.

I found this article which said that Liverpool is the favourite place for opening call centres because "a Liverpool voice is now seen to be straight, understanding and friendly". "Gobsmacking" isn't strong enough to describe some people's gullibility. Perhaps scousers are good in call centres because of their talent for faking sincerity, for being so convincing in their terminological inexactitudes. Anyway, aren't call centres a good candidate for Room 101 in themselves; "if you want our dwoyle-flonking division, press 2" (ugh!!)

No pack the Scousers all off to Room 101, say I

PS I know someone who has been on the Weakest Link. AR has breaks in the filming whilst aides give her the put-downs. They also edit out all the times when a contestant puts one over on her.

Beryl is a singer and a pianist and I get taken a long to all sorts of music that I hadn't really experienced previously. Handel's Messiah (which her choir does every year) leaves me cold but I do enjoy going to Symphony Hall in Birmingham. It's a wonderful place to hear music (although my favourite concert there was Christie Moore)

Not being desperately musical (to say nothing of being tone deaf), it's difficult to appreciate the proficiency of the instrumentalists. I can see fingers moving quickly on instruments but that's about it. I'm riveted by the percussionists; you get a much clearer sense of what they are up. All the same I do wonder what sort of job Fourth Percussionist is for a grown man - he gets to hit a triangle about four times in an evening.

But what I truly can't stand are the conductors. It's all the pomp and affectation that gets to me. They way in which they sweep in last expecting all the applause before they do anything.

Look at old Sakari Oramo here. Study the pained expression; he looks as if he's going for a weightlifting record. Wonderful histrionics but what does it actually achieve?

The typical orchestra consists of thoroughly competent musicians, often with equally capable singers. Can't they be trusted to get it right. I know that they need coaching through the rehearsal and someone to pick the team, its formation and the general tactics but why do they need them on the night? Messrs Ferguson and Wenger don't need to go on the pitch with their teams. Peter Hall and Trevor Nunn can sit in the audience when one of their plays is being performed (or not even go as the play gets into its run).

No. Conductors are a set of useless posers. It's Room 101 for them.

People offering to lend you money

Now this is a fairly topical one. There are two things that bug me.

The first is the rain forest that gets felled each month by people sending me unsolicited mail offering to lend me money or a better deal on a credit card.

Now I've been with Barclays since 1967 (those hazy days when England were the world champions at soccer) and with Barclaycard for only a slightly shorter period. They're not perfect but for the most part they get things right. Even when they made one monumental gaff, I wrote them a long letter which started "Pardon me while I vent my spleen" and a nice man called Mr Wass sorted it all out. Anyway I've got no great desire to move from them or to borrow money from them.

I didn't used to get all these offers when I was hard up. Now when I'm reasonably well off I'm bombarded with them. Is this just proof of the old adage that a banker is a person who is willing to lend money to someone who doesn't need it?

However there is something that annoys me even more. It's all the adverts for loans that you get on TV. Do they think we are stupid or what? There's the scene where the husband gets in from work and the wife says "We can have that holiday we always wanted. I've arranged a loan; it was so easy". You want to scream out "You dozy cow! Don't you realise you'll have to pay it back?"

And there's the other advert that says "Why have the inconvenience of lots of small loans. Consolidate it into one simple loan with us". Consolidate? It makes it sound as though you'll owe less rather than just owing to one person. And why do they have lots of loans in the first place? Because hitherto people have realised that they can't afford all the debt and won't lend it all to them.

The ad also claims it will reduce your monthly repayments. Probably; but for how much longer will you be paying it.

The punchline to this advert is a lulu. "You can have up to half a million pounds". What colour is the sky on their planet?

Loan Sharks? You might chose to say that but I couldn't possibly comment.

Solution: compel anyone tempted by these adverts to read "Faust"










ITV Rugby highlights

I was tempted to include Sky Sports for removing so much quality sport from our screens. However this is a bit obvious for Room 101 and there have been some beneficial side events. One is the increased amount of live football on TV. Another is the sight of Sue Barker or Steve Ryder trying to get enthusiastic about the British shovehalfpenny championships or the husky racing from Alaska that Grandstand is reduced to covering.

But the real loss is the England rugby internationals. I do detest Sky for this (and the RFU for selling out to them) but my candidate for Room 101 is the ITV rugby highlights programme. It's just pathetic; it's about as interesting as the soccer highlights (despite the fact that England actually have an exciting rugby team). There is so little coverage that all you get are the actual scores, which of necessity spend a lot of time on Jonny Wilkinson preparing to kick. There is none of the ebb and flow of a game. You don't see the players pouring their hearts into the unglamorous tasks. You can't see who is really up for a Lions place.

Even the ITV rugby coverage spares you one thing; whining Welsh commentators. Yes I know that they've got John Taylor but he comes over as being about as Welsh as Brett Sinkinson. Eddie Butler and Jonathon Davies are pretty awful but the worst by far are JJ Williams and the nasal chap with him. They come from the school of Welshman that believes their team has only two results; victories and moral victories. The outcome of the second is usually down to the incompetence of an English referee.

 Still just to show that I can be fair, ITV do have a decent rugby web site.




Football Away Strips

Now you're probably thinking that I'm going to have a moan about the hideous colour combinations found in football team's away strips. They are certainly loathsome; they look as though they've been co-designed by Hieronymous Bosch and Salvador Dali. However it's not that which makes me want to ban them.

I'm a great believer in the traditional colours used by football clubs. I reckon that they should be used wherever possible. However the rules on colour clashes seem designed to bring about the opposite effect. Why can't both teams wear white shorts for example, provided that the tops are sufficiently different? I know that footballers are supposed to be simple-minded but I can't believe that they'll find it in the least confusing. But no, the rules say that the away team must use shorts of an un-white colour.

Let me give some examples of the foolishness of it all


in the picture is Andy Cole in the Manchester Utd away strip (2001 vintage). OK so United will play against teams with red shirts and do need to change. This picture was taken in their match against Sunderland (who play in red/white stripes) Pardon me; why does the United red shirt constitute a colour clash and the white one doesn't?


when Spurs (white shirts, blue shorts) played QPR (blue/white hooped shirts, white shorts) in the FA Cup Final, they said that this was a colour clash and made both teams change. Now if ever there is an occasion on which teams ought to be allowed to play in their proper club colours it's the Cup Final. Interestingly a week later in the Rugby League Cup Final, Widnes (white shirts, black shorts) played Hull (black/white hoops, white shorts) ie the same scenario. Both teams played in their normal colours without a problem


the 1994 World Cup held in the US. In every match one team had to play in white shirts (usually with shorts in their normal colours) Why was this necessary? Because that's what happens in American football; the away team always plays in white. Another mindless concession to the delusion that the US will one day join in the world game.

Actually I think the main culprits in all this are the kit manufacturers who are trying to persuade the long-suffering fans to buy two lots of gear. They are of course aided and abetted by the money-men at the clubs who want to sell the gear at prices far outstripping the production costs. 

Whilst we are getting rid of these Away Strips, can we also do away with Adidas stripes. They were bad enough when they were down the arms but now they are hugging the shoulders. 

Look at the new British Lions (forget this British-and-Irish Lions drivel) shirts; an utter abomination. 

Even a real man's man like Martin Johnson looks distinctly wimpish in it. The reason is those totally redundant stripes.

Teachers Pensions

I've gone into great detail elsewhere to explain why I object to these swines.


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