There's an advert on television occasionally that proudly proclaims "Everyone is special!" This is, of course, a contradiction in terms. "Special" means unusual, set apart, out of the ordinary, possessing some unique quality. If we all possessed some unique quality, it wouldn't be unique, would it?
The GOS, being fairly old and rather lazy, watches quite a bit of television. He's been a lucky boy just lately, too, because the BBC are "doing" the sea at present, and the GOS likes the sea. There was a very good documentary about the tragic Penlee lifeboat disaster, and a wonderful series of programmes following the everyday lives of some Scottish fishermen.
And then there was Kate Humble, leading us in an exploration of the seas round our coasts and some of the great variety of creatures therein. Somehow one knew before she started that we were going to be told two things: (a) that all the creatures were "amazing", and (b) that they were all endangered and it was our fault.
And sure enough, the adjective "amazing" was indeed plentifully sprinkled - we counted three in the first five minutes. It's become a sort of non-word, hasn't it, left without any real meaning because it is so over-used. People used to say that swear-words debased the language because when everything is "fucking this" and "fucking that" one doesn't bother to use any real descriptive words. But modern television presenters are guilty of the same thing because they can't be bothered to describe things properly, just scattering "amazing" and "fantastic" around instead. We once saw an interview being conducted by a young woman who only knew one adjective, "awesome". The conversation went something like this …
"So did you go to college?"
"Yes, I went Manchester University."
"Manchester? That must have been awesome. What subjects did you study?"
"Er, English and Political Philosophy."
"Awesome, awesome. And how long were you there?"
"Two years. I dropped out after two years."
"Really? Why did you do that?"
"I found the work a bit hard."
Equally predictable was the fact that all the amazing creatures (why is it that the most amazing ones always look the most stupid?) really are under threat, mostly from plastic bags. True, there was a short clip of a scientist (the only genuine one in the entire programme, I suspect) explaining that because the water quality in British waters is so good these days many hitherto unknown sea-creatures are becoming common. This includes the amazing sea-horse which now lives amazingly in Kent, which is amazing. But of course that's not good enough for Mrs.BBC, is it? No programme with amazing wildlife in it can possibly end without a dire warning from the all-knowing presenter that the end of the natural world is in imminent sight, and global climate warming change North Atlantic Drift sea-ice hole in the ozone emissions 4x4 and it's all our fault, and aren't we clever for telling you so?
The BBC series "Trawlermen" has been a real treat. We have accompanied some real old Scottish fishermen across the stormy ocean, following their various fortunes as they fish for herring off Norway, prawns in the North Sea or halibut in the North Atlantic. They are dour, undemonstrative, down-to-earth and entirely likeable. The GOS would buy them a drink down the pub any night. They do a difficult and tiring job in conditions that most of us would find completely hellish.
The GOS would like to know much more about how they find the fish and the mechanics of catching them, bringing them aboard and storing them. But the BBC think that what most viewers want is not information, but tension. Will they get the nets hauled up in time? Dumm, de-dum dum (that's supposed to be spooky music). Will they get to their fishing-ground before the storm hits? Dumm de-dum dum. Will that broken-down winch work next time? Dumm de-dum dum. And when they get the fish back to market, what price will it fetch? Dumm de-dum dum.
Well I've got news for you, Mrs.BBC - we don't give a toss! The fishermen obviously care how many fish they catch, but storms, broken equipment and fluctuations in fish-prices are just part of life's rich pattern to them - they treat them with a calm fatalism that makes rather ridiculous the film-makers' attempts to create a crisis. What's wrong with just showing the facts as they are, without dressing them up into artificial drama?
There used to be a (thankfully short-lived) television series where divers went down to examine wrecked ships in various parts of the country. Interesting enough, I suppose, seeing what was left and speculating on how the ship came to be down there. But week after week we were treated to nail-nibbling tension - "the divers only have ten minutes to complete their exploration before the tide turns - this could be really dangerous …."
If there are any marine film-makers reading this, I'd like to explain one or two things about tides, please. Firstly, tides occur day in, day out, year in, year out. There are therefore quite a lot of them and people who use the sea are entirely accustomed to them. Secondly, while the height of the tide fluctuates according to the phase of the moon, in all other respects the tides behave perfectly predictably. In any given place, the tide will always behave in exactly the same way. Nobody with an ounce of sense and a modicum of experience is going to get caught out by a tide. They just look them up in a book (go to any yacht chandler's and ask for "a set of tide-tables". It will cost about £1.50).
Thirdly, the tide doesn't suddenly stop flowing in one direction and immediately go full-bore the opposite way. There's a thing called "slack water", and it lasts for an hour or so. The tide flows more and more slowly, then it stops for "slack water", and then it slowly turns and flows the other way, gently at first and then gathering strength over the next couple of hours. So no, Mrs.BBC, if the divers don't finish their task in ten minutes it is not going to be dangerous at all, actually.
Mrs.BBC, it would be nice if you could stop treating us like stupid children with the attention-span of a goldfish, and recognise that most of us can manage quite a lot of long words and often understand that they mean, too. And that we can sit quite happily and watch people doing stuff without some pea-brained presenter telling us how difficult, dangerous and tense it all is.
This started out as a complaint about the misuse of adjectives, and has ended up being a moan about the BBC. Sorry.
Got to go now, as the tide is about to turn and that can be really dangerous. Dumm de-dum dum. Will I make it downstairs in time for tea? Dumm de-dum dum. And will the sandwiches be cucumber or meat paste? Dumm de-dum dum. Watch next week's amazing episode to find out. God, life's so exciting …
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