When the opening gambit of last night’s show promised a week of Poetry and Latin, I have to admit I fell into a temporary, but incredibly dark, misanthropic coma. It reminded me of school. It bought back memories of being sent out of class for finishing Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in two lessons rather than reading along with the teacher (top set, 1993, twats). And it also dug up horrific visions of learning Shakespeare by rote. Just as I considered turning off and writing a Haiku of hate in place of a review, a light, fuelled by wine, went on.
English, 1992, Macbeth. We were encouraged to present the ‘when shall we three meet’ bit in any way we wanted, so two mates and I used hockey sticks as guitars and did a thrash metal version. It went down a treat. That was good teaching. Brief but good. So, rather than focus on the negative, I decided to go all Johnny Mercer and Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive.
To begin, it wasn’t easy. The choice of the Hogwarts-lite coupling of Sir Andrew Motion and Mary Beard seemed, to me, like a fucking disaster.
And so we began.
I might be more Bukowski than Bejetman but I have no qualms with poetry. This was Motion’s first mistake. He tried to get them to write a poem based on what they saw in an Edward Hopper painting. “It was drew, like, 50 years ago, who gives a shit…”
I had to agree. Poor Andrew was so flummoxed by the antipathy of the kids that he sent them all home early and fucked off back to his office to write a couplet about his pet ladybird.
Ditto Mary Beard. Despite trying vainly to connect with their inner Latin by showing them David Beckham’s tattoos (one of which, roughly translated, meant ‘to love and cherish her and bang every model and PR girl in Milan, Madrid, Malibu and Manchester – as I said, rough, my Latin knowledge stops at cliché and football badges) she was so battered by belligerence that she resembled a kindly member of the wicken clan who had been dragged, naked, off that big stone at Glasto, slung into the Techno tent and force fed enough MCat to stop Connor sleazing up all of the girls. Yes, THAT FUCKING MUCH.
When you’ve spoken as much shit as Campbell, would it be a surprise if it was revealed that his tear-ducts had replaced his anal glands?
But television, especially of the reality ilk, is nothing without a journey. And not only did I strap myself in and leave my pocketful of cynicism in the wicker basket, I nearly bloody cried.
I wasn’t the only one. LaToya bawled about her kid, the head - now known as ‘Dabbsy’ in some vague attempt to make him down wiv va kidz - blubbered to Jamie while Alastair Campbell, round at the immensely likeable Nana Kwame’s gaff for a cuppa, smirked. Ok, maybe not smirked, but there were no tears when NK re-told his tale of being booted out by his old man and not wanting to follow his five brothers into prison and gangs. If anything, AC looked like he’d farted. But when you’ve spoken as much shit as he has, would it be a surprise if it was revealed that his tear-ducts and anal glands had done a job swap?
Following a brief stop at the top of the track to tell us more about Aysha – subliminal message, Islam is bad – Jamie fired up the rollercoaster with a voiceover of…
THERE’S SOMETHING BEGINNING TO HAPPEN
And there was. Dream School turned into a normal school. If you didn’t want to learn, then you could fuck off back to where you came from. So a few of them did, while the rest went and sat outside in the sun, surrounded by the smell of goat shit. Andrew Motion’s intentions were clear, he wanted poems about ‘beasts and buttercups’, but what he got was two of the kids, the Biggie Smalls lookalike on crutches and Nana Kwame, writing poems about their lives and about what they knew.
And that is when it happened. My left eye began to, if not quiver, then certainly well. The smile on Nana’s face when Motion stumbled over his rap about two-faced people was genuinely ace. Despite my feelings that these poetry lessons would work better in an urban area where they could really try and write about their surroundings, I can’t deny that the former Poet-Laureate got it bang on. Bet he’s called ‘Mow-shay’ next week.
Apart from a bit more of Mary - now recovered from the plant fertilizer - connecting with the obviously intelligent Aysha over Latin, and David Starkey telling the same girl that his book ‘had sold thousands’ we were left to reflect on a good week at school.
Or we should’ve been. But the fucking producers squashed the happiness with a brief, but utterly terrifying, clip of Cherie Blair.
‘Human rights,’ she cackled, looking like a cross between the Wicked poster, Michael Jackson’s corpse and a giant Cream Egg.
That coma wasn’t temporary after all.
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