There’s More to This Than Meets the I-player

W1A, the sort-of sequel to 2012, is a mockumentary about the BBC; specifically, its staff who work behind the scenes in Broadcasting House.  It has been going for two or three years, and at first I found it subtly enjoyable but short on real laughs.  But it has grown on me.  As I pointed out a few days ago:

it’s a sort of cross between The Office and Dilbert with bits of Reggie Perrin thrown in (there’s a pair who say ‘brilliant’ and ‘cool’ which is surely the modern version of ‘great’ and ‘super’:

Most of the characters work in jobs no-one understands, least of all themselves: and top of the incomprehensible heap is Ian Fletcher, formerly Head of Olympic Deliverance, now appointed as the BBC’s Head of Values (or Captain Values, as his colleague Simon likes to call him.)  We first see him arriving on his Brompton; it’s not long before Simon gets a better one, thus beginning a running gag about Brompton bikes.

In series two Anna Rampton, previously moderately competent, is promoted to Director of Better, a job neither she nor anyone else understands:

‘The fact is this is about identifying what we do best and finding more ways of doing less of it better.’  This is pure Dilbert; but as the series went on I found myself irresistibly reminded of Theresa May, another woman promoted beyond her capabilities and reduced to repeating meaningless soundbites.

Simon’s Machiavellian  antics, previously confined to bikes and buck-passing, reach new heights in this third series when a new post is created and no-one tells Ian Fletcher.  When challenged, Simon tells Ian the post was considered beneath his grade.

‘Well, can I sit on the interview panel then?’

‘Sorry, that’s just for the big-wigs.’

‘Great.  So I’m too important to apply for the job but not important enough to sit on the interview panel.’

‘It’s a unique position Ian.’

Brilliant stuff.

Meanwhile Lucy, the only competent person in the BBC apart from Ian Fletcher, is spending every spare moment being pursued by the intolerable David who keeps bending her ear about his problems and then passing off his ideas as her own.

But in spite of the Dilbert connection I suspect this wouldn’t work in the US because none of the comedy would arise if it wasn’t for everyone being just too damned polite.  Siobhan Sharpe of the BBC’s PR company is everyone’s worst nightmare and impervious to – well, anything at all really – but no-one has the gall to tell her so: Simon is a shit-stirrer extraordinaire who dodges every bullet by saying ‘well, I don’t know how these things work and you’ll know how you want to deal with this’ whereas David’s tactic is to go uber-camp: ‘I know!  Tell me about it!  It’s a nightmare!’ when everyone knows it was his incompetence that caused the problem in the first place.  But they’re all too polite to say so – all except Neil, the old-fashioned tell-it-like-it-is head of news who says things like ‘bollocks’ and ‘we’re f***d.’  But alas, his tropes are no more effective than anyone else’s.  The last series ends with Lucy and Ian almost getting together… but I’m sure some nightmare co-worker will turn up and put a stop to it, and they’ll be too polite to tell them to **** off.

I urge you to watch this if you can.  Series 3 is on i-player and if you have Netflix you can watch series 2 there as well.  You can watch it on your syncopatitablet…

Kirk out

Work is a Seven-Letter Word

One of the best cartoons ever about work is Dilbert:

It’s a somewhat less benign version of W1A, the recent BBC series taking the piss out of itself by itself.  I recently had an epiphany about this where it struck me that Theresa May is exactly like the character on W1A who has been promoted beyond her abilities, has no clue what she’s doing and goes around saying ‘Yes, exactly yes.  The fact is, this has to not happen.’  W1A is a terrific series which may come in for some more detailed sitcom analysis on this blog – but today we’re talking about work.  W-O-R-K, work.  A t-shirt I’ve seen on sale proclaims ‘You don’t hate Mondays, you hate capitalism:’

No automatic alt text available. and it’s probably true: most people work because they must; because without the money that work provides they wouldn’t be able to do the things they most enjoy.  Like eating, for example, or wearing clothes.  Some people dream of a time when they don’t have to work; a time spent like sitting by a pool with a martini or working on your garden. But for most people work and non-work are clearly defined.  Even if, like a teacher, say, you take work home with you, you know when you’re doing it and when you’re spending time on leisure.  (Yeah, I know, ‘leisure?’)

But when you are a self-employed writer with very few (if any) actual funded projects on the go, you have to define both your hours of work and what actually constitutes work.  For example, I am about to go to my weekly reading group where we read and discuss short stories and poems.  Is this work?  On the whole I think it is, since it introduces me to new authors and sharpens my critical faculties.  But often when working I can appear to be doing nothing at all: staring into space, chewing my pen or doodling on my pad. Then again, if I’m on Facebook, is that work?  On the whole, I’d say no – it’s a distraction.  But occasionally I can see stories that give me ideas, or join an argument which helps me to hone the expression of my thoughts.  So it isn’t always worthless.

And how many hours should I do?  At the moment I’m doing about five or six hours a day.  But to me, six focused hours are as good as ten unfocused hours: as critics of the ‘long hours’ culture have pointed out, more time does not equal greater productivity.

And what about this blog post?  Does that count as work?

Kirk out

Just enter password…

Bloody computers!  I fetched the laptop from Daniel’s room where it had been running all night and hence discharged the battery (we do this so he doesn’t waste electricity and also because the thing overheats when left on).  I plugged it in and the light flashed a weak yellow like one trying to wake up.  The screen came to consciousness and rubbed its eyes.  It opened its mouth to speak.

‘Liz as Liz’ it said.

‘Unh?’ I thought.  I was tempted to wonder whether that was some surreal message the universe had for me, but knew it would turn out to be something much more prosaic.  Then it spoke again.

‘Enter password’ it said.

That’s OK, I thought.  I know this one.  So I entered the password, which is *********************, and confidently pressed ‘enter’.

It did not.  Enter, that is.  Incidentally it’s just struck me as funny that in all other situations you have to speak the password in order to enter but on the computer you have to enter the password in order to speak.

OK, maybe it’s not that funny.  But it is 6 am and I’ve been up and wrestling with the damn laptop for – ooh, nearly ten minutes now.

So anyway, the computer said, in that smug way it has, ‘Incorrect password’.  So I tried again.  And again.  Same result.  At this point I thought I’d better stop before I inadvertently triggered the ‘automatic meltdown’ function.  Or perhaps the ‘energetic disassembly’ (Mark’s phrase for an explosion.)  So I started to huff and puff and swear at the thing in the hope that Mark would Wake Up and Offer to Help, since I didn’t feel justified in waking him deliberately at this hour.

Then I had a brainwave!  What does one always do in these situations?  What is the cast-iron, guaranteed method of sorting out Any Problem Whatsoever With A Machine?  Yep.  You’ve got it.

Turn it off and on again!

Which I did.  And since I am here writing this (well, by the time you’re reading this I’ll be gone to the chalet but you know what I mean) I must have succeeded.


I think there’s something in Dilbert about this.  I’ll look it up.

Can’t find it but here’s a great quote:

Dogbert: I’ll bet you twenty bucks that giving doesn’t feel good.
Dilbert: You’re on, my cynical friend.
Dogbert: To settle the bet, give me forty dollars and see if it feels good.
Dilbert: That would NOT feel good.
Dogbert: Then give me twenty dollars because you lost the bet.
Dilbert: Did I just make a bet where I would lose twenty dollars either way?

Woke up thinking about D H Lawrence.  I think I blogged about this before but I can’t find it because for some reason while you’re actually posting you can’t search other posts.  Mm.  I’m sure there’s some philosophical point buried in there but I can’t find it.  Anyway, why is it that no-one talks about him any more?  It’s as though he never existed.  Sad.

Yes – here it is.  Had to publish the post, then search and then come back and edit.

I had some other thoughts but can’t remember what they were.  Oh, yes – something about being published – that before you are famous you can’t publish anything, no matter how good it is, and after you are famous they’ll publish anything no matter how crap it is.  Something like that.  Only snappier.

To the chalet today.  But you knew that.  Back tomorrow eve with a novel under my belt (ho ho).  Actually it wouldn’t fit under my belt, would it?

Have a good Monday.

Kirk out (looks like I’m stuck with it)

Undesirable Verbs

– for example:

to trial

to gift

to medal (argh!  worst of all, we hear this daily in Olympic season)

These are nouns masquerading as  verbs.  Nothing wrong with the language changing but these make me “S-Q-U-I-R-M, SQUURRUM”, as Billy Connolly sang.

Other verbs include those which are misapplied, such as “deliver” applied to policies instead of milK.  If you work in government or business you will surely have a load of these.  Let’s do a Dilbert collect them!  Send them to me, here at this blog

If you want to read more on the subject, John Humphrys’ excellent book, “Lost for Words” is a