It’s not the Football, it’s the #RoadTrip #Banter I enjoy most.

It’s an abysmal Tuesday towards the end of October 2014 and as I do regularly, I am bamboozled into taking my now taller and more handsome than me, teenage son to the obligatory Blackpool FC vs Derby County FC  away game, evening kick off. It wasn’t until the night before that the weatherman alerted me to the fact that hurricane Gonzalo was due to batter the west coast of England the same afternoon. There are just three of us going, which involved skipping work and school early.

The plan is when we get to our destination we will be heading to the beach and have fish and chips which makes a change from a potentially deadly burger van, then heading to the ground stupidly early as always. 

The lads love away trips. Sometimes we have a full car; other times it’s the dream team of just me and the lad. I can take or leave the actual game of football, but there will always be a fond place in my heart for the pre and post match banter on those long (Brighton) and very slow (Blackpool) journeys, where there is nothing to do but accept take the constant piss-take of friends, the driver you’re overtaking and the one who’s over taking you. Number plates crop up during the road trip regularly: the illegally spaced ones and the non-modified ones with simple and often childish meanings. Any number plate ending in CUM, BUM, LOL, VOM, BAP will always bring a round of raucous laughter throughout the car.  The Blackpool road trip was no exception.

The Inbetweeners’ television series has a lot to answer for. ‘Bus Wankers’ for starters. There have been many a journey where one of the lads has shouted to the queuing public and I’ve prayed the traffic lights didn’t change for fear of being reprimanded, scream out: or even worse. The journey starts with ‘shotgun’ for dibs on the front seat, control of the car stereo volume and  iPhone charger.

When I’m listening to the lads’ character assassination of other parents for their looks, mannerisms, I often wonder what they say about me. As the nominated driver you get to know all the mindless and meaningless gossip in the world, who the current MILFs are, the comings and goings of recent parties who got drunk, vomited, who copped of with whom (quite insightful at times). Sometimes, I wonder whether the passengers even realise I am in the car and listening.

But most of all, I like the company of my son and his mates, most of whom I have known since taking boy wonder to primary school. I feel honoured that they like being with me, and I like seeing my son holding his own with men 20 or 30 years his senior; laughing with them, arguing with them, with me secretly praying nothing kicks off which means I will to have to intervene. Nothing has to date, but I think that’s down to luck, more than fortune.

The boy I used to know with his cherubic face, his sun kissed blonde mop is now almost a man, he stands a good inch taller than me and is funny to be with and have adult and childish conversations with and I am definitely looking forward to hanging out with him in the future, going for a pint after the match. The match itself, which I have to say is a bit of an anticlimax, whatever the score after the obligatory in-car banter from the previous four hours.

The Blackpool road trip was no different to any other away game.  It had it’s share of uncontrollable laughter; arguing, offensive chanting and a victory. At the point of writing, this blog, DCFC, are top of the league. We arrived home exhausted and at 2.30am. I had to be in work for 8.30am and was not amused to be informed the lads had a free period, so could have a lie in!

There are a number of books out there which chronicle stories about fathers and sons living their lives through the lens of football; I have to say they tend to be full of melancholy.

You have Nick Hornby, writing in Fever Pitch, about being taken to watch Arsenal by his uninterested father, after his parents ad separated; Gary Imlach’s memoir, My Father and Other Working Class Heroes,’ describing on the bits about his dad that he was not aware of, a professional player; Duncan Hamilton’s, The Footballer Who Could Fly, with it’s line about the author’s father: “Without football, we were strangers under a shared roof. With it, we were father and son.” 

All these books describe how football becomes an emotional prism for those men who like the game because the football stadium is a place where emotions are expressed freely and without constraint. The only similarity for me is our mantra: ‘What goes at the match, stays at the match’;  the emotional prism is the hours spent getting to know those well guarded secrets about my son, and his hidden life, that I don’t see, which I feel honoured to become privy to.  None of which I am prepared to shared with you. What goes on the road trip, stays on the road trip!

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Come Dine With Me (Part Two) – Post-Broadcasting

My brief experience with reality television has hardly been plain sailing since the cameras stopped rolling. From experience my view on reality television has changed somewhat since those five days of torture 5.30-6pm for a whole week watching myself on the box. Reality shows are a scar on our culture, they present us with the lowest common denominator of behaviour and intelligence, and require zero imagination or brains to watch. The thing is that there’s nothing “real” about them. Reality shows are carefully staged productions of filming clips cobbled up by the producers of the programme to elicit the most outrageous and humiliating behaviour possible from the participants. Humiliation is the key.

Rant over and now I have got that out of my system I though I would share a few thoughts with anyone who cares to listen about my ‘post-airing experience’ after being on the reality cooking competition TV show Come Dine with Me.

In hindsight the producers saw me coming, I recall the producers comments in my pre-filming application video “you’re great… this is perfect… brilliant… television gold”. I was the producers dream candidate: They lined them up and I hit them right out of the park. I have less-than-zero sympathy for those who seek the fame by applying for these things then complain. It shows a damaged ego and profound lack of character. If you put yourself through this then be big enough to reap the consequences. For the record, depression and paranoia are obligatory side effects of being on a reality TV show.

Watching yourself and even worse hearing yourself on television with modest viewing figures results in a desire to crawl into a cave and live there for the rest of your life, but don’t get me wrong it was an interesting learning experience….. I may even go as far to say, it has changed me.

Life in front of the TV cameras taught me that reality television shows are made up, even the ones you don’t think are made up, once you’ve been on one you can spot the flaws a mile off. Post-broadcasting I had a sudden realisation that I never want to be on a reality television show ever again. Not only is it a huge invasion of privacy, but you have such little control over how you are perceived.

Anyone reading this with an ounce of common sense will be thinking ‘What an idiot! Of course reality TV shows are scripted’. Yes I know this now and before, but watching the programme back the editing was so disjointed, I saw myself giving answers to questions that I hadn’t been asked and laughing and frowning at things I didn’t laugh or frown at. The dialogue and editing can frequently make something happen that never actually did. However, I guess it would have made for a very boring viewing without the editing.

When you sit down and actually watch yourself on television you can’t watch an episode without noticing small details relating to how the producers cobbled together a mosaic of actions and events off camera, unless perhaps you’re a media studies student with an assignment due in. For example, I now clearly see why we had to do numerous laborious random laughing, eating and mulling over shots.

Thankfully, Antiques Roadshow has filled the Come Dine With Me shaped hole in my life. I’ve no inside track on how that smart little show is made and, as far as I’m now concerned, that’s the way such things should stay. I can’t say I was a loyal fan of Come Dine With Me prior to filming.

My coming in at third place didn’t reflect the effort I put in, I looked after my guests off camera (and by that I mean hiding alcoholic drinks in obscure places as we were on limited measures for obvious reasons).

Even now on occasions late on a Friday night I find myself staring at the TV making casual disparaging comments about people in similar made up shows but its only after appearing on reality TV that I’ve considered how such comments may hurt actual people. When the programme aired, I bottled out of following the hashtag on twitter, I’ve never been on Facebook but thank god as I’m pretty certain I was the ‘posh bitter gay’. I won’t lie, I was scared to death about how people perceived me. People that know me know it didn’t even sound like me on day one and for the rest of the week I was just playing the game. It’s people that don’t know me that think I’m probably a bit weird!!!! I found out anyway what the Facebook brigade were saying about me thanks to work colleagues and other people on the periphery of my life. I’d like to thank my loyal follows on Twitter who defended me to the hilt, you know who you are. One such comment I quite liked and can share in less than 140 characters… ‘his culinary knowledge is actually quite arousing’.

A week appearing on national television will blow the wind right out of your sails if you ever had delusions of grandeur of yourself coming across as interesting, intelligent, nuanced or any of the above. That dynamic, mysterious and complex persona you might think you’re portraying will be cut at the stem leaving you with just one solitary characteristic, in my case the TWAT. The producer had me dressing up at a local fancy dress shop in 80’s gear, yep you got it sunglasses, moustache… My only saving grace was watching the programme, I observed how the other contestants got the same treatment. All were reduced into various caricatures that bore no great resemblance to the personalities I remembered from the actual experience. I thank the editing team as it could have been worse. I’m sure they could’ve just as easily spliced the footage of me to fit the profile ‘depressed paranoid psychopath’.
I am an extrovert, but equally I’m easily offended and like to be liked. I’m interested in other people’s views and feelings and would help anyone if it was within my power to do so. So that’s me done the only time you will see me dressing up and making a village idiot of myself will be on Twitter and Vine in less than 140 characters!