I noticed that on the main five terrestrial channels TV today, between 8:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m., there are ten programmes and only two of them are fictional dramas. The other eight are reality TV shows or documentaries. It seems that, in my youth, all television was drama with the exception of “Panorama”, “World In Action” or “Man Alive”. These days, my TV viewing is either sport or dramas, preferably a box set. I’m currently re-watching “The Crown” and, arguably, it’s a documentary but I love it for the incredible sets, acting, social history and the way it makes me re-examine my default hatred of the Royal Family. I tend to avoid documentaries and reality TV programmes.
Roo watches “Escape To The Country” and “Bake Off” but also watches lots of gruesome medical dramas like “Bones”, “ER” or “Grey’s Anatomy”. However, probably because the main person in it was a cricketer, we did watch a programme last week about bulimia in which Freddie Flintoff spoke at length about his battles with his eating disorder. It was fascinating in many ways. One way was that he spoke eloquently about how he is known by everybody outside his friends and family as “Freddie” – the happy, confident, up-for-a-lark good guy whereas those who know him well call him “Andrew” and understand that he is not as confident as he seems. When he was nineteen and got picked to play for England, he was ridiculed in the press for being overweight and during the programme he held up photos taken at the time. This humiliation may or may not have contributed to his poor relationship with food. He explained how, in an effort to lose weight, he would vomit up his food after eating. He also explained how hard he still trains in order to remain fit and keep his weight down. The end of the programme wasn’t conclusive: he claimed that he was in control of his eating disorder and that it wasn’t in control of him. I think the viewers were left to ponder whether or not he was in denial.
This got me to thinking about my own relationship with food. I wrote in a previous post about being nicknamed “Tubby” as a teenager. I was never very aware of my appearance until I went to stay with a friend of mine in Stoke in the mid Seventies and his mother called me “the little fat one”. Also, a good friend of mine, when asked by the opposition captain who he should toss a coin with, pointed at me and identified me as being “the fat bloke over there”. For years up until 2004, I just ate whatever I fancied – pork pies, scotch eggs, crisps, Mr Kipling bakewell slices – anything bad. My thinking was pretty simple – if I had a bad day at work, I needed to cheer myself up by eating something deliciously fattening. If I had a good day at work, I needed to celebrate eating something deliciously fattening. If it was a holiday and I was bored, I needed to eat something deliciously fattening. If it was a holiday and I wasn’t bored, it meant that I was meeting someone which involved eating something deliciously fattening. I lost weight over six moths in 2004 but put it all back on over the next few years until, in 2014 I was seventeen stone. I have since kept a note of my weight every day and over two intense periods (in 2014 and 2020) have lost a lot of weight until a few weeks ago I was just over twelve stone. Yet I still have a very unhealthy relationship with food. If there is any sweet or fattening food in the house, I will eat it. Deferred gratification is an oxymoron as far as I’m concerned – everything has to be instant. The situation now is that I either have good days (fruit, toast and soup) or bad days (ice cream, biscuits, chocolate). I’m keeping my weight fairly steady at the moment by ensuring I have more good days than bad days.
When I watch TV dramas that involve someone being a drug addict or an alcoholic, I think I can recognise some of my own personality there. It sounds like I am trivialising something serious here but the idea that an alcoholic wakes up and the first thing they think of is a drink and planning their day around it, resonates with me.
I have no idea whether “WebMD” is a reputable website but here is what is written there about this subject. “Experiments in animals and humans show that, for some people, the same reward and pleasure centres of the brain that are triggered by addictive drugs like cocaine and heroin are also activated by food, especially highly palatable foods. Highly palatable foods are foods rich in sugar, fat or salt. Like addictive drugs, highly palatable foods trigger feel-good brain chemicals such as dopamine. Once people experience pleasure associated with increased dopamine transmission in the brain’s reward pathway from eating certain foods, they quickly feel the need to eat again.” Exactly. One hot cross bun yesterday wasn’t enough – I had to eat all four.
One of the last times my Mum went out of her house was a visit to come to see Roo and I in Brighton, probably around 1998. I knew that she loved amusement arcades and we went on to the Palace Pier where she went completely wild on the fruit machines. She didn’t lose hundreds of pounds – probably only about £10 – but it was interesting to observe her behaviour and, er, well, how addicted she seemed and how she was unable to stop until my Dad and I dragged her away. It brought to mind a family holiday to Ffestiniog (in North Wales) in the early Sixties when I was probably about eight or nine years old. One day we drove to Llandudno, about forty miles. All I remember about this day is that I was allowed to go into the amusement arcade and I lost 17/6. That’s equivalent to 87p then and I’ve just looked it up and it’s equivalent to £16.57 today. Quite why I had that much money to spend, I have no idea. I’m guessing I was given some extra pocket money for a holiday and I’d been saving up. This was a lot of money to me then. I felt intense shame and regret when it was all over. So much so, that I still feel bad nearly sixty years later. Not too dissimilar to the feeling I used to get after I finished eating a whole Marks And Spencer’s Turkey Pie in about ten minutes in the Eighties.
Despite this bad experience, I have always felt attracted to amusement arcades and fairs. They always seemed such exciting places to go to. Exciting, but at the same time, dangerous and doom laden. Yet the attraction has always been there.
My train of thinking after watching Andrew Flintoff’s confessional TV programme along with a friend of mine nominating Fairground Attraction’s only album as one of her favourite ever albums has led me to listen to “The First Of A Million Kisses”. To show how little I knew of this band, I had no idea that they were Scottish, let alone that Eddie Reader was the lead singer. I have just read that they stayed together as a group for only two years during which time they released just this one album. After they split up, another album of B sides and previously rejected material was released. I had heard of the band Sweetmouth which consisted of Mark Nevin, the songwriter and guitarist with Fairground Attraction, and Brian Kennedy who for several years was an extra vocalist on many Van Morrison albums. I once went with John and Helen to see Brian Kennedy perform at The Junction in Cambridge and after the show, Helen had a long chat with him. The album that Sweetmouth released, “Goodbye To Songtown”, consisted of songs originally intended for another Fairground Attraction album.
I’ve really enjoyed listening to this album. There is a wide variety of different styles of music to listen to. “Clare” was a single and has a New Orleans feel which is well depicted in the video. I’m amazed that I’ve never heard this before – it’s excellent.
“Find My Love” reached Number Seven in the UK charts and has more of a Spanish feel with some playing by Simon Edwards on a “guitarrón mexicano” (the Spanish name for a big Mexican guitar).
The only song I had heard before was “Perfect” which was a Number One song in May 1988 and won British Single Of The Year at the Brit awards at the end of the year. That’s no surprise as it is, well, a “perfect” pop song.
I can see the attraction of a fairground, an amusement arcade, a pork pie and Fairground Attraction but only one of these brings lasting happiness.