Monday, August 21, 2006

This made me weep with laughter: the excellent, elegant Giles Smith writing in the Times last week...

"It would be no exaggeration to say that recent events have somewhat overtaken ITV’s Luton Airport.

Filmed at the start of the summer, this gentle docu-soap about daily life in and around the check-in desks of a typical British air terminus appears to depict a golden era of travel in which passengers in manageable numbers flow relatively smoothly towards on-schedule flights. No one is commanded to leave their copy of The Da Vinci Code in a specially provided dump-bin, nor consume their babies’ carrot and turnip purée to prove that it won’ t blow up.

It was a big moment in this week’s episode when someone accidentally triggered a fire alarm. If only. Maybe the producers would consider preparing a DVD version of the series in sepia.
The waves of nostalgia started to come even more thickly when the programme showed the England football team passing through Luton on their way to Germany for the 2006 World Cup finals. Ah, the piercing memories, the aching innocence of those times. David Beckham leant out of the pilot’s window and waved the flag of St George above a sign reading “Pride of the Nation” — an unthinkable liberty, given what we now know.

Also, this was back in the days when you could take Wayne Rooney on a British Airways Airbus A320 without having to place him in a clear plastic bag. Days when inessential items of hand luggage, such as Theo Walcott, weren’t automatically taken off you at the gate. Days when Sven-Göran Eriksson could turn up at the airport without guilt, even though his journey wasn’t strictly necessary.

And then there were the onlookers, thronging the airport fence, their faces, fascinatingly from another era, shiny with anticipation and the thrill of it all. People whooped at the sight of the team bus, happy to catch even a glimpse of these outgoing heroes and to share with them this sense of being on the brink of greatness. It couldn’t have looked more like archive footage if every bystander had been in a trilby and smoking.

I tried to explain to some nearby youngsters. “You see, children, back then there was a real feeling in the land that this England side was capable of going all the way in the World Cup and bringing home the trophy for the first time in 40 years.” But they weren’t listening. They were too busy wondering why Rio Ferdinand hadn’t been required to stow his iPod in the hold. In any case, bring home a big metal trophy on an aeroplane? As if.

Eddie Jordan’s Bad Boy Racers on Five is, by contrast, set in an unmistakeable present. The former Formula One team boss has got seven weeks to straighten out eight young offenders with a penchant for car crime. One of the eight appears to be so freshly in trouble that the producers have been obliged, without explanation, to pixelate his face.

At least, I’m assuming the producers did it. It’s possible, of course, that the lad in question is a worrying example of a whole new breed of self- pixelating car criminal, set to make police work even harder than it already is.

In the opening episode, Jordan got his charges to demonstrate their car-jacking skills, which were formidable. They weren’t so hot, however, when it came to the more acceptable task of changing wheels using conventional tools. Jordan proposes channelling the offenders’ energies into a formal education in car mechanics, rendering them “ready for the world of work”, while offering as an incentive the opportunity to do up and race a banger.

Teachers and social workers may well have thought of similar strategies, but most likely they weren’t as rich or as famous as Jordan and didn’t come with the backing of a national television channel — factors that may give his project an edge. Jordan clearly has prodigious energy and a galvanising manner, too. Maybe he could do something about the airports.

Meanwhile, on Sky Sports News, Andy van der Meyde, the luckless Everton winger, was appealing for the return of his dog, which appears to have been nabbed, along with a couple of cars and some other items of his personal property, by burglars. Not Jordan’s boys, we hope.

It struck one that there might be a useful function for the rolling news channel, especially during the slow days of summer, as a kind of community noticeboard for sportspeople — somewhere they can post a message when something goes missing, say, or when they are on the lookout for a replacement door seal for a discontinued oven, or some such. We leave that idea with the team."


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