Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Intermission



Please enjoy this page from Ceefax for a while. I am back from my holiday, but am about to tackle the kitchen floor, so I am sure that I will be back with a tale of disaster soon (unless I glue myself down, in which case I shall have to survive on whatever is in the nearest cupboard. *Makes mental note not to start in "cleaning products" territory*).

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Chance Would Be a Fine Thing

I have an annoying habit. It is that I can’t help pointing out to people that what they think of as amazing coincidences are usually statistically fairly probable. I am often to be heard using the phrase “What would be really amazing is if there were no coincidences”. By the time I have mentioned self-selecting samples or false causality it is usually agreed that I have won the point, or that it is time to be going home.

As an example, my Dad, who was a primary school teacher, was amazed by the fact that he never once taught a pupil who had the same birthday as him. But I used some simple maths to show that 25 new children each year for 40 years is only 1000 kids – it would be more amazing if all those birthdays were evenly spread throughout the year. It was actually quite likely that there would be some days with no birthdays, and it was only because one of those days was his birthday that he found it significant. This speech perhaps wasn’t the high point of his retirement party.

Anyway, so a stranger from off of the internet wanted to ask me some questions about writing and I agreed to meet him for a drink after work so that I could impart all of my wisdom and experience to him. It turned out that I actually didn’t have all that much wisdom and experience to impart, and there was a good 10 minutes before I needed to leave to meet my girlfriend and some friends of ours for dinner. (NB this is probably the first time in the last decade that I have gone from one social engagement straight to another without an intervening period of two weeks or so watching repeats of Friends.) So, with a bit of time to kill I asked the stranger from off of the internet where he came from originally. Only to find out that we went to the same secondary school!

Isn’t that amazing? Of course, we both thought that the other one was winding us up, or stalking us, or that some kind of ITV Friends Reunited show was underway and that the hidden cameras would come out any moment.

The hidden cameras did not come out. It truly was an amazing coincidence. And luckily I never bullied him and he didn’t have a sister whom I failed to get off with so it wasn’t awkward or anything.

I then went to my dinner engagement. My girlfriend and our friends were already there, so I made a grand entrance and told them all to shut up as I had the greatest story ever told, and I started to relate the events of the evening so far, right up to asking the stranger from off of the internet where he was from. “And guess what?” I said, triumphantly.

“He went to the same school as you?” my girlfriend asked. I made a note not to invite her to any more stand-up gigs I might do.

“Yes! Isn’t it amazing?”

There were some polite nods.

“Was he in your year?”

“No.”

“Was he from your village?”

“No.”

“Did you know him at all?”

“Er, no. He’s five years younger, and because of the schools in that town reorganising we were never actually at the same school at the same time. But we remembered a couple of the same teachers.”

The conversation stopped. I felt a bit like the scientist who announced about 20 years ago that he had perfected cold fusion to give us all limitless free energy. When he had actually just perfected heating up some water in a test tube. Imagine if he had also said that in an amazing coincidence his new lab assistant had turned out to be his cousin’s friend’s neighbour’s ex-husband’s brother-in-law.

“So it’s like when I met your friend Denise you did your MA with, and it turned out I went to the same school as her”, said my girlfriend. “But again we weren’t in the same year and didn’t actually know each other.”

“Not really”, I said. “You both come from London, and you met her in London. That’s not an amazing coincidence. This is – we went to school miles from London. This must be a one in a million chance.”

There was then some discussion about this implying a significant overspend in the government’s education budget, with a secondary school for every 60 people, regardless of whether they were aged 11-16 or not. I shortened the odds somewhat, but still insisted it was amazing.

Then one of our friends asked about all the hundreds of people whom I’ve met in the past couple of decades who didn’t go to my school, and whether I found that remarkable in any way.

I had taught them too well; my own weapons had been turned upon me. I muttered something about wanting to choose a starter, and the conversation moved on. But after that amazing coincidence I'm doing the lottery this weekend. Somebody's got to win it.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Top Tip #1

When texting your Jewish friend, Jez, try not to begin the text "Hi Jew!"

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Show Business

Show, don’t tell. Those three words have probably been scrawled in the margin of every script ever written at some point. It’s a simple rule, but surprisingly easy to forget. The gist of it is that instead of telling the audience something (eg that a particular character is not very nice), you should actually show this character doing something not very nice. It is agreed by everybody that this is better.

I was reminded of this yesterday, when a production company said that they wanted to “show me how much I was valued”, then proceeded to talk about how great my scripts had been on this series and how much they wanted me to work on the next series, but said that they couldn’t do anything about the contractual dispute that we were having. ie merely tell me how much I was valued.

Which is funny, because I don’t remember Cuba Gooding Jr saying “Tell me the money”.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Mixing With the Wrong Boys, Playing With the Wrong Toys

They say that being good at pool is a sign of a misspent youth. I have just found out that I can still do three-quarters of a Rubik's Cube.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

My Life Now Complete I Shall Just Tidy Up My Affairs and Await the Inevitable

It was quite a good party anyway. Then the birthday girl brought a gentleman over to me and said, "This is my friend Ray. He wrote Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em."