Room 101

Room 101 is a room in the novel 1984 by George Orwell, in which Winston Smith is confronted by his greatest fear as part of his “re-education” process in the Ministry of Love. This in turn inspired the TV series Room 101 in which various celebrity guest are invited to select five things they hate and send them to be consigned to Room 101.

They don’t always get their way though — the host will usually present an argument as to why that particular item or items should stay out of Room 101 (because the guest is not being fair, because other people like the item, or sometimes out of sheer bloodymindedness). Normally three or four of the five selections actually make it in.

And so, as the company concerned have yet to acknowledge that I count as a celebrity (bah!) and haven’t asked me to appear on the programme, I thought I’d have a go at listing five pet hates and justifying their inclusion.

So here we go…

People talking on their mobile phone in the toilets

Yes. You heard.

It appears that in a large office environment, such as the place where I work, you encounter a number of people who don’t want to take personal calls on their mobile phone at their desk. I don’t object to that.

What I do object to, is that rather than standing in the corridor, or even outside the office for a few moments, or even possibly keeping personal calls to a minimum when you’re meant to be working (a bizarre concept I know), this particular person seems to think it’s perfectly acceptable to stand in the gents toilets and conduct his personal business in their while other people are going about their … ahem business too.

It’s not something that I encounter very often — possibly because I don’t spend a large proportion of my working day in the lavatory — but every time I’ve encountered this, I’ve wanted to go right up to him and say, loudly and clearly so whoever he’s talking to can hear:

I’m awfully sorry, but would you mind not talking on your phone in the toilets? I consider it somewhat of an invasion of my personal privacy for you to broadcast the fact I’m having a shit to someone I’ve never met.

…do you think it would be okay to request that gentleman has a trip to Room 101?

Stupid bloody phone in questions

Every morning, every evening, every time I switch on the telly I see one of these stupid fucking questions. You know the ones:

Is the capital of France:

  1. cogito ergo sum
  2. Paris
  3. A small glass of eggnog
  4. King Henry VIII

And then you have some number to phone up that costs you two pound sixty to be entered in a lottery with every bugger else who takes part in the competition because someone stupid enough to get the answer wrong is unlikely to be able to use a telephone successfully.

And then, once the TV company concerned have paid for their programming schedules for the next six months by the people phoning in, they’ll cough up some miniscule percentage of the money they actually make from the quiz thing as a prize.

If you gamble on a fruit machine in a pub — which I have been known to do on occasion — legally the fruit machine must tell you the percentage payout. If 78% of the money taken is returned, it’s got to tell you that, so you know the odds you’re competing against.

So why don’t we have an equivalent for these phone in things? The first time you run one, you get to estimate the proportional sizes of the prize and the money coming in. For each subsequent go, you have to specifically express as a percentage the size of your prize in comparison to the cost to the callers. That way people can make a reasoned and realistic judgement as to whether or not it’s worth their while taking part.

Or alternatively can we just insist that for any phone in question where the question is too easy — let’s say more than 50% of callers got the right answer — every caller who got the right answer and didn’t win the prize gets their money refunded.

At the very least, stop pretending these are serious bloody quiz questions. They’re a joke, you know they’re a joke, we know they are a joke, and it’s pure and simply lying for the TV presenters to pretend anything different. They’re a money making exercise and nothing more.

Let’s get rid of them, and stop allowing this junk to fill up our TV screens. Can we throw these into Room 101 and have some proper TV programming again? Which of course brings me to…

Reality TV

Please, no more.

First we had stuff like The Osbournes, and Airport with that Jeremy character, and then that bloody Maureen from Driving School. Since then, of course the programme makers have realised this sort of TV isn’t any good — there’s no opportunity for the viewers to phone in and line the pockets of the TV companies — sorry, vote. I meant vote.

So know we’ve got I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, which really should be renamed “I’m not a celebrity, but I was in the paper once you know, and I could do with a bit more publicity please so yes, I’d love to take part”, or possibly “Celebrity Big Brother” where the G-list celebs they manage to come up with are someone I’ve never heard of from a band I’ve never heard of, an old bloke with white hair, and that woman what was on that other series of Big Brother, you know the one, oh, what’s her name?

And then we’ve got “How do you solve a problem like Maria?”, “Strictly Come Dancing”, “X-Factor”, “Fame Academy”, and so on and so forth. The same televisual effluent clogging up the arteries of our airwaves, coming into our living room and poisoning our hearts, our minds and our souls and at the same time encouraging us to phone up and vote (obviously spending cash in order to do so).

The flimsy premise that you’re voting for a winner rather than simply to line the pockets of the TV companies can also be sternly examined. The premise is to determine who is kicked off the show each week, yes? So why are you asked to vote for the person or persons you want to save, rather than the one you want out? Simple — because it means more votes and therefore more money.

This rancid crap that is masquerading as TV should be banned, and it should be banned now.

People doing things differently to how I would like them to do them

Okay, I appreciate this sounds a leetle vague so I’m going to try and explain what I mean. Sometimes, people make decisions that I don’t agree with. These don’t necessarily have to be decisions that directly affect me, but they could be. It could be some kind of ministerial policy, it could be a decision to broadcast a particular show on television at a particular time, it could be the person in front of me at the bar getting the last pint of Marston’s Pedigree and me needing to change the barrel.

Whatever it is, it shouldn’t be allowed. People should have to do whatever I want, and the sooner I’m made grand overlord of the entire planet, the better.

Newcastle United’s Transfer Policy

Poor old Glenn Roeder. I mean, there he is, steering the Good Ship Newcastle United, previously torpedoed by Captain Souness, safely into the calm waters of seventh place last season, and despite being required to replace players who cost a grand total of £50 million (Owen, Shearer, Luque and Boumsong) who were either crocked, retired or just not up to the job, is given about £15 million to do the job.

He succeeds in buying two players who have probably increased in value — Martins and Duff — as well as grabbing hold of the old warhorse Sibierski on a free, and yet despite it being painfully obvious to everybody — except seemingly Freddie Shepherd — that we needed serious investment in the playing squad, that’s it.

For a moment, there’s a brief flicker of hope that owing to our injury crisis (for most of the season, we’ve had between 50% and 60% of our first team squad unavailable through injury) Shepherd will see sense and give the lad a bit of cash to help him do his job. Obviously we’re not helped by the inflated transfer fees being paid everywhere, but it was painfully obvious in May 2006 our squad wasn’t good enough, we’ve had two years notice that Alan Shearer was going to retire, so how come the top brass at the club aren’t capable of sorting something out?

If they aren’t prepared to invest in our playing squad, then it’s about time they buggered off and passed the club over to someone else who is. I mean, Chelsea have a billionaire, West Ham have a billionaire, where’s ours?

2 Responses to “Room 101”

  1. mark fairlamb responds:

    we’ve been waiting over a fortnight for a new blog and don’t even get a friday joke.
    you are slipping young man

  2. Seb Crump responds:

    Nice one…

    My wife would certainly agree with you on the first (if you broadened it out to be gender neutral ;). I must say haven’t yet encountered this - but I think I’d vote for this to go in.

    On the second I (or perhaps Mr Merton) would argue that those stupid enough to take part lose what they deserve. On the other hand there is a duty to protect the vulnerable from themselves… in the balance, but they annoy me too, so “in they go”.

    I too hate reality TV, but is it reasonable to ban something that undeniably does give some people the mindless entertainment they think they desire. I must confess I don’t watch them, but I do (in passing) enjoy the fallout when they make fools of themselves. Perhaps restrictions on the quantity rather than a ban? Also, aren’t they the TV equivalent of a blog…? So I don’t think these should go in, you’ll have to take them home - perhaps even make one yourself.

    Well, from what I’ve read of you, the world certainly wouldn’t be in a worse state… don’t know whether I would be quite prepared to sacrifice all my freedoms though - so with the previso that you let everyone else be overlord too that can go in.

    I have no idea about the last one as I don’t do football - but surely it would be covered by the previous as they sound like they’re not making the same decisions you would. So, definitely send them in.

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