Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Bring on the wall, again

A while back I blogged about painting a pretty large flower pattern on our stairs' wall, aided by a laptop, GIMP and a projector. I mentioned that my Dad painted an awesome Star Wars mural in mine and my Brother's bedroom, free hand, making our monotone technologically assisted job seem a bit weak. Here's a picture Mum dug out:

The Ewok's village has unfortunately been cropped by the 80's lense, but rest assured Wicket was standing there, spear in hand. For added awesomeness, the Death Star and X-wings were painted using glow in the dark paint.

Dad's skills didn't stop with the Empire. Checkout this Thomas the Tank Engine and Postman Pat mash-up, a pre-teen equivalent of Alien versus Predator:

And as if that wasn't good enough, he built us a friggin' fort from bits of an old shed! I don't think I realised how lucky I was when I was a kid, having parents putting this much effort into making sure we had fun. Here I am looking pretty chuffed ruling the fort with my Brother* defending with a Shield, also made by Dad. There was even a trapdoor inside the fort so we could make a quick get-away into the bush behind.

I wish that fort was still there. I'd love to stand on top of it doing my best worst french impressions, shouting python insults at anyone who would listen. You English pig-dog!

Now go away, before I taunt you for a second time.

* We've decided that in this picture my Brother looks like a cross between Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Milton from Office Space

Monday, 3 August 2009

My Hometown is a Joke

I was born and raised in Kettering, a medium sized town in Northamptonshire, roughly in the middle of England. It's famous for shoes and being a bit of a Joke. Literally I mean. For some reason Kettering is funny.

The first use of Kettering in humour (that i'm aware of) is in Monty Python's Travel Agent Sketch, in which Eric Idle talks about being 'carted around in busses, surrounded by mindless oafs from Kettering and Boventry'. Since then (maybe in part due to the Python reference) there's been countless mentions of the town in mainstream British comedy.

A whole episode of Peep Show was spent in Kettering, mostly at the souless head office of Mark's employer. An entire episode of angry man sitcom 'One Foot in the Grave' revolved around a contrived joke about mishearing 'She's in Kettering' as 'She's in Catering'. There's even a classic comedy fanzine named 'The Kettering'. I've been trying to figure out why people find Kettering funny.

Maybe it's the word itself, Ket-err-rin' (as we from k-town say it). There must be something to this, as Douglas Adams & John Llody used it in 'The Meaning of Liff', a dictionary of words that haven't been invented yet. Kettering is defined as:

'...descriptive of the marks on one's bottom caused by sunbathing in a wicker chair'.

Personally though, I think what's funny about Kettering is what it represents. Kettering is funny because it's a town that has ideas above it's station, it's trying too hard to be something it never will. It has visions of grandeur, despite the fact it's always going to remain an insignificant smudge on the map between Leicester and Northampton. What other town would throw money at building an amphitheater jut down the road from a street where every other shop unit looks like it's been hurriedly deserted hours before the economical storm hit town, the remnants of the businesses once occupying the shops obscured by the 'closing down' graffitti painted on the inside of dirty windows. A road where, believe it or not, even charity shops are going out of business.

It's odd, because if you believed what you saw on the TV or road signs, you'd think Kettering was a bustling up and coming town. It's always on the ITV regional weather looking sheepish next to City's like Nottingham and Leicester. It's on sign posts miles away for no discernible reason. I live in Loughborough and Kettering is signposted on the A6, despite being a good 50 minutes away and 'Rock and Bowl' being one of its primary night spots.

The thing that perfectly sums up this desperation is Wicksteed's Park. Wicksteed's Park is the (i.e. only) theme park in Kettering. I'm not sure what the theme is though. Wicksteed's used to be fun, when there was an element of danger. The original rollercoaster had wooden carriages with no harness or belt, just a metal bar to hold onto at the front, perfectly positioned for smashing your teeth on. They had a centafugal death trap that stuck punters to the wall and pulled the floor away. Seeing someone vomit in it was always a treat, because one person to the left would be the unwitting receiver. A bit like a Newtonian version of Russian Roulette. Wicksteed's Park will never be able to compete with the big boys because Mr Wicksteed left what was then an expansive park with gentle boat rides to the people of Kettering, by way of a charitable trust. Wicksteed's spin is:

'Wicksteed Park is unique in that, unlike other parks, you don’t have to pay for the rides if you’re not going to use them'

But this is only because they have no right to charge. Wicksteeds is a nice park, in the traditional sense of the word, but it's tainted by its attempts to be a mega-attraction, with over priced food, tame rides and a lame mascot (Wicky Bear, whos clothes look suspiciously like Super Mario's outfit)

I think the writers of Peep Show picked Kettering because, like the character Mark, it is trying hard but always failing to be something it never will. At one point in the episode Mark and Jess visit Kettering's (fictitious) strip joint 'Lap Land' (Kettering does actually have a Lap Dancing club but it's called 'Cleopatras' and is above a working man's club). There's a huge sign on the wall, reading 'Lap Land, Kettering'. This sign is, possibly not deliberately, a perfect summation of the funny desperation of Kettering. Given how shit the club is, there has to be only one Lap Land in the world, yet the try hard Ketteringite who owns the place wanted to subtitle the name with 'Kettering' to make it seem like a chain, more important then it really is.

I think you can see a bit of Kettering in everyone. If they're naked, sunbathing on a wicker chair.

David Atkins comes from Kettering and lives in a house with Jen in Shepshed. He spends his days programming and pressure washing. He trys to write like a proper journalist, but really isn't good enough. He's a true child of Kettering.