Please Leave - NOW
I will make this very clear now, the stuff on the TV is NOT REAL. Even the news is chopped into bite-sized manageable bits so you can digest it. If you see something on the television, please think about what you are seeing and engage at least ONE PART of that thing buried deep inside your skull. Maybe - oh, I don't know - investigate what you are watching for yourself. The Internet - it's NOT just for porn.
You may be wondering, dear reader, something along the lines of "What has rattled his chain NOW?" and I don't blame you. However, today, I was confronted with monumental stupidity on a scale of which takes a lot.
We also discovered that I am, in fact, a complete arsehole.
As you well know, we live in the town of Basildon, slap bang in the county of Essex. Here in the south-east of England, life bumbles along as it does pretty much everywhere else in the country. For whatever reasons, the rest of the country has gotten the idea - that started in the late 80s/early 90s - that us Essex folk are all common-as-muck, alcoholics, and, more importantly, thick as arseholes.
Yes, we have common-as-muck sorts, we have alcoholics on the street, and we do in fact have thick-as-arseholes people. But find me a county that doesn't.
I don't watch TV - there is so much crap on there, I just don't bother - but even without watching, I know for a FACT there are two programs on that show the country what Essex is "really" like. I am talking about, of course, The Only Way Is Essex, and the other one, Educating Essex.
I admit, I have only ever seen snippets of the former, and nothing of the latter. However, the first is apparently a good example of Essex life.
Fake tan, thick as shit, "cool words" that are only now being used because of the program, fashion sense - all the rest of it. It's supposed to be reality TV as it happens, but is so obviously scripted and as fake as their tits it's unreal.
And yet, the country loves it. It's won AWARDS for goodness sake.
The other program I can't even be bothered to research. Looking at it's main page, it's got bleach-haired, short-skirted, fake-tan girls smeared all over it.
Yeah, good cross-section there.
And no, out of sheer principle, I am not linking them. Google them if you live under a rock/in another country. Don't blame me for any brain-cell implosion from viewing video clips.
It's all well and good, people enjoy the TV they watch - fair enough. But please realise they are made for TV, and are about as accurate as me writing a report on the banking crisis off the top of my head. If Essex were actually like this, then I am going to turn on the gas and take a deep breath as I light a match.
But these shows and this arsing stereotype of Essex being like this is NOT the reason for my rant. No folks, something worse has pushed me over the edge.
Today, as every day, the buses to and from school have been knackered. Properly, full on, running at a time other than that under the guise of "Time Table". Again, instead of one every ten minutes, it's been nothing for thirty minutes, then three or four. Brilliant. This in itself has rattled my chain, but isn't worthy of a blog post yet.
In an effort to get the buses back on track, they decided, in their wisdom, to kick everyone off of three of them, and send THOSE buses off ahead of the route to try and catch up with their time table. With four buses of people, the remaining bus was full, so me and a half-dozen others - a couple of schoolies, a grannie, a couple of mums, and a weird-looking bloke with big glasses - are standing around waiting for another bus, placing bets on A) when the next bus will arrive, and B) how many will turn up.
So there we are stood, chatting shit as people at bus stops tend to do, when this group of four people turned up, armed with a map. Tourists. Pegged them straight off. They had the bewildered look of people without a clue, and were aiming for us.
"'scuse us -" their accent was northern - very northern, but not northern enough to be Scots. "Can you tell us where the towie people are?"
I blinked. It took a second, to realise "towie" was "T.O.W.I.E" which is short for The Only Way Is Essex.
Mother of God.
I know from my dear fiancée that that program is filmed in another part of Essex, closer to London. I also know from my dear fiancée that the club they frequent/film in is called The Sugar Hut. I know this, because a few months back, she went there. I also know this, as a local footballer was beaten into paralysis a few weeks back outside the very same club.
Like I say, classy.
So, I digress, back to Northern Lass and her posse of three.
The schoolies at the bus stop giggled and shook their heads. The mothers stared open-mouthed, their minds clearly screaming internally as mine was. Granny was confused. Crazy man watched a pigeon.
"You realise you're in the wrong part of Essex, right. And you realise you're looking for TV characters, don't you..." I didn't word it as a question.
"Oh aye -" OK, I know I am trying to talk anti-stereotypes here, but she DID say 'Oh Aye' in a proper northern way "- we seen them on the TV and wanted to see that sort of life for ourselves. We've come to Essex for a week to experience it..."
I could feel the last vestiges of Faith in Humanity crumbling into dust within me. Here are a group of people that have come to Essex from the north of England - probably 200 miles or more - to see and experience something they've seen on the telly.
The mums looked at me with wide eyes, one shaking her head. Yep, she had that crumbling feeling too. The schoolies piped up "That program is crap, man" and laughed. Northern Lass, however, was not deterred. In fact, I think she was convinced we were covering something up, like these were OUR people, that we only let out for the TV cameras, and we hid them when not in use.
"We've been here since yesterday, and haven't seen anything about them. We know there's the club, but don't know how to get there from here, but where are the people like that around here so we can meet them?"
So, 24 hours in Essex, and they couldn't work out how Public Transport/Road Signs worked, and couldn't understand where we keep the Orange-Skinned, Collagen/Sillicone-Filled, floppy haired twats.
I try again. "You DO realise that's only a TV program, right? It's not *real* but a TV program." She blinked and looked at her friends. They looked as bewildered as she did. "Yes, but where are they?" The mums are now talking in low voices trying to stifle laughter. Gran is watching with a confused look on her face. The man is still watching his pigeon. One of the kids is on their blackberry, texting furiously. I can see it now. "OMG 4 ppl lkin 4 TOWIE cast in Bas. Proper bellends LOL"
"They're not real." I tell her. I might as well have stabbed her with the crazy blokes pigeon. She looked like I had crapped in her coffee and handed it to her.
"They are!" she exclaims, and follows through with the classic....
"We've seen them on the telly"
I honestly don't know how to respond. I don't know what to tell her. I consider sending her as far north as I can until she realises she near her house. I try a different tactic. "OK, if I came to your town and asked you were the people from Coronation Street lived, what would you tell me?"
She laughed, and without hesitation, "I'd tell you you were in the wrong place, that their studios are somewhere else!" She and her pals chuckled at my obvious need for special treatment. Then, like a bolt, it seemed that it came to her. I actually watched someone having an epiphany, realising that she was an idiot, and that she was looking for a cast of characters, and that Essex is nothing like that...
"Wait, you're saying they're not around HERE but somewhere else?" Oooh so close, I wanted to /facepalm myself. The kids were cracking up openly. "Alright look, are you driving or using public transport." She said they had driven down. Result. So, I took her map of Essex, showed her where she WAS, and after a few moments, pointed to where she needed to go with her posse, and how to get there via the nice big road heading in that direction.
"Head there - it's only a half hour down the A13 -" (I think) "- and around there start asking. That's your best bet, it's much closer to where you want to be and they will probably be better placed to help you. Probably be worth checking the pubs in the evenings too in case you get no joy during the day."
"Thanks lad -" she said as they virtually RAN to where they had left their car "- hopefully we'll be on the show soon!"
Within seconds, they were gone. I was left standing, wondering what the hell just happened, half wondering if someone as bat-shit crazy would end up on the show, and if my directions may be sending me straight to Hell on a flaming Harley.
"Do you know where the Sugar Hut is?" one of the mums asked. Sadly, I couldn't remember where Kellie & Kerry spent the evening, but I probably wouldn't have sent them there anyway.
"Not a clue, I couldn't remember and don't watch it anyway." I replied.
I knew it was coming. I knew someone would HAVE to ask. It was the the other mum.
"So where did you give them directions to?" she asked with that furrowed-wrinkled-brow expression.
"Dagenham." I replied.
To use the vernacular of the youth, the kids and the mums LOL'd. They LOL'd hard. The granny just watched the world go by, and the man carried on watching the pigeon.