Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Almost Educating Joey Essex

Joey gets glacial: Copyright Lime Pictures
Enjoyed watching Educating Joey Essex where the former Towie star was in Patagonia on an "Essex-pedition." Now it's quite possible that Joey secretly has an Oxbridge degree, but assuming his lack of general knowledge is genuine, it's surprising what a good travel show presenter he makes. Essex knows so little about everything, that upon finding out a kernel of knowledge his enthusiasm is utterly infectious. The show began with a trip to Billingsgate where Joey mugged up on Patagonian fish with his Uncle, who declared knowingly: "Salmon is the Essex bird of fish, while the Bermondsey bird is more of a trout."

Some of the more memorable moments included Joey asking if a glacier was a woman, his thinking that penguins' beaks are made of wood and his wilderness instructor Lolo saying, "If I left him out here alone he'd survive for about an hour, he'd be eaten by a penguin or something." Equally amusing was Joey's bemusement that there are places in the world where there is no mobile single, his terror at diving into icy water where he might be eaten by a sea lion and the Chileans' utter bafflement that this man is a TV star in England. Also rather enjoyed the listing of all exotic destinations by their distance from Chigwell. Michael Palin look out.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Russell Brand and the People's Front of Judea

Grays' most famous son Russell Brand has been getting a bit of grief from the Sun for supporting the New Era estate tenants, under threat of being priced out of their homes, while paying £76k a year to a dodgy landlord himself. #TheSunLogic has now gone viral with lots of people pointing out that it's hardly fair to attack him for supporting a campaign against profiteering, tax-dodging landlords because he pays rent to some of them himself. As he points out on The Trews, he simply pays his rent to an estate agent ("it's not Rigsby!") and has no idea about his landlord's tax practices. And it's surely not wise for the Sun to take on an Essex Man armed with his native wit and well-capable of satirising Rupert Murdoch. As Brand says: "The Sun must have massive resources and what they've come up with is 'his landlord don't pay tax': It's like that bit in Life of Brian when the Roman Garrison goes into the People's Front of Judea's flat and comes out with one spoon!"

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Thurrock: what a load of rubbish

ITV's Countrywise featured Thurrock Thameside Nature Park this week. For 50 years barges dumped London's rubbish there. There's 28 metres of rubbish still rotting away beneath the surface, but now the land has been reclaimed and is covered in grasses and wildlife, such as birds, newts, insects and spiders. Capping the landfill involved putting a layer of sail or chalk, then a rubber membrane to prevent the methane escaping, and more chalk and soil. Looking at it now, you'd never know that part of Thurrock is literally a load of rubbish. Situated between East Tilbury and Stanford-le-Hope the park now has a visitor centre and is great for bird and ship watching and views over the superbly-named Mucking Flats SSSI.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

I'm A Celebrity Get Me Back to Essex

Reality TV is still being dominated by characters from God's own county. Pixie Lott has done well on Strictly while Mark Wright is proving quite a charmer on the dance floor, and like many ex-footballers, is proving quite good at dancing. While Towie's  Gemma Collins has got more press headlines than the rest of the celebs put together after walking out on I'm A Celebrity. Viewers have been entertained by her terror of helicopters ("I've cracked at the first hurdle but it's like the turtle and the slug or the horse and rabbit or whatever it is, the slug has won in the end") colourful descriptions of her bowel movements, her self-diagnosis of malaria, and the admission that her ideal man is the "old school" Ray Winstone type (now there's a perfect Essex match). She also announced that she's never returning to Australia and prefers the forests of Essex where there are no wild animals. She's apologised for causing any "agg" and is now looking forward to surviving the jungle of Brentwood High Street and glamping in Epping Forest.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

California comes to Hornchurch

Good piece in the Guardian on Saturday about the fact the Rom skatepark in Hornchurch has become Europe's first listed skatepark. Iain Borden makes a convincing case for Essex's very own Moonscape. He first skated on it in 1978 and writes: "All around were the Fords, repair shops and semi-detached houses of Hornchurch. But I didn’t see them. For this wonderful moment, in my head, I was in California." And it can't be often California and Hornchurch are linked in the same sentence…

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Wilko lives!

Fantastic news that Wilko Johnson, having been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer 18 months ago and told he had just ten months to live, is now free of the disease. Wilko's had some radical surgery, having his tumour ("the size of a baby, man") removed, and he is now cancer-free. The former Doctor Feelgood legend revealed the news while picking up a Q Icon award and making a very funny and moving speech. Wilko's outlook has also had something to do with his beating death. He was always positive and decided to give life one last scattergun solo, producing Going Back Home a great album with Roger Daltrey in the process. Check out his biography Looking Back at Me too for the stories of a great Essex man. I'm also proud to have included a Wilko live gig in Canvey Island in my book The Joy of Essex. He does it right.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Suits you, sir: Grayson takes on the Default Male

Enjoyed a very entertaining performance from Grayson Perry in conversation with Miranda Sawyer at the Royal Institution of Great Britain last night. Perry was discussing his essay on the “Default Male” (ie middle aged white men in suits) in the current issue of the New Statesman, which he guest edited. Perry is certainly very perceptive in his take on how the suit denotes authority and seriousness, but is also a way of attaining invisibility and concealing how Default Man's values dominate society.

Grayson was certainly not in a suit himself, as he was wearing orange platform shoes with pink tights and one of his ‘Bo Peep’ dresses designed by St Martin’s School of Art Students. He spoke about growing up in Chelmsford and how his Dad left at four, followed by a bad relationship with his step-dad and mentioned the perpetual unease of an Essex Man like himself when confronted with Default Males in suits, thinking, “I shouldn’t be here I’m just a geezer!”

Indeed, it was nice to hear Perry’s accent frequently veer into familiar Essex glottal stops. A couple of years ago he confessed: ““I have a thick crust of Islington but if you cut me, you find Essex there. The tone of my taste decisions is often very Essex, but I put an Islington spin on them. That might be the deciding fact in my entire oeuvre.”


Other confessions included the fact that he is a “domestic patriarch” in his home, not doing as many chores as he should, and that when he went cycling, he discovered that he was “a very competitive Alpha Male.” He was also very funny about being both a personality and an artist. When art people start complaining that he’s too accessible, he says, “I have to remind them they’re in the leisure business!” As A A Gill quipped, “Let’s make Grayson Perry King and Queen of England.”