Pride and realism do not have to be mutually exclusive.

This week my home town, Stoke-on-Trent, had the rather dubious honour of sliding in at number 10 in  a poll of the countries ‘crap towns’ – as voted for, well it seems, as voted for by the whims of the misguided writers.

I say this because, I know that Stoke-on-Trent has its problems, like all the other locations mentioned, but it also has its positives, its aspirations, and what else? Oh yeah, it’s full of actual real, living people who rely on the image of the town to attract business investment, create jobs, and so enable them to earn a living. (over half a million people, swept aside in one picture of one part of Hanley, one small part of a bigger whole)

So when these writers talk about towns, I’m sure they purely mean the bricks & mortar, the traffic planning, the lack of services and the economic outlook. I’m sure they intend those of us who live there to pick up the book and laugh heartily to ourselves as we agree, “Oh yes! This is so true! I do live in a crap town! If only it wasn’t so crap, but look at just how crap it is! Thanks Mr Author living in Oxford for your portrayal of my home to the rest of the country – thus further entrenching the idea in people’s minds that where I live, where my family and friends live, work and love, is just crap! We must be idiots to live here, mustn’t we?”

Maybe I’m being over-sensitive, but then, I have a peer group of people who’ve not only carved out their livings from Stoke-on-Trent, but are actively trying to make the place better through their work. It’s not easy, the easy thing would be for us to all move away and forget where we come from, and never mention it again, but we don’t. Even those I know who have left the area, have strong roots here, return here, support each other and have love for the place. So this book just smacks of pissy negativity that really doesn’t help anyone (other than the authors to make a few coins).

It’s not even like we don’t know that elements of Stoke leave a little to be desired, but then, we live here, so I think it’s okay really for us to say that. I will happily discuss how I think the 6 towns (do the writers know that Stoke in actually six towns?) are not working as a connected whole, and how the City itself seems to be getting surrounded by business parks, resembling a small village of indomitable Stokies, surrounded by the forces of Tesco. I understand that we have been beset by council failings, corruption, starved funding from the South (which makes books like this from Oxford writers even more bitter), closed shops and over-grown brown spaces.  We have some bad areas and some bad people. But this is not it! This is, just like everywhere in the world, something we are trying to resolve, trying to overcome, against the odds of a central government who seeks to starve out opposition politics by slashing funding. Christ, at one point they even wanted to dump London’s poor on us!

So, I imagine the natural response from the writers of this book, this ‘poll’, would be that it is ‘just a bit of fun’, and we can’t deny them that in a world of free speech. It’s just a shame that some people, given the freedom afforded to us from thousands of years of human evolution, the rise and fall of civilizations, at the very pinnacle of human existence and understanding, choose to use that honour to go round slagging off other people’s towns for a quick profit. You’d just think they might have something better to do with their time, talent and obvious connections in the media.

Hark at me! Trying to appeal for positivity in the world. How very droll. I re-read this and I can almost feel the sniggers should the authors of the poll stumble upon this humble blog. My reaction will have justified their tease. But you know, if you don’t stick up for your own town, who will?!  Who knows, maybe the writers are actually really clever social scientists, using this publication as a rallying call for the areas represented to rise to the challenge – maybe I am falling into their devious, yet ultimately positive, trap? I don’t think so somehow, but then, if it has that affect, then who cares if they intended it?

It shouldn’t matter though, I hardly think “Top ten crap towns” will go down in history as one of the literary greats, rather something someone else buys you for Christmas and you half-read while having a shit, basically. Aim high guys. Aim high! Thanks for the publicity.

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Not good enough for the BBC! Part 1

I recently had a bit of luck getting a couple of my one liner jokes on BBC4 Radio Extra’s ‘Newsjack’ (if for any strange reason you don’t believe me check out the credit list! http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00kvs8r/features/series-8-2 and http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00kvs8r/features/series-8-6).

Anyway – Newsjack is an open submission programme, so basically you have a deadline each week and can send in your jokes or sketches, cross your fingers and hope they get chosen out of the hundreds of submissions. So although I got two jokes in (praise the lord of media), I wrote dozens more that didn’t get in. Quite simply they weren’t good enough for the BBC. They may well just not have been good enough in general, it was my first attempt at writing weekly topical gags after all.

So, I’m going to treat you to some of the rejects. That’s right. Content doesn’t get much better than this! All the bits the Beeb didn’t want. Not all at once mind, that would be a waste. This is part 1 – some one liner attempts from the first two shows. By the way, these were topical about two months ago.

This joke about Swedish parenting habits was probably a little too gross…

“It emerged this week that it is common practice for Swedish parents to leave babies outside in freezing temperatures for their evening nap. This has raised health concerns, not due to the sub zero conditions, but because of defrosting them in the microwave afterwards.”

– One of the things I learned as I went along is that they have to be ‘snappy’. The wording’s a little clumsy in this, and the joke may be too crude for Radio 4!

Some of the most fun things to write about were the many “scientists have found…” stories that pop up almost everyday. Both the jokes I got on air were in this format. This one didn’t get on air, but hey…

Scientists have found that female golden moles choose a mate based on the size of their penis, but being blind they have to do this by touch and smell. In a separate study, male golden moles have been found burrowing into warehouses and stealing pepperami’s

Again – could be snappier. I am trying really hard not to edit these for this blog as the whole point is that these didn’t get used for a reason! Maybe not funny enough or maybe jokes about Mole penises just don’t hit the mark.

Okay, one more. I wasn’t able to resist temptation when the horse-meat scandal broke. I knew that everyone in the world was making jokes about it, so I was trying to avoid it, but then this little quote from Nick Clegg came up during the by-election and I just had to…

Nick Clegg has said that the Eastleigh by-election is a two-horse race, or as it’s better known, the Tesco family-sized frozen lasagne, race.

Not the best horse meat joke in the world! It was just that it brought two stories together into one pun, which I guess must massively increase the chances that you are writing something unique. If you just write plain gags about the biggest news story, you are unlikely to come up with something different from the rest. As it happened, this wasn’t sufficiently different or funny enough to get used.

So there we have it! My first collection of BBC rejects. I will post some more at some point, but not all. Having just gone back over them for this post, there are some that are so poor I can’t believe I sent them in, but then, writing is about finishing things, even if you aren’t happy with it, get it finished at least and then re-draft or move on if it’s that bad. Just don’t never write or send anything because you don’t think it’s good enough – how will you get any better if you don’t finish anything? Eh?!! Yeah. You heard.

Garry