I’ve been lucky with my technology as I broke another portable handicam my parents bought me for Christmas. About three months after I’d first got it and I had yet to really get into full swing of how it works or using it, I’d been chucking it into the bottom of my work bag just in case that moment came along where I needed to HD quality footage.
Maybe a bomb would go off or there’d be some car crash or road rage or even alien invasion. I would be the first at the scene with my camera recording all that was going off, not actually stepping in to help out but panning around trying to get the best angle of the tragedy with my only thought being who could I sell the footage onto as I would then be deemed a citizen journalist.
All that did happen however was I threw something harder or with sharper corners in, or it was one of the times when I slung my bag across the seats when I got into my car to go home and the screen shattered. Luckily with Amazon you can request a replacement and just exchange the unit that is broken, no questions asked. When I got my replacement HD camera the first thing I did was go out and order one of those twatty padded cases that never look cool in anyway, and wrapped my camera in it. Now I could put it in my bag and not worry about it breaking.
Two days later I lost it.
It took me a good week before I could sleep well again and finally accept the camera was gone, which I know sounds melodramatic, but it was more the fact it was a horrendous waste of money if my lazy or absentmindedness had lost me a camera I’d not even used. When money is tight and treats for the grown ups are far and few between it really is a kick in the balls to realise you’ve lost/broke something new or expensive. It was only four months later when my wife pulled out a car seat for our daughter did she find the case and camera, unscathed, squidged down the back.
Times like that help me realise how hard it is to fight the materialistic pulse of everyday life. The disposable existence that is sold to us and through clever advertising that even though you might feel sentient enough to ignore the ploys and words and images used to influence you as much as possible, they still seem to work. It would be so easy to let the flow of wanton wash over, accept the greed and be washed into financial deep waters.
I’m glad that I don’t have to think about this as much as the average person now. Not because I’m intellectually aloof or making myself to be better than other folk, but because I went on TV and sold most of my junk and have a very blanks and clean canavas of material items, or lack there of.
I joined a website a long time ago called Be on screen
where you submit your most basic of details ( or much more if you wish to) and then they ignore all that finery to tell you about every single TV show going under the sun thinking one will stick if they throw it all at you.
Occasionally it did. I was on a show called “Kill it, Cook it, Eat it” where a group of people were shown live slaughters and then later in the evening the animals we’d saw killed were cooked for us. It tried to be a serious piece on the farming process and how it was impacting on the world today. It was quite a good piece of TV in the, though I think I was cut out of it.
The next time I was on TV was “Richard and Judy”, you can see it over on YouTube
. It is a proper 15minutes of fame where a whole piece was centred on me hanging out and doing fun things with the son via something called dad’s school. It was only silly things like how to calculate the speed of light with a plate of cheese and a microwave
or the history the world with a toilet roll
We went up to London one week end and a big group of about 15 dads got together for two days to be shown lots of fun things to do with the children to keep them entertained. At the end of these two days three dads were chosen to go back on the show and talk about what we took away with us, what we liked and if we thought we’d changed.
For me the greatest part about doing this show was it created an amazing father and son time that I hope my son remembers for a long time to come as I know I will.
I remember when I was much younger, in 1984, I was in the background of John Craven’s Newsround for a little over 1 second and that rocked my world. I thought I was the coolest kids on the block for being on that show, John Craven was so cool that when I heard it was ending and just becoming “Newsround” I wondered if John craven was ill, old or close to death.
So for my son to be on a show presented by people whom he hadn’t known a time without them on the screen, was fantastic. They were at the peak of their iconic media status and were influential media people in the daytime easy viewing format wars. So for me and the son to go on the show for an article that featured mainly us was thoroughly was amazing.
We got to go to London together, eat in a French restaurant in Covent garden and finally get picked up by a chauffeur driven car to take us to the studios. We hung out in the green room and ate cru de tet afterwards. We returned home tired, but thoroughly happy.
Then there was then a programme about me and my willy (well lots of men’s willies actually) that turned out to be a big bag of tat and disposable TV. I’ll write about it in fully at another time as I think that deserves a post on its own.
Finally there was the show called gutted on the HOME Chanel, previously UKtv Style, this was the life changer for me. It’s format was to turn up to people’s houses who had lots of personal clutter and help them sort it out, remove it and streamline lives.
When I say clutter I don’t mean rubbish, I mean items we had bought, stored, or even planned to use some day, in some way, maybe. You know how it is when you go out and you see an ornament of let’s say a couple cuddling, carved out of wood and painted into muted colours. You find that it seems to call out to you and you just have to have it. So you pay the price, take it home and find a place on a side or shelve or bookend where you can put it, look at it and maybe even start conversations about it when friends come around.
This piece, whether it is the most thought out aesthetically pleasing item in the whole worlds, or whether it is part of a collection of sixty thousand to be found in every generic jewellers shop, becomes a bookmark to whom you are or where you are in time. Gutted tried to find these people who had lost themselves in bookmarking of who they were with the items, and as I suspect was the case with me, were using these items to define a public image.
If someone were to have asked who I was then I would have pointed to the books I read, the comics I owned, the music I listened to and the junk and bookends and retro toys I bought and left to gather dust on shelves.
In hindsight I think I’d become a caricature of myself. I had an image in my head of who I thought I was or who I wanted to be and I bought my items to reflect this. I suspect that who I wanted to be was guided by the people about me or the person I thought I wasn’t rather than the person I was. I got lost in the white noise of the clutter and paraphernalia of materialistic living that I’d cocooned around me in the one room at the top of the house.
The TV show, transient and simple though it was, came into my house and the houses of other chosen hoarders and as a twist, took everything. They took all the nick nacks, the books, cd’s, DVD’s, fixtures, fitting, shelving and even the blu-tac off the walls. Then they asked a few simple questions about groups of your items and if I didn’t know about the answer then, under the guise of “I couldn’t really like them that much if I didn’t know the answers” and therefore they were surplus to requirement. Anything I didn’t win back was taken to an auction and sold off.
Good car crash TV being what it is, I too went to this auction and got to see people bidding on all my items I’d gathered over the years. My possessions and ultimately my being was reduced to the amounts of money and financial estimations that people who wanted these pieces for were willing to pay, which was usually nothing. They didn’t know the emotional attachment I had to these and they wouldn’t have cared less anyway.
It was between filming on the last day of the auction when we broke for dinner and I went off to a local TGI Friday’s food chain and let it finally sink in what I was doing. I became sick to the stomach like I’d been horrendously unprofessional at work and was about to go into a meeting to be disciplined or sacked. I felt on edge and emotional and even considered if I was having a premonition about some horrific event that was going to happen later. I told my friend I couldn’t eat the food and felt the edges of my nerves tensing and jarring, it felt like a dozen drills and screeching brakes were sounding around me, but I couldn’t hear the noises and my body was jangling at the silent furore.
In the end though I had already made my mind up and took the decision a week before when I’d been told these were all going to action.
The room was going to need clearing when my son inherited it and the new born daughter moved into his. If I were to clear everything I owned myself then it would have been a long tiring and emotional experience. I would have had to make a judgment call about each and every object as to whether it went or stayed and in throwing the objects away I would be prioritising one memory or one part of my identity above another. It would have taken weeks of loading up the car, using petrol to get to car boots or auctions, I would have been offered stupidly small amounts for items I held dearly. We would have spent more money for the pitch and the teas whilst on the market, and maybe food too. I would have packed up the items that hadn’t sold and travelled back beaten and defeated by the drawn out separations knowing I would have to come back again the week after until I’s sold everything, maybe even having to spend hours putting some of it on Ebay.
I wrote about it in a short story I did for a web site. I put
Like tearing a plaster off the knee of a child quickly, on the count of two when pretending to count to three, it was a quick and painless exercise working with the TV show and it didn’t hurt as much as when it was over like I initially thought it would.
I didn’t leave myself naked though (that was another show) in my mind the ultimate modern day Zen like state was to have just five items; peripheries and cables and clothes and car not included. I wanted to get down to my iPod, my laptop, a camera, a hard drive and my iphone. With this I could still access the films, have the music, take pictures and capture memories and still carry them about with me. I wanted to think that in the event of a fire the only materialistic item I would try to grab was my hard drive and ultimately if I didn’t get that and I saved the family then there would be nothing lost.
Without these entrapments I feel I am myself now, I am not the collection of books or the shelves of CD’s in a bedroom at the top of my house. I am not a reflection of the books I haven’t or have read stacked up looking out at me highlighting my failures to get to them and give them the attention they needed.
When I buy a book now I know I’m not going to keep it long after reading and my life is about getting rid of my possessions rather than wrapping and storing them up around me. I choose the book or the music and it’s not on display to anyone but me. I reflect what’s going off inside of me now rather than what’s occurring externally and I feel I can breath more and think better. My soul is now a little Zen garden.