Urns and trinkets

It is my considered opinion that Stephen Fry is a disgrace.

Woah there, you can’t say that about a National Treasure oh but I can, I can. I have no issue with most of the things Stephen Fry believes and says. He seems politically sound, he’s just the right type of anti-religious proselytiser that I enjoy, he loves his cricket and he’s provided some splendid comedy over the years, not least a bafflingly underrated nineties adaptation of Jeeves and Wooster.

But he’s on Twitter, see, this fucking guy. And again, normally that’s fine – right now he’s doing a decent job of trying to raise the collective mental health, and doubtless his own, as the walls close in and the Sainsbury’s website shakes its head. But I can’t forgive him, and I can never forgive him, for his disgusting remark in September 2018.

It is my considered opinion that #therepairshop is far and away the best programme on British television at the moment.

You’re cancelled, Fry.

I’m the same as anyone when it comes to TV. It makes you happy, emotional, think. Sometimes it makes you angry because a perfectly serviceable drama is being ruined by some fucking teenager pissing and moaning about something that will inevitably lead to them destroying things for everybody else. No, Jade, 16, you can’t go to a party, because there are massive rampaging aliens out there that instantly cremate every living thing they see, but we’re safe if we stay indoors. Oh, look, there goes Jade, sneaking out the window. We’ll have to go find her. Oh we’re all dead, except Jade, who’s crying, and really sorry now.

But I don’t remember a show leaving me with such a sense of deathly emptiness as The Repair Shop. Even the name can’t be arsed.

Maybe it’d be OK if they were repairing complicated equipment. I might watch a show where a team of NASA engineers jimmied a set of O-ring seals to stop a crew of astronauts plummeting to Earth in a fireball, or a redneck welded a fridge to the front of a Chrysler Imperial in the pre-race garage at Carpocalypse 2020, er, 2021.

Instead what we have is a procession of middle-class white people of roughly retirement age, heaving dolls houses, jewellery boxes and decanters to a suspiciously clean workshop so a tiny chip can be mended. Remember that time Uncle Dennis came home from the war with a leg off and wouldn’t have made it to All Saints’ Day without stringing himself up if it hadn’t been for that little box playing Gymnopedie on a loop? Chipped it himself while beating Aunt June for burning the sprouts but times were different back then and he’d have loved to see it restored to glory, God it brings a tear to my eye.

It’s the crying isn’t it? That’s the main draw of this pageant of inanity. The owners of a Victorian sideboard will be so wowed that the blemish they’ve largely ignored for 20 years could have been so easily rubbed off that they weep tears of astonishment. They don’t at first, they just think ‘oh that’s nice’, but the camera stays on them, and nobody else speaks. The expectation on them is very clear: cry you cunts, or all this is no more than a chippy uncorking the No Use For Nails and slapping varnish about to the strains of Alan Brazil.

As I write this they’ve unleashed five episodes of series 6. You can catch them all on iPlayer, and you must, because if not you’ll miss presenter Jay Blades and his team take on a Jamaican pump organ, an RAF bomber pilot’s hat, a baby crib made during the First World War, a naval rigging kit, a jukebox, a stowaway bike, a lantern clock, a lifeboat compass, a torn leather armchair, a broken music box, a faded portrait, a shattered stained-glass door panel, an alabaster light shade, a piano stool, a toy bus, a pair of binoculars, a wind-up bird cage, a host of carved angels, a Georgian peat bucket and a surgeon’s leather case.

I might leave the episode with the binoculars until last I think.

I have no problem with it existing, but not at bloody prime time on BBC One. It lived quite happily in the late-afternoon, pre-Pointless slot where usually lurk the likes of angry art teacher Tim Wonnacott and that orangehead with the mullet whose name now escapes me. It ran for a few series without anyone giving a fuck, though even at that time of the day I found myself questioning why anyone would care about Ruby’s regency rocking horse as I waited for my daily speedball of Amstrong and Osman.

Osman, by the way, who has in short order become one of the finest and funniest people on TV, also likes the Repair Shop.

The absolute best show on telly ‘Repair Shop’, starts again today on BBC1 at 4.30. If you haven’t seen previous series, it is so warm and charming. It’s just a pure joy to watch.

And you were doing so well.

Perhaps I lack empathy. Well obviously I lack empathy, but I fail to see the emotion in what amounts to reasonably well-off lovers of tat being rewarded for not throwing away the antique pail Grandpa used to throw up in after investing the family’s entire week’s wages in the Fox and Hounds. I’ll admit I don’t understand the sentimentality of ‘stuff’ and why some people need urns and trinkets to anchor themselves to cherished memories. The closest I have to an object I’d be sad to be parted from is a Dan-Air tea spoon that once belonged to my long-dead dad. I don’t think he was a pilot or trolley dolly so I presume he nicked it somehow. What a rogue. Sorry, got something in my eye.

The Guardian reports: “It is a true feat to make it through an episode of The Repair Shop without shedding a tear.” Four truly unnecessary words. It doesn’t seem sensible that as the world chokes and splutters we’ve chosen right now to make mawkishness one of our primary forms of entertainment as opposed to, say, science or satire. So far the show’s only on once a week but you just know they’re planning to Eastenders it to death, vastly multiplying the number of grandparents rooting through attics for battered cot mobiles because it’d be lovely to see little Alfie coughing beneath the same rotating angels that took baby Dotty away with the Spanish Flu.

And that’s before we even get to the most grimly predictable scheduling in the history of TV: The Celebrity Repair Shop. How Ashley Banjo has prospered with his grandmother’s antique watering can moulding away in his shed is anyone’s guess. She was such an inspiration to him and passed away before he got the chance to dance for her and that, and she’d just love to see her brass buffed if she wasn’t long beyond giving a toss about marigolds.

If Barbour and Waitrose made TV it’d be less cornball than this horseshit. I wonder, if it runs long enough, whether we’ll start to see them repairing old Nokias once used in the ‘county lines’ network in the good old days. Today we welcome Liam, who has brought in a cherished pint glass, once used by himself, in something called a pub.

Then again, if we’re lucky, maybe by series 20 they’ll be restoring PPE.

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