Here we are again, starting a whole new year with the unnerving feeling that if we go outdoors for any length of time we will cause the immediate and irreversible end of all life on earth. Staying in and doing nothing has its charms of course, not least the fact that I can wear the same pair of pyjamas all day long for a whole week. But there’s not much to write about.
So, what was 2020 to you? Was it a unique opportunity to develop your skills in a new working environment? Was it a chance to take some time off, away from the humdrum 9 to 5, by sitting at home and scratching yourself in places you forgot were there whilst being paid 80% of your usual wage? Could you remember a time before this when standing in line at the cinema or your train being ten minutes late was the biggest inconvenience in your life (or 30 seconds late for some people given that they don’t exist in the real world)?
Let me pull back the blistering skin burn that we call this year to highlight the people and mostly inanimate objects that have helped this bag of meat and bones get through the last twelve months:
Wappy the robo puppy – if bowing and slightly turning your head to the right was a skill then Wappy would win 2020 paws down. With his sleek futuristic blue and white design, his blank expression and limited move set have seen me through some difficult times.
Flat (Tiger) Kitty – the fun-loving prankster has been up to all kinds of hijinks. For the last few months he has remained perfectly still wearing a baseball cap and pointing his Nerf gun at the door to the living room, ready to protect my flat at any costs. That crazy orange and black stuffed animal.
Mr R. Brek – despite expiring four years ago (wait, no, five years ago… ten years ago?!), Mr Brek still continues to fill my life with warmth and love. He’s the first thing I see when I wake up in the morning and last thing before the lights go out at night. A constant inspiration to prolonging a joke that was never funny in the first place, there will always be a place for him in my heart.
Bri4n – a recent addition to the crew, the novelty robot has spent his time staring out the window at various passers-by. Whether raising his hand to salute dog walkers or keeping his arms aloft like a raging looney, there is still a lot of mileage left for this gimmick of gimmicks.
Ted – though his physical presence was a hundred miles away, Ted was the only person (from memory) who actually sent me a letter this year. I also got some socks which was a cheeky bonus. I may still be puzzled as to whom Messy Monster is, and why I should share my socks with them, nonetheless his heartfelt message was one of the best things this year. Hopefully 2021 will provide the means of sending sausage rolls though the post safely.
Runners Up: Daisy the cow, the small collection of toys in the corner of my kitchen (who may have been acquiesced by a spider now they’re covered in webs), my tattoo of Archie the Badger from ‘Grandville’, my Pop Vinyl of Bob Ross and a tiny raccoon.
Oh and some other guys whose names I forget, Keith Harrup and Chas Millington maybe? You know who I mean.
It’s almost two years since we all joined hands and took an emotional journey underneath my car. Two years of laughter, tears and general wear and tear. Two years of usage in all weathers.
There has, naturally, been a clamour from people of all nationalities and faiths to know what’s become of the underside of my vehicle in the intervening time. And who am I to stand in their way? So a couple of weeks ago, I returned my car to the same garage who made the first weird video and asked them for a full service.
Service completed, another weird video of the underside of my car was duly texted to my phone, and I have spent an afternoon trying to download it from a website that has been very specifically and cleverly designed to prevent videos being downloaded. I then set it to stupid music.
Here we are then. Join me once more as we go… underneath my car one more time.
Underneath Chris’s Car 2020 FAQ
Q. The tread depth looks a bit low on the front tyres, is that OK?
A. Yes, I know. But they have at least another half a year on them so it’s fine. I’ll get them sorted later.
Q. Why was there no Underneath My Car video in late 2019/early 2020?
A. I don’t know. My car had a service but they didn’t make me a video. I was genuinely a bit disappointed about it.
Q. How did the MOT go? This was its first MOT wasn’t it?
A. Yes it was. You’ll be pleased to know that my car passed with flying colours.
I recently got a new computer to play games on, and filled it with all the games I like to play. The games I most like to play are the ones I used to play when I was about 15. This includes one of my all-time favourites, SimCity 3000.
SimCity 3000 is full of silly jokes and unexpected references, and when I was 15 I didn’t get all of them. Coming back to the game in the last month or two, having not really touched it for perhaps the best part of a decade, a joke popped up that made sense to me for the first time, and it made sense thanks to one Kevindo F. Menendez and one Ian “Hotter Otter” McIver, who had kindly introduced me to a song the teenage Chris had never heard, and my life was all the better for it.
Good morning to you wherever you currently are in the world.
It is a shame when things have to move on. Times change for all of us and I don’t know about you but I always struggle to cope in some way, shape or form. You have been the presenter of Newsround, the presenter of Countryfile, you’re a household name and you never once seem to have given in to the excesses of wealth and fame. That is a shame because everyone needs to let off steam every now and then. Have you never felt as though you had more to give the world, like there was a career waiting in the shadows for you to do something about it?
Have you ever given any thought to a career in rap music?
I believe that you have the raw talent to succeed as Britain’s newest / oldest rapper. You may not have had any experience whatsoever which is fine. Did you ever seen that episode of Louis Theroux where he went to America and tried his hand at rapping? Anyone can do it. I put my hand firmly in the air to be your second in command, your “hype man” as they call it. What this means is what I will start every song by telling everyone how great you are at what you do, setting the stage for what rhymes you start spitting. I reckon that you have a viewpoint which is unique in the world of rap. We can rap about whatever you want: countries, files, antiques, rounds, news, ravens, whatever you like.
I’ve even been thinking about names and even though it could be a cartoon character desperate for a cigarette, how about Craver Crave? Or even Kraver Krave if you really want to knock it out of the park? I will be MC I because everything is a play on words, and it’s kind of like my name but not. It doesn’t have to make sense, nothing makes sense anymore when your’re in a world of giant clocks, money and lurid sex.
If it would help, because I know that you are a happily married man, I can take all the excess that you’d rather not deal with (mainly the groupies, I suppose) and put it in a box away from you. This means you can focus on the important part; the words. I bet you know all the words, I do mean ALL the words, and you’re going to hammer them down like concrete hailstones. This is going to be the best thing you ever did and it would be a supreme honour if you let me help you achieve your goals.
If you are happy to jump right into this I shall include a stamp addressed envelope with this letter so you can write back straight away. You may be a little nervous about this, you may have doubts about your rapping prowess but trust me, you were born for this. You are ready for this. We are ready for this. Now, more than ever, the world needs heroes to shoulder the burdens the others are not prepared for. You’re a good man, John Craven, and I know you’ll make the right decision.
Childhood, ah, such a bewildering time to be alive. For one, you have no responsibility and so much potential. You have no money but everything you actually need is provided to you for free. If you want to spend the entire weekend sat with your face in the television with a mouth full of marshmallows then you can, or at least until one or more of your parents objects to this. The point is that, as everyone is aware, life is so very different as a child.
I could bore you to tears with stories of my time as a tiny Ian. You may or may not have heard them already and the ones you haven’t heard are just as tedious. Believe me, I am doing you a favour by keeping my mouth shut. I haven’t quite reached the age of telling every single person I meet in the street (not that they would given how bovona has given everyone carte blanche to ignore you even if you have a leg hanging off or knife at your throat) of the time I found £1.10 in the front garden in the snow and became so excited you would have thought I had discovered the Turin Shroud hanging off the bin.
Do you remember those… things that you used to make? I want to remember the name and I don’t want to have to Google it like everything else. The power of words (Words!) don’t fail me now. You folded it up and asked someone to say a number. Then you would use your hands to move it the appropriate number of times and ask for another number, repeat, and then open one of the panels to reveal some mystifying piece of knowledge. It looked a little like this:
No, I haven’t lost my mind and made one I did something much more reasonable; I found one on the floor and brought it home. A scruff I may be and nothing more because there is no other way of finishing that sentence. I wanted to remember a time that was much more innocent, of whistle pops and candy whistles, running around the park until your lungs bled with Tizer (you know, before they changed the formula and made it taste like a shark’s coldsore). I am not clever enough to make a fully functioning version of this, nor an interactive snazzy one on a computer. I do want you to know this though:
If you pick 0 or 1: You are a banana If you pick 2 or 3: I am in love with you If you pick 4 or 5: You are in love with me If you pick 6 or 7:
Shock news today as it was revealed that the two old people in the UK road sign are not actually two people, it is one person and her ventriloquist puppet.
The sign, which warns the general public of the impending danger of the elderly, has been in use for over 70 years and only now has it been revealed by the UK government that the second person is a puppet. At the time it was intended that two people be present in the picture only when it came to paint it one of them took a longer nap than intended and didn’t show up. Luckily the original model, Constance Felling, was an avid marionette aficionado and had her puppet, Swallow Thard, fill in the gap.
Constance has since passed on but we did manage to speak to a surviving relative, her daughter Rosemary. “David never arrived. They waited over an hour for him and he never emerged. His house phone rang and rang with no luck so the team divided into two; one set went to check that he hadn’t died and the other carried on with the sign. Mum was ever so resourceful and whipped out Swallow so the work could progress. They had to make the legs look less lifeless so they drew mum’s legs twice and put a set under Swallow. David was fine, a little drowsy from his sleep and nothing more. He was too late though as it was all finished by the time he arrived.”
She took a sip of her Special Brew and carried on, “That’s why it looks the way it does, as though the woman at the back is squeezing the bum of the guy in front. Everyone has been laughing at it for all these years and it’s nothing to do with sexual harassment; mum actually had her arm up his arse.”
The ‘Elderly People’ sign was voted the fifth most popular in England and Wales after a poll in 2011.
This follows on from February’s news when it was revealed that the person in the ‘Caution: Pedestrian Crossing’ the road sign wasn’t crossing at all, he was punching an Irishman in the stomach for sleeping with his wife.
It’s hard to know what to say, these days, when you talk to people, because nobody has any news. What do you talk about when nobody has anything to talk about? How do you fill a blog post when you haven’t done anything worth remembering?
Luckily for me, I am now quite old, so what I’ve decided to do is go back and see what past Chris was doing on this day years ago.