AFTER two weeks of admiring perfect physical specimens, we look at ourselves and say: “I should be fitter.” We look at those we know and say: “You definitely should be fitter.” We look at George Osborne, as I did in my paper the other day, all jowly and triple-dip knackered, and say: “Gideon, find a sport you enjoy, doesn’t matter if it’s posh!”
Wonderland: Young, Bright And On The Right
BBC2, Thursday 9pm
The Girl Who Became Three Boys
Channel 4, Tuesday 9pm
Horizon: Eat, Fast And Live Longer
BBC2, Monday 9pm
This is not body fascism; simply a desire that we become a healthier nation, and can choose a team for Rio from as many of us as possible. The Chancellor probably won’t make 2016, so we’re especially concerned about the yoof. Some pasty-faced specimens slouched across our screens during breaks from the Olympics. I soon found myself shouting: “Just bloody get out of the house why don’t you?!”
Or out of the smoked-filled rooms, in the case of Joe Cooke and Chris Monk. Wonderland: Young, Bright And On The Right followed these two students, the former at Oxford, the latter Cambridge, in their attempts to get noticed in uni politics, then be groomed by the Tories as little Osbornes of tomorrow. At one stage we saw Monk on a punt (not yet an Olympic sport; just watch us try to get it included in time for Rio) but, cardio-vascular-wise, that was it. The rest was cream teas, warm beer, heated debates, Conservative cocktails (there’s such a drink) and a great deal of plotting.
Remember William Hague at the 1977 Tory Party Conference? This pair were even more young fogeyish. Indeed, they made the Hague of ’77 seem as “street” and “happenin’” as Dizzee Rascal. Cooke sported arm-patches and a flamboyant handkerchief.
Monk, with his Boris barnet, pondered this burning issue: how to get port stains out of a dress shirt. “The point of the Conservative party,” he told his parents, “is that it gives you the opportunity to pretend to be a member of the upper classes.” Mum and Dad, both Lib Dems, were bemused. “It make me feel special,” he explained. Nevertheless they supported their son, just as if he’d decided he wanted to be a ballet dancer, or a coal miner.
Cooke’s family story was somewhat darker. “I’m the son of a convict,” he finally admitted. Had he confided in his fellow students? No way. “I get laughed at for having a Yorkshire accent.” Formerly a figure of fun, he suddenly had our sympathy.
Monk was consistently oddball throughout but at least he, too, is engaging in politics when so many young folk find it a turn-off. Good luck to both in the proper, grown-up version; I’m sure their party of choice will welcome them. To be honest, though, I’m more keen to see how the editor of the Oxford student newspaper fares in proper, grown-up journalism. I think he could be a star given his nonchalance when fielding his excitable photographer’s phone call: “You’re saying the gay porn actor will pose naked… that you need a mortar board in the next ten minutes, basically?”
The computer-addicted participants of The Girl Who Became Three Boys could also benefit from leaving their fevered world indoors, although for Gemma Barker this will be tricky, given she was jailed for 30 months for fraud and sexual assault. What a strange tale: three Surrey schoolgirls in a friendship, one starts to feel left out, so she invents male admirers for the others, flattering them online, dreaming up jet-set connections for her bogus boys involving Simon Cowell, MI5, Cliff Richard (!) and assorted Premiership footballers. “So caring, cute and nice – that’s what all girls want: a nice boyfriend,” says one of the girls being wooed. The other is smitten by the Facebook photo hinting at “Justin Bieber hair”, although for neither girl, when meetings are eventually arranged, do the hats get removed. “Just the way boys are,” reasons one, and that’ll also explain why the “boys” never speak. Barker’s chat and disguises fooled the girls right past the sex for one of them, until a pink dildo was discovered in a bag. The moral of the story? Social networking may make our yoof appear more sophisticated, but teenage vulnerability will never be far away. But where was Jackie magazine when these girls needed it? A note dashed off to the Cathy & Claire Page might have sorted the problem before it got so crazily out of hand.
Horizon: Eat, Fast And Live Longer was Michael Mosley’s most fascinating doc yet on the subject of good health. Three of my colleagues are now following his ADF (alternative day fasting) but I’m content, having beaten both Mosley and his smug American rival in the balance test – stand on one leg with eyes closed; a good indicator of well-being – that I’ll be back in this spot next week. «
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Weather for Edinburgh
Sunday 19 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 9 C to 20 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North