After Gordon Ramsay's attack on Falkirk, why people in rubbish game shows shouldn't throw stones – Aidan Smith

“I don’t give a f*** about the past” is the angry growl coming out of Falkirk this week and you might be thinking, oh no, what’s Gordon Ramsay ranting about now?

Gordon Ramsay's new TV show has been slammed and probably in Falkirk more than anywhere else (Picture: BBC/Studio Ramsay/Mark Johnson)
Gordon Ramsay's new TV show has been slammed and probably in Falkirk more than anywhere else (Picture: BBC/Studio Ramsay/Mark Johnson)

In fact, these are the first words on the comeback album from Arab Strap. As Days Get Dark is released on Friday and it’s great to have the hilarious miserablists back. I’m assuming the home town is proud of Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton for when a pop duo call one of their songs Kebabylon, what’s not to like? Yes, the fierce and filthy Strap must be viewed as a positive, and especially after Ramsay’s blast.

Last week the celebrity chef cooked up a storm on his new TV show by describing Falkirk as a “s***hole”. The town council was deeply hurt and accused Ramsay of “vilifying the poor”. Bang goes his statue, I reckon.

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What had the place done to deserve such slagging? Was it not, in a 2011 poll conducted by STV, voted Scotland’s most beautiful town? Indeed it was, and that was before the Kelpies came riding to the rescue of a visitor-attraction itinerary which probably needed some new additions after we’d all maxed out on the anti-thrillride known as the Falkirk Wheel.

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I jest, for I love the Wheel just like I love the Strap, but maybe you whizz past Falkirk on an Intercity train and don’t give it much thought beyond the fact it’s in Scotland’s Middle Earth, Central Scotland’s most centralist bit, quite close to the joke-name towns of Pumphertson and Skinflats and even nearer, as the UFO flies, to the alien hotspot of Bonnybridge, though sadly there have been no sightings of the luminous Gillian Anderson.

Moffat and Middleton, to be fair, are not bowdlerising Bairns. In their six studio albums prior to the new one they did not edit their lives, if these were their lives, or the shenanigans therein. When plooks appeared, real and metaphorical, they confronted them in the mirror, including at least one lyric about the actual squeezing of spots.

They’ve sung, or spoken or slurred, of Falkirk’s “fickle disco tarts” and “big f***-off tellys”. Of paedos and Pringles and Irn-Bru and economy cider and of “leaving our empties kicked behind a bush”. They haven’t beaten about the bush: “The room stinks of poppers, the bog’s full of bile… The sweat was p***ing off me… I kiss the cut on your lip, a souvenir from last night.” Arab Strap’s motto might well be the line which goes: “Sometimes there’s nothing sexier than knowing that you’re doomed.”

Arab Strat: Aidan Moffat (left) and Malcolm Middleton

As aficionados of rubbish telly, you wonder what Moffat and Middleton have made of Gordon Ramsay’s Bank Balance, the show which has caused such offence. It’s a departure for him, but a wrong turning and a car-crash: a game show which moves too slowly and features contestants who’re too dense for his semi-legendary impatience, constantly bubbling like a steam pudding on high heat.

Still, no one forced him to do Bank Balance which, for having the arrogance to stretch itself over a whole hour per edition, is already being talked about as a serious contender for the worst-ever example of shiny-floor TV. Regarding Falkirk, then, people in epicly rubbish game shows shouldn’t throw stones.

A quick skim over Ramsay’s biog would suggest he owes nothing to no one or indeed no town. His young life was tough as the son of a violent alcoholic father with his mum coming off worst. Because his dad was always losing jobs those years were “hopelessly itinerant”.

Criss-crossing between Scotland and England, he’d attended 17 different schools by the age of 16. But how much of that was Falkirk’s fault? Indeed, it can hardly have been a constant in his upbringing, given how often he moved around. Maybe other “s***holes” were involved.

I get that Ramsay may harbour resentment from those early years. I get that his showbiz persona has been built round him being loud, abrasive and not caring who he offends. I get that his attack on Falkirk may have been off-the-cuff. But celebs like to do this sort of thing, don’t they?

By sending up or putting down their home towns, by exaggerating the modest aspirations for their inhabitants or painting them as hell on Earth, they are imploring us: “Look at me, look at how far I’ve come. It’s a wonder I’m here talking to you about my new film/show/album. It’s a miracle of survival instinct, never giving up, belief in one’s outrageous talent and… me!”

Not every comedian was bullied at school and resorted to humour to save his skin; it only seems that they all claim this. The greatest comedians – Monty Python – dreamed up a terrific sketch where a group of self-made bores tried to outdo each other’s poverty-stricken beginnings. Eric Idle says: “When I say house, ours was just a hole in the ground covered by a sheet of tarpaulin.” Then Graham Chapman sucks on his pipe and says: “We got evicted from our hole in the ground.”

Chat-show host Craig Ferguson has likened his estate in Cumbernauld to a row of Nazi machine-gun turrets – “but much close together, with welcome mats”. Actor Gerald Butler was another who evoked war-time imagery when recalling his short-trousered days in Paisley: nipping outside to play he was lucky not to be “wounded or killed”.

Well, glad you both lived to tell the tale – you, too, Gordon. But what I’m happiest about is the comeback of Arab Strap, who on the new record reserve their ridicule for an ageing ladykiller: “Sometimes he wonders if he could have been on the telly – he really is that good.”

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