Sorry Pat, we’re going to have to let you go…

Posted: September 21, 2010 in Random wifflings

No posts for a few days, and no new archive uploads either. One of my jobs overran and now I’m racing like the clappers to finish off a novel in time for its first draft  deadline. Yikes. I’ve three weeks and around 30,000 words to go. Wish me luck.

It’s a small incompetence, perhaps. A knock of a knock on of a knock on, I’d say, and “Not my fault guv,” although in truth my frantic work rate is my fault. An hour of sneaky gaming here, a nap there… Still, sometimes things get away from us; it is not often we are entirely in control of our fate.

This is a feeling I worry may be felt more keenly by the current generation of tots when they make the final stretch into adulthood. As a father, I’ve been watching a fair bit of children’s TV. Not loads, you understand, because naturally my single, ever-so-special offspring is subjected to all manner of competitive parental hothousing (he is, after all, terribly, terribly advanced) but I have a lot of household chores to do, and I need to eat sometimes, and a glass teat is as good as a real one to small folk.

One thing that’s struck me is how massively incompetent most children’s characters are. Take  Thomas and Friends. This is a strange world where men live mouse-like lives in the cabs of steam engines, never speaking, taking no role in the direction of their machines, just, being. All except the Fat Controller, who runs the railways like some crazed Soviet commissar working to nonsensical central targets. It’s like the rats took over and appointed the King Rat to run things for their benefit, while the rat majority live ratty lives in the heads of their hosts, trying to keep warm by the firebox.

Er. Right. Anyway, the point is that The Isle of Sodor’s safety record is appalling. There’s a crash a day! Headstrong, wilful, steam-powered sentiences do as they please, rushing about, engaging in dangerous competitive behaviours, cocking up terribly in the process: coming off the rails, causing avalanches, deciding on perilous shortcuts, wrecking machinery, refusing to wash with terrible results. It’s a catalogue of disasters. If I were in charge I’d be sending Doctor Beeching to Sodor tomorrow to grub up the tracks before things get really out of hand, not that the road vehicles are any more reliable. I’d scrap them too. Bikes for everyone.

Bob the Builder, with his special school for cheeky construction vehicles, isn’t much better, but in his case, the blame lies firmly on Bob himself. Now Bob might be a god when it comes to the application of a screwdriver, yet he’s always leaving important contracts in the hands (claws? tippers? hooks?) of cranes or quad bikes with the combined mental age of four while he swans off with that builder bird and/ or his cat Kipper, and his minions always, always stuff it up. Last week they almost killed a surfer dude because Scoop used the foundation boulders for his watchtower to make sandcastles with. Luckily Bob comes back to sort it all out with a smile and a wave, but if I were employing him I’d be checking his time sheet very carefully indeed. I suspect the Labour government used him on their schools build programme, although last I heard he was in Delhi working on a sports village.

However, the prize for most incompetent child’s role model has to go to Postman Pat. In Thomas and Bob, the machines mess up (dangerously) but they learn their lessons (although not terribly well, because they mess up next episode too), thus teaching our darling children that messing up is okay. A valuable lesson. We all mess up. It’s nothing to be scared of. Well, it is, but not that much.

Pat is a little different. Pat manages to deliver ONE parcel a day. In recent years he’s been given a mobile phone, a minder, an automated sorting office, two vans, a motorbike and a helicopter in a bid to improve his efficiency, yet still: ONE parcel a day. And most of the time these parcels are late. Last minute deliveries are his forte. Frequently, they are damaged. Sometimes don’t get there at all. Often it’s his co-worker Jess the parti-coloured feline (black and white cat is doubtless discriminatory) who saves the day. Often, he’s the one that causes problems. What kind of idiot works with a cat anyway?

In one episode, Pat has to deliver the materials for a local film festival. First, handyman Ted breaks the projector, then Jess nearly wrecks the screen when it unfurls around him. Dashing as always to make it in time, Pat can’t close the back of his van. The film canister falls out. Pat arrives really late, discovers the film can has gone, has to search for it and finds it in a puddle. It’s ruined. The show is now running really late, and there’s nothing to see. But that’s okay! Because Pat’s kid Julian has been making a documentary of his day so they can watch that, can’t they? That’ll keep the audience happy won’t it? Look, no Star Wars 9, sorry about that, but here’s my kid, talking about kid stuff! That’ll do, eh?

No Pat, no it really won’t . Not at all.

I saw the Specsavers advert with Postman Pat in it and thought “That’s hilarious!” then “What a terrible advert for Postman Pat and the Royal Mail”. And then I watched the programme…

It’s okay to mess up kids, but at some point you are going to have to get it right. Real life comes with performance reviews and HR bullshit and all manner of annoying people who expect their parcels to arrive without being attacked by robots or being eaten by cows. Pat would have been given his marching orders a long time ago, unions or not.

And that’s why Benny is not allowed to have breakfast until he’s mastered a Latin verb, every day. Tough, but fair.


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