So yesterday we went to the Dogs at Walthamstow Stadium. The Posh Dogs is a really nice setup: you sit in a quiet, climate controlled enclosure behind glass, sitting at nice tables with real tablecloths and metal cutlery. Waiters bring you food, and a little monitor informs you about the results of the races, which you bet on by fiddling with a little monitor at one end of your table.
Unfortunately, to my surprise, we didn't go to the Posh Dogs. We went to the bog-standard dogs, aka Hell on a Stick.
It started off well enough. We took cabs from the station directly to the venue -- setting the tone, I thought. Then we got there, and our host explained that we had got the six-pack, a group deal that gives you some food, some drinks, and some bets, all via a voucher system. Ho ho, we said, it shall be an experience. Come, let us eat scampi and chips and revel in a British cultural institution, complete with giant neon sign and authentic East-end accents!
The stadium itself is clean and generally well-kept, if not in perfect repair. We emerged right next to the pretty Posh-Dogs area, at which point my spirits rose, only to be told that our vouchers were actually only redeemable at the Classic Diner, an enclosure on the opposite side of the stadium. This venue was every bit as depressing and full of faux-Americana up as the name implies, and was already rammed with people half an hour before the first race. So after collecting our food we repaired to metal tables outside (did I mention it was 5 degrees and windy?) where a tannoy system from the mid 1960s played, oddly enough, disco tunes. We decided they were trying to flush the gays out before the racing started, possibly as some kind of side-event.
Having finished our food and beginning to feel our tushies freezing off, we decided to migrate to the general enclosure, where it would be warm. This is things stopped rolling downhill for me and plunged off a cliff instead. Picture a room, with decor teleported from the late 1970s, full of people who have been teleported from Essex (or, Walthamstow being in E17, probably just walked over). Rank upon rank of awful, tragic people with missing teeth, cosquelle* diamond earrings the size of dice and voices that are like cheesegraters on one's inner ear. Alternately dressed in regulation Chav Gucci and Burberry (for the men) or depressingly posh dresses**, these hundreds of people were getting genuinely excited by a bunch of greyhounds chasing a flapping piece of cloth.
Each of these specimens on their own would have been enough to provoke a giggle-fest at their own unconscious self-mockery if I were to have encountered them on the tube. But en masse they were just a horrifying testament to the basest urges of mankind. The fact that I don't do well with crowds pressing me in on all sides, and that the venue was packed to standing room only***, did not help my mood. So after two and a half hours of this I began to whine quite loudly about escaping before I was driven to stand up on a table and scream "I'M GAY AND I THINK YOU'RE ALL TRAGIC!"**** So we buggered off back to our host's house for a significantly more enjoyable second half of the evening.
So, as my host also reads this blog: happy birthday, and I'm glad you had a good time and came out £5 ahead. But please, never ever take me to the dogs again.
* Until 10 seconds ago, I had no idea that this word that I've been using all my life is in fact French patois
** The implication being that they consider the dogs a Big Night Out, a realization which on its own is enough to make you weep for the state of humanity.
*** It may be horrible, but it's certainly popular. That only makes it more depressing, in my opinion.
**** This was actually somebody else's suggestion. But any method of suicide would have done.
As previously mentioned, I obtained an advance copy of the first episode of the new series of Doctor Who. For the increasing numbers of you who sanctimoniously inform me every time I copy data that I am "stealing" (as opposed to violating copyright, which I freely admit I am doing), the Doctor is BBC content, and I pay for a television license, so all I am effectively doing is time-shifting the content. True, the legal precedent involved applied to shifting the broadcast forward in time, on a VCR, but given that DW is show about time-travel I'm sure sending it backwards would be considered acceptable too.
Without giving away any spoilers, I'll say the following:
- The first 20 minutes are very, very worrying. It's stilted and cheesy and horrible.
- The second 20 minutes (each episode is ~45 minutes long, formatted for commercial TV) is so much better that I half-suspect the first 20 minutes were a self-conscious homage to the cheesyness of the original series
- The new Doctor is fast, funny and even a trifle sexy. Eccleston's love for his role is obvious.
- By the end of the episode -- but certainly not for this first 20 minutes -- I even managed to like Billie Piper. (And that takes some doing) She actually manages to act, shockingly.
- It's a very British production. All the money that they're not bothering to spend on the FX (still fairly cheesy!) is instead being spent on getting the acting right, and that shows, both positively in the dialogue, and negatively in the visuals.
- Davies was exactly the right man to write this series. The down to earth portrayal of the everyday world (so evident in QAF) makes the science-fiction elements all the more believable. Good writing was particularly evident in the way he managed to give Rose's character a resounding fleshing-out in just 45 minutes: like I say, he made me forget she's Billie Piper. Rose is super-cool.
- And finally... TARDIS!!!
I intend to become a total fanboy of this show. Just so you know.