Viscount Boulevardier

The sun streamed through my ecru cord curtains. I never open them, for security reasons, and it was therefore important to have a somewhat transparent material to interpret the weather before leaving the sanctity of my duvet.

Michael wasn’t impressed with my never-opened window covers, or lack of nets for that matter. I’d object to his flinging open the drapes and revealing my inner sanctum to pedestrians. Our dis-harmony with the bedroom screens wasn’t relevant today as I drifted alone, in and out of the blissful state of neither sleep nor wakefulness.

The Teasmade, incidentally my favourite purchase of the year, started to whirr, the water was boiling. I waited for the whoosh as the liquid transferred to the expectant teapot. With my eyes still closed I knew it was just before 9am and extended my legs the length of my divan and tightened the muscles to stretch.

It would be blissful if every morning contained this level of luxuriating.

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I imagined myself a resident of a large stately home – Gosford Park would suffice. The chamber maids would have already attended to either light a fire or open the windows, dependent upon the season. I’d have ordered a tray rather than descend for breakfast and feasted on boiled eggs with toast, rather than soldiers, and homemade marmalade before my valet arrived to help me wash, select appropriate day attire, dress and coiffeur…

My semi-conscious dream was invaded by an electronic sound – the phone. Who would call before a morning tea?

Lil.

‘Morning Boulevardier, are you up yet?’

‘Yes of course,’ I lied.

‘No you’re not,’ said Lil and cackled. Once she’d regained her composure she added, ‘having a vegetarian breakfast with a sausage are you?’

‘I’m seeing you this afternoon Lil. What’s up?’ I asked.

‘Keep your hair on Wayne…. I wanted to check that we’re meeting outside the café at 1.30pm?’

‘Yes, see you then,’ I replied.

It was to be a bingo afternoon rather than a Breakfast Club morning, and my waking dream of life evolving into that of Viscount Boulevardier had been breached. I rose, sat on the terrace and enjoyed a cup of tea. My imaginary valet had vanished.

Bingo is a regular feature in our senior community and if I’m honest, I’d had so much fun last time, I was happy for it to become a regular feature of mine too. Just don’t tell anyone. I’m not sure the rush of bingo should form an integral part of a Boulevardier’s adventures, however displaced he is.

It was a hot early summer day and three-quarter length cotton trousers and a T shirt would have to do.

Armando and Lil were already standing outside the café as I approached. Armando was wearing his staple linen-shirt-and-shorts combination and Lil a 1950s style dress patterned with polka-dots. A butterfly embossed handheld paper fan was rotating in her wrist to maintain her cool demeanour.

‘Wow! Gorgeous dress,’ I said.

‘Thank you Wayne,’ Lil responded and flicked her fan, open and closed, akin to a peacock displaying his tail-feathers.

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‘Is it bingo at the community centre, or a Friday night jive at the Palais?’ I asked.

Lil crowed and adeptly diverted attention to Armando.

‘How’s the new boyfriend?’ she asked.

‘It’s good. Lunch was nice but too short. His shift started at 4pm,’ said Armando.

‘Shame you didn’t manage to turn it into an early night,’ squawked Lil and added, ‘as we used to say back in the day “if you’re not in bed by 10, go home.”’

‘Lil, please, I’m a gentleman,’ said Armando.

Lil stifled a laugh and flicked her fan dramatically several times. We promenaded three abreast in the afternoon sun.

Mavis was in the hall, holding court with a number of enthusiastic subjects as we crossed the threshold and entered the fray of the community centre. They leant in closer as she lowered her voice, no doubt imparting some busy-bodying gossip. Lil gave her a loud flick of the fan. It was like being in an elderly version of Dangerous Liaisons.

Gisela sat patiently waiting for us at a carefully selected table, her hands neatly folded in her lap.

‘Thank you Gisela,’ said Lil as we sat, ‘I knew I could rely on you to secure the perfectly positioned table.’

‘I like to settle early,’ answered Gisela.

Armando slid away to procure liquid refreshments – old habits die hard.

Bill was at the front fussing with the bingo cage and his multi-coloured numbered balls. His waistcoat, the original rather than the Lil-purchased one, had made a return. The buttons had been mismatched with their respective holes and it looked contorted as well as far too tight.

Lil followed my eyes and tutted. After rooting in her handbag she said ‘Take this and get some cards please Boulevardier,’ holding forth a £10 note.

We were soon settled with tea, lemon-iced Madeira cake and poised for the games to commence. We first had to endure Mavis’ welcome speech. Lil took this opportunity to swoosh and flick her fan like a mad woman.

‘Lil, you’re making a spectacle,’ I said.

‘I’m hot,’ Lil said, apparently sotto voce. Her whispering tone, however, was louder than her speaking voice.

Bill was on his feet and we eagerly waited for the contraption to spin and longed for the odds to fall favourably in our direction. I’m not sure I should feel so competitive among a roomful of hard-up pensioners but the bingo bug consumed me.

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Technical difficulties were delaying the first ball.

Bill was fiddling with his machine frantically.

The room which had been silent and expectant started to shuffle.

The bingo cage crashed to the floor under the weight of Bill’s frustrations as he exited stage left.

Lil was on her feet, ‘Bill,’ she exclaimed.

Mavis, who was seated at an adjacent table, stood too. ‘Leave him alone Lillian. You’ve disturbed Bill with your louche dress and Geisha fan.’

I wasn’t sure that Lil would know the meaning of louche, but I didn’t think this was the best time to clarify the point.

Gisela was up, ‘Bitte seien Sie still,’ she said in an emphatic fashion. My school-boy German told me, I think, that she’d just asked Mavis to be quiet, in a polite way of course.

‘Schwein,’ Lil added and flicked her fan.

Armando and I stood and steered our ladies out before another verbal war ensued.

‘We must focus on Bill,’ said Armando as he left me with Lil and Gisela seated on a bench in the small garden to the side of the community centre and departed to locate the distressed Bill.

My thoughts revisited my morning dreams as a rebellious aristocrat. If Downton, Gosford Park or even Made in Chelsea are anything to go by then drama freely flows through the upper echelons of society too. I gently put my hand on Lil’s shoulder and drifted back into my imagined parallel life as Lil morphed into Maggie Smith.

‘Bill,’ Lil whimpered. Her fan lay dormant in her lap.

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Is it Real?

Reality television is a huge part of contemporary program scheduling and has grown vastly over the last decade, particularly with the arrival of Big Brother in the early noughties.

As a Boulevarider, reality TV first entered my sphere in the late 1980s when reruns were shown of the 1970s show, The Family. It was then called a fly-on-the-wall documentary and followed the Wilkins’ family from Reading, originally made and screened in the 1970s. We followed their daily lives and viewed everything – warts and all. It felt so voyeuristic and I watched with wonder at their transparency, and entered their homes and existences. Today we might refer to it as car crash viewing but then it felt fresh, innovative and just so exposing.

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I forgot about the format as it seemed to disappear and pressed through the 1990s and was aware of the format again with the first UK series of Big Brother. My flatmate had recommended that we watch it. We were glued from the first episode. I lived the ups and the downs and was instantly taken with the sheer pantomime. Who remembers Nick from the first series? I literally despised him and championed Craig who exposed his scheming! As soon as the series ended I was looking for the next.

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Big Brother grew with the second series, as did my viewing pleasure. I carried on as a devoted fan through to series eight and partially watched series nine and ten. At the height of its popularity and my excitement I would throw Big Brother parties and invite friends who were also addicted to drink and BBQ while we watched the final few housemates emerge. We had shock, anger, tears and laughter and enjoyed every moment.

It seemed that the success of Big Brother and other shows, such as Survivor, catapulted the genre into the juggernaut it is today.

Talent shows like Pop Idol and The X Factor have maintained mainstream appeal.

However, a percentage of the mainstream has fallen out of love with reality television. There is not the same excitement among friends when new series start and the Facebook chat has slowed down also. I however, stay excited and shocked in equal measure at the shenanigans these shows portray. I completely immerse and believe everything I see. Well I believe while I am watching anyway.

When asked why I watch such shows I tend to attempt a response which provides intellectual reasoning.

‘I think it’s an anthropological study.’ or

‘The insight psychologically is amazing!’

While this reasoning is true and I hope gives me credibility, I also love the characters and their tomfooleries.

I can’t live without The Kardashians or Honey BooBoo. How could I sleep if I didn’t know the latest goings on in LA and rural Georgia?

The Hills started faux reality TV where most of the events are true but accentuated and some scenes are set up for our viewing pleasure. This resulted in UK versions such as TOWIE, Made in Chelsea and Desperate Scousewives. I loved them all. My excitement for TOWIE has waned and Desp Scousers was cancelled, but Made is Chelsea is still epic viewing. I don’t care if some of the scenes are staged. It makes for better viewing.

I wrote recently about Catfish which is also a recent and unique reality show.

I have a mini-obsession with the Real Housewives of Everywhere: Atlanta, New Jersey, New York, Beverly Hills, Orange County and Vancouver. The lives of these women and their friends and families are extraordinary and certainly eye opening. They constantly fall out. They create villains and heroes. And as the shows have progressed, we have seen how changes in the world economy  have really affected, in particular, the Real Housewives of Orange County.

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I think this genre is missing from any UK reality TV and I sent a pitch to reality TV production companies last year and am thinking about another.

The first was Bonkers in Berko and centred around a group of friends who live in and around Berkhamsted. I wanted to recommend a show which followed the lives of a group of cool, eventful forty year olds (mostly) as opposed to the twenty somethings who are the common modern reality fodder. I wanted to show that us forties aren’t all Horlicks and PJs.

No responses. Don’t they know a hit when they see it? Unfortunately a few of the would-be stars of the show, my cast, also said they weren’t as keen to appear as I was. Are they mad! It would have been a phenomenon.

More recently I thought of a new show which could be called, The Real but Displaced Boulevardiers of London. I’m pretty sure it would be a fantastic show. Don’t you? I need to find more candidates and build it into a pitch. Surely the production companies wouldn’t miss two hit shows in a row!

I’ll keep you all posted.

TNW