02 December 2006

One Or Two Robinsons Short Of A Neighbours Episode

That's how a BBC Five Live reporter described the barmaid in an Adelaide establishment that he happened to wander into, no doubt eliciting instant recognition and mirth from English and Australian listeners and utter bafflement from the rest of the world.

Neighbours is, of course, the long-running Australian soap that few if any Australians will admit to watching but which remains unaccountably popular here in the UK, and the Robinsons are one of the egregious clans that has infested Ramsay Street since 1985 and specialises in making life miserable for the other egregious clans dwelling in that accursed cul-de-sac.

Today Neighbours retains but a shadow of its former glory, when it was the UK's top-rated programme. It's broadcast at lunchtime and re-broadcast at teatime, making it suitable viewing only for, as Sean never tired of reminding me, "children and unemployed people." Being a bit of both, I still look in on it occasionally enough to be able to report that Robinson-in-chief Paul, now missing one leg thanks to a bit of villainy gone terribly wrong a year or two ago, is still hopping around casting Robinsons everywhere - including his namesake, the England goalkeeper - in an extraordinarily bad light.

It was with such thoughts gnawing feebly at the outer recesses of my consciousness that I slipped into the only vacant seat on a southbound Bakerloo train, only to find myself next to Davey Punchpuppet, just off work and already nursing a restorative can of cider. The connection, you see, is that Davey is part of that generation of scholars who attended university - erm, were enrolled in university - in the late 90s and early 00s but foreswore lectures in favour of staying home in front of the telly, the better to study and discuss the minutiae of Neighbours. I still vividly recall a night spent in the Wig and Gown some years back during which Davey and his mates regaled the visiting Hyneses (Mr and Mrs Little Type) and myself with several hours of arcana from that blighted soap opera.

This time we only had from Baker Street to Oxford to converse, just long enough for Davey to remind me that his loud and sprightly band Punchpuppet would be playing at an unlikely venue called the Purple Turtle in Camden Town on Monday the 4th and in Romford, Essex (I've never been there, but it seems to be the butt of a disproportionate amount of jokes involving blondes and/or hairdressers) on Tuesday.

And oh yes, Neighbours and Punchpuppet aside, I should return to the original point of this post, which was to marvel over last night's events at the cricket, which is why the BBC was broadcasting from normally obscure Adelaide in the first place. I already knew, btw, that Adelaide was known as the "City of Churches," but not, if the reporter is to be believed, that it got that name from an ancient bylaw requiring one church to be built for every tavern allowed to operate in that generally sleepy sheep-shearing station that's now home to over a million sun-blasted South Australians. I'm fairly new to paying attention to cricket - or understanding or even tolerating it, for that matter - but last year's Ashes finally turned the trick, to the point where I almost bought a ticket for this year's test in Sydney.

Never mind, it'll look better on television, assuming England are still in it come January. Based on this morning's activities, however, in which Paul Collingwood turned in a double century and teamed up with Kevin Pietersen for a total of 310. And if this makes no sense at all to you - indeed, if it infuriates you - rest assured that I know exactly how you feel, for two short years ago I would have felt exactly the same way. And if you wish to continue neither knowing nor caring about the cricket, never fear, I promise not to beat you about the head with it. As an alternative, I suggest going to see Punchpuppet and/or tuning into a nice episode of Neighbours.

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