An unintentional role model.

I was bought up in a time when both Fawlty Towers and Monty Python were shown on regular television, and not in the middle of the night either. My dad loved both, and when they were on he would get me to watch them. From memory he started doing this when I was about four, so him having to wake me up and get me out of bed to go down to the living room to watch it was commonplace. To me it was the middle of the night, where in actual fact it was probably just late evening. At that age too I couldn’t really distinguish too much of a difference between my dad and John Cleese. I’m not saying that my dad looks like John Cleese, but they were both tall, and the same colour hair, and side partings, and kind of dressed the same. So the fact that my dad was forcing me to watch a man on the television that appeared the same as him, and whatever he was in always appeared to be in charge, made me like whoever he was playing a lot. And whilst I didn’t always quite understand it, I certainly knew that it was funny; that he was funny. Clearly this was in the days before box-sets, and the internet. Neither of us somehow never had the fore-site to record any of it off the television, so we only ever got to see it when it was on the BBC. Which I think was how my fascination with it never waned. At no point did I overdose on it, so I never tired of it. So when I then had a choice over what I watched on television, I would always choose to watch them. I would choose to watch a man who reminded me of my dad, usually getting very angry and being very funny.

When I began working full-time, when I still lived at home, I went through a couple of periods at not only being in charge of a third of the shop; but of being the only full-time member of staff in that third of the shop. Those periods were hard, and had really long hours, and the second time happened to coincide with BBC Two showing the entire two series of Fawlty Towers roundabout the time I would get home from work. So, more often that not, I would sit down in front of the television in a bad mood only to be confronted by a man being frustrated by his customers. After a few days of this I realised that I was being frustrated by my customers too, and I was in a bad mood for exactly the same reasons that Basil was. I started to see in my own behaviour things that Basil was doing, so tried to make sure that I didn’t do those things any more. As I worked at my job more, and gained more and more experience in dealing with customers (which was down to me having a very lazy boss. He would either never come to deal with a customer concern, or let them take advantage of the situation), I started to view the customers (the irrational ones) losing their cool as Basil, and it was at this point that my working days improved greatly*.

Years later I was given all Fawlty Towers on DVD and whenever I needed either a laugh, or a reminder of how not to behave, I would put an episode on. In hindsight though, it was probably at this point that things started to go array. You see, it was at this point that I realised that I could do a pretty good impression of Basil. Well; I was tall, could shout, and wave my fist at the ceiling. I did it to make my friends laugh, and once ended up going to a fancy-dress party as him. Oh, and when the party finished I went out in town still wearing the moustache and cravat. When I worked in the pub, when it was very busy, if anything ever went wrong (the night the tills both died for instance) Basil would come out to make light of the situation. I would continue to do this from time to time, for my own amusement more than anything else. But little did I know that not only was I doing it far more often than I thought, but that I wasn’t doing it to be funny any more. And this grew, and festered, and in hindsight got far worse. Sometime after that, when I worked in the garage, for me to slam the door to the office or go and kick a bin in the workshop was quite a regular occurrence. Somewhere along the line I had lost all conciseness that what I was doing was ridiculous. One Christmas Jen and I went to the pub after work and had a Christmas drink. Once home nipped to the loo, and when I came back Jen was stomping around the house wearing my work boots. When I asked her what she was doing she answered “being Richard, I’m going to go and be angry at the cats.” That should have been a clue that something was wrong with me… but it wasn’t.

It’s actually taken me years to work out what I was doing. Well, it helped that I now work alongside someone who I knew years before to point out that I wasn’t always like this… It’s taking a lot of work to undo, but I am working on it.

*this is definitely something that I’ll come back to, but it just doesn’t really fit here.

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