Thursday, 17 July 2014

How I met Your Mother finale review

I’ve just watched the final episode of season 9 of the Hit US sitcom How I met your mother which, if you haven’t seen it is the story of how Ted meets the mother of his children and the love of his life.

Need I say *Spoiler alert* ahoy?

The series has taken up the mantle left by Friends and matched the same dynamic of a group of friends from mixed backgrounds in their late 20s living in a flat in New York and frequenting a bar – with a sly nod to Friends by having them hang out in a coffee shop once and hating it.

The characters are all linked to Ted, who is also the narrator and the central axis of the story with his search for love. It also swept me up in the story as it showed a guy, about my age with the same problems as I have. The whole growing up and making adult decisions, moving out of the 20s into the 30s and leaving his old life behind him in kind of a right of passage from youth to adult to father and husband.

Like Friends it has had a really decent run, it had nine seasons and around two hundred episodes covering a vast array of subjects, encounters and growth of all the characters. There are mountains of cultural references, in gags, great human quality and drama despite the comedy. It was after all, a story about love, life and friendships across the years.

So season 9, the final season, has just finished and I am left with serious mixed emotions. Firstly, as a season I’ve been quite disappointed. The overall story arc was about Barney and Robin’s wedding but with the other leading edge that Ted was going to meet the unnamed mother and fall in love. Sadly it dragged. There were so many complications with the wedding and the other characters (like Lily and Marshall’s planned move to Italy vs. his being given a Judgeship in New York state, Ted still having feelings for Robin and finally letting her go, Barney finally putting his commitment issues down etc…).

Although the episodes were mostly good, it felt like they were stalling the main plot and to quote my wife at the end of most of them;
Hurry up and get married for Pete’s sake!
There were lots of references to the Mother, and she meets all of the others and helps them in one way or another, even convincing Robin to go back and marry Barney. With only two episodes to go we were still on the edge of our seats. Marshall and Lily were expecting baby number 3 and decided to go to Italy, Barney and Robin were married and Ted was due to meet the mother by the next episode. Other lose ends were also tied up, even little ones like what was Blah-Blah’s real name? How did Scooter get over Lily? What the hell was Barney’s job? (Please…)

The last two episodes seemed to rush things as they passed the meeting and passed into the future with Ted and (the still unnamed) mother having their two children, Lily and Marshall having their third and his return to corperate law and the devastating news the Robin and Barney have divorced as they couldn’t make things work. We were left with Robin leaving the group of friends as she no longer had any thing in common and that being around Barney was too painful.

So, the finale.

We begin to tie up even more threads. Barney becomes a father after one of his One night stands finally backfires – a truly moving moment when he holds the baby girl for the first time and tells her how much he will love her forever and you finally see him grow up. It was something that struck accord with me as I remembered holding Sophie in my arms for the first time and the feeling that evoked and that deep down I changed as I’m sure we all do the moment we become parents.

 Marshall becomes a judge and out of the job he despises and Ted and (the still unnamed mother) get married on a day that Robin comes back to be with her best friend’s big day, a day that many didn’t think was coming. We see Ted talking of his love for the girl, who we finally find out is called Tracy(!!!!)  and all the times he looked back fondly on their life together, through the highs, lows, the petty arguments and when she got sick and died.

Yes, she died.

The scene dissolves back to his study where he has been narrating the story to his children over the last nine years and telling them about his life and they tell him if they want their permission to ask out Aunt Robin that’s ok. It ends with him standing outside her house holding the iconic blue French horn, a symbol of their love (he stole it for her on their first date back in the pilot!).

Part of me was overly gratified that the subtext for the first four/five seasons of on/off romance and affection (in true Ross/Rachel style) was gratified. Even the other great love of his life (and the girl I’d been rooting for), Victoria had said at the end beginning of season 8 that Ted had to chose between her and Robin’s friendship (reminds me of Emily’s ultimatum in Season 4(?) of Friends…). The show had prided itself that all those who had predicted Ted and Robin would get together were wrong and just when we had accepted it all they fired off that last twist in the last five minutes.

As a romantic and someone who has read a lot of love, the human experience and even walked in the footsteps of Ted at more than one point in my life, I will admit that I cried a little when I re-watched it on E4+1 whilst writing this review.

Then again, the teenage daughter makes the valid point that the whole story barely doesn’t have the mother in it – I mean I can understand the first 8 seasons as it is all about growth and life and hints being dropped about the mother (sorry Tracy) as well as his romantic encounters including being ditched at the altar (by Stella played by Sarah Chalke), the great love that was Victoria (Ashley Williams), the turbulence of Zoe and Jenette… But Season 9 barely has her in it as well and this was meant to be the season they met and fell in love, so in a way – I’m not surprised and a little let down. They have gone to the standard sitcom cliché of he’ll get with her, she’ll be with him and he’ll marry out of the group etc…

Don’t get me wrong it is something that if I ever get a free 100 hours to rewatch the series I’ll be watching it from another viewpoint and nodding along with that smug I know what happens look like the second time I watched Sixth sense, but part of me will always be disappointed a little by the ending and feel eminently sorry for Tracy who has been killed off without chance to be developed fully and is a virtual unknown.

It has been a fantastic series, one that never lost its way like Friends, never changed its basic make up and chemistry like Big Bang Theory and did not over run by too much like Frasier. I have thoroughly enjoyed it and if you have never seen it – dude, you need to watch this sitcom! – I am just in a state of shell shock at the ending and a little disappointed but then again, when there is ever an ending to a series that isn’t your ideal, won't you always be?


Saturday, 12 July 2014

Nick Clegg's gift to the party at Christmas?

As I write this I feel very disloyal, like a Benidict Arnold or a William Joyce. I think the time is coming for Nick Clegg to stand down as leader.

I should quickly state that I think he has done an amazing job as leader and raised the profile of the party a million times higher than it has been since the end of the First World War. He has led us into Government and has got many of our pledges from our manifesto straight into the law. Income tax level has been raised, pupil premium, tripple lock pensions protecting them, we've postponed Trident, helped keep the cuts humane(ish) and improved the amount of apprenticships just to name a few.

We are no longer a party of the shadows, the discontents, the weirdy beardy party... The guys with the "Give a quiche a chance" t'shirts. We are a serious party that has achieved and deserves support and our activists are out there trying to drum up support and getting it.

The problem is Nick and this is the hardest thing for me to write.

People on the doorstep are not ennamered with Nick. Ultimatly he could come up with the cure for cancer and bring World peace and the Tories would claim it was their move and Nick would still be criticised for the Tuition fees fiasco.

He is still hated for jumping into bed with the Tories and bringing them into power - even though Labour had really messed up the country and change was 4000% needed in 2010. He is blamed for the cuts (not George Osbourne or David Cameron strangely) and for pathologically lying (Which he didn't do). No amount of;

Yeah but we've done this...

is going to help and good, ney excellent candidates are likely to be left behind and a lesser or worse, UKIP, candidate will get in.

I was listening to the Lord of the Rings soundtrack (Yeah, I know - how awesome am I?) and was thinking about King Theoden of Rohan's comment of "It was not Theoden of Rohan who led our people to victory."

I got to thinking about the party as the kingdom of Rohan and Clegg as Theoden. Theoden was a good king during peace time and in the past wars, he was revered by all but then he fell under the spell of the evil wizard and let the kingdom fall into disarray and had to be saved by a better leader.

Our party is famous for its massive self destruction in 1916 that took almost a century to rectify and has had so many splits and factions in the past we cannot afford for it to happen again as this time it may be fatal.

As much as it pains me to say, Nick needs to step down around Christmas as part of a structured leadership move to allow the new person to get their feet under the table and begin fighting for May 2015. It would give enough time for the party to establish them and the new manifesto as well as have us standing up in Parliament.

I know mine is but one voice in a party of many and that there are those who are more voriferous in their attacks on Nick or in their defence of his position. Ultimatly I think it will come down to a motion at conference, I just think it wouod be better that Nick stood down rather than suffered the humiliation of a rebellion and ousting.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

They cut down my God Damned tree!!!!!

I am royally vexed - Well no, I'm pretty Pissed off actually.

To set the scene, my next door neighbour is attempting to sell her house and there are several aesthetic things that we can help with. As she has no back gate to her property she asked if some workmen who were going to clear her garden could go through our back gate and over her wall. She also asked if we would go halves on repairing the wall between our two properties.  Both of which we agreed to.

A couple of years ago a small tree began growing against the wall and was damaged by one of their kids but it grew and had reached six and a half foot tall and had elderberries ripening. We had
trimmed it recently but pretty much left it as was.

I should say now - we have had no complaints about the tree - and I spoke to next door just last week about unlocking the gate.

I went out for an hour earlier with the family for a walk when I got back from work. When we came out of the shop across the road I saw next door in her front garden cutting something up but didn't see what as I was attempting to get the kids across a busy  road.

When we got into the front garden I noticed she had hurried indoors and no wonder because my tree
was laying across my front garden in several pieces having been cut- the-F**K-down.
It is not so much that the tree has come down as it was an annoyance to my wife and if the wall was going to be rebuilt it was clearly in the way.

What has royally ticked me off is the fact that the tree was on MY property and was cut down with out discussion or permission and what really rubbed the salt in the wound is that the fact I had to go and clear up the God forsaken mess. It was like someone had shot my dog and expected me to bury it.

I was quite attached to that tree as the only patch of real greenery in our front garden, especially as the conifer I bought a few years ago was robbed from outside my front door!

I wouldn't mind but over the last five years my neighbours have royally taken the mick out of me - The kids have thrown all manner of beer bottles, fag ends and rubbish into my back and front gardens and I have complained a total of 0 times. When our other neighbours moved in on the other side they dumped all manner of shit in my overgrown back garden and still I've said nothing.

Well this time I went round, knocked - no reply. My wife told me to let it go, nothing would bring the tree back (and besides she hated it anyway). I know the law is on my side but what's the point in going to a civil court over it?

Instead I have taken a couple of punitive measures. My back gate is now sealed tight, no bugger is opening it and if I catch someone in my garden, so help me God!
Second, I am pretty certain that the dividing wall is her wall so if it she wants it rebuilt/repaired I won't be footing a penny. If it is my wall then I'm happy with it's tumbledown rustic look and will not be paying for it...

Sorry - I am just so angry and I needed to vent. Can anyone suggest what I can do about it or should I just lay back and take this as well?