My two favourite programmes on TV are ‘How’s It Made’ and ‘How Do They Do That?’, both on Discovery Science (other channels are available: why do announcers give that information?). This is of course at complete variance with most of the pap on TV. Take that harbinger of good taste and exquisite talent ‘The X Factor’. I was heartened to see that this mass adulation rubbish was umpty-dump million down on it’s previous viewing figures. Quelle Surprise! No wonder people are switching it off, I do, because it’s the usual lowest-common-denominator garbage that TV land think the majority of us want to watch. Yes, if you’re a teenager or have the attention span of a goldfish and stare at the screen breathing through the mouth. The X Factor shows what is wrong with the world of getting on in life, compared to say the Olympic champions who recently showed the country the good side of young people. X Factor contestants almost without exception go to an audition because ‘that is all they wanted to do’. Yeah right, what they mean is I’ll try to get a singing career the easy way and earns pots of dosh without lifting a finger. The most delusional part of the whole circus is the contestant’s parents/supporters who often believe unswervingly in their offsprings talent, or in most cases, lack of the same. If I went in for the X Factor I know I wouldn’t get far because I’m way too old, but I would say when asked; I’m in it for a laugh and couldn’t give a toss if I get no further. In the few bits of the programme I’ve seen, I’ve never seen anyone say that. Why not? Not everyone is ambitious or feels that singing is their ‘dream’.
Which brings me back to the two programmes mentioned at the beginning. I’ve no idea what the viewing figures are for Discovery Science but it would probably take a years worth to catch up with rubbish like oh, I don’t know, the X Factor maybe? These are specialist factual programmes which in the main show how every day objects are manufactured. I probably realise now (maybe 45 years too late) that I find production engineering fascinating, and would love to have been in that industry. No offers please, I enjoy watching production methods on TV but it’s a trifle late to change career this late in my work/life pattern. Oh well, guess I’ll just gave carry on watching TV programmes on production engineering instead. I suppose that the fundamental reason is that manufacturing is the bedrock of an industrial nation, and ours should be no exception. This is unfortunately not the case, and the reduction in manufacturing output can be blamed on successive governments who succeeded in getting rid of the oily-rag image of the Great Britain PLC. Take the car industry. Name a wholly owned UK mass market car manufacturer? There aren’t any. Now name some wholly German owned car companies: BMW, Mercedes, Porshe, VW, Audi. Name French ones: Renault, Peugeot, Citroën, Italian?: Fiat, Lancia, Lamborghini, Ferrari etc etc. Need I go on? How come all these countries have similar populations, yet ours has a car industry mostly owned by foreigners. This could all be traced back to Red Robbo bringing down British Leyland or the four men selling MG-Rover for a quid and making millions for themselves in the process. Now MGs, once a proud marque are being produced in China and sent over here for assembly, exactly the reverse of what used to happen. These actions weren’t helped by people like Margaret Thatcher, who hated engineering, and Tony Bliar who preferred the City to making stuff. The only exceptions to this rule are companies in the aerospace industry like Rolls Royce, and my old firm BAE Systems, both of whom are successful, solvent and export widely. So do we accept that we are now a service industry, only good for making money out of money, sod the manufacturing industry? Not quite. My belief is that the country that makes and exports manufactured products that people need will always be the most prosperous. That’s what we need to do, don’t ask me how though I’m no expert. Ce la vie.