COLUMN: March 8, 2018

It will never fail to amuse me that Star Wars ends with the heroes literally getting medals for being heroes

AWARDS season is in full swing at the moment. There are Oscars, Grammys, BAFTAs – you can’t walk down the street without somebody trying to give you a golden statuette or piece of engraved glass for Best Use Of Pavement.

Some might say enough is enough, but I say enough is not enough enough. If anything, we need more awards ceremonies. And why should we only celebrate the absolute best of things or pooh-pooh the absolute worst of things? Where are the awards for the not-bad-but-not-in-any-sense-good-either, the mediocre?

And that’s why this week this column is happy to unveil the Bainbridge Awards, a recognition, if not celebration, of the not quite good enough for bronze medals. If you wish to visualise these awards, they are a sort of pewter mug, with the handle being just that little bit too small for comfort, but not so much that you would feel you could complain about it.

The first Bainy, for Most Unhelpful Helpful Thing, goes to the man who invented the little X in the corner of pop-up ads on web pages to make them go away. That X is invaluable as long as A) you can see it; and B) your fingertip is tiny enough to be able to touch it without clicking on the ad. These two criteria are fulfilled only 62% of the time, which means, maths fans, that 38% of the time you accidentally click on an ad instead of getting rid of it.

And that means that if you accidentally click on an ad for bidets or garden rakes, you will be plagued forever more with ads for intimate hygiene or hoes, making anybody who wanders past your computer while you are at work wonder what the hell you have been doing with your spare time.

The second Bainy, for Most Inconvenient Convenient Thing, goes to the automatic car wash. Automatic car washes are the ideal solution for those people who want only 90% of the dirt on their cars to be removed, with the remaining 10% of the dirt used to smear or scratch the windows and the paintwork, and all done in the most terrifying way possible.

However, it is by far the least worst of methods of car washing. If you do it yourself it takes ages, you will look like you’re in a 1980s pop video, and somebody will ask you if you’ll do their car next, which is a joke so frequently employed that it has gone past cliché, beyond even banter, and into the dictionary as a standard neutral greeting, like “hello” or “good morning” but only ever to be used when meeting a person washing a car.

And if you go to a hand car wash, you have the lingering suspicion that you are somehow profiting from the 21st century slave trade. I mean, really, how can they possibly be paying all those eastern European men a living wage for £5 a go?

The third Bainy, For Sound Only Marginally Better Than Silence, goes to Smooth Radio. Smooth Radio is the aural equivalent of a rich tea biscuit, a boyfriend/girlfriend so inoffensive that you could introduce him/her to your mother and she would be relieved and at the same time wonder if she is ever going to have any grandchildren.

Smooth Radio is Route One radio – if the DJ tells you which acts are coming up in the next quarter of an hour, you know exactly which songs by those artists the station will play. Nothing unexpected has ever happened on Smooth Radio, not even the news.

But the least unexpected song by an artist to be played is pretty much always the artist’s biggest hit, and it’s their biggest hit because it’s one of their best songs. Stevie Wonder’s I Just Called To Say I Love You is the exception that proves the rule. Every time they play it on Smooth Radio.

And that is why Smooth Radio is allowed to exist and is played in hairdressers and doctors’ surgeries up and down the land. It plays neither challenging music nor bad music. Nobody ever rioted after listening to Smooth Radio.

Of course, there are more awards, but these appear crammed in at the end, the equivalent of the gongs for best sound engineering or best screenplay. The other winners of Better Than Nothing But Still By No Means Good are Pumpkin Cafes at railway stations, the British public transport system, and Labour’s Brexit policy.

See you next year!

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