Great Britain’s Banking Hero? Bank Of Dave, Episode 1

Warning: Contains serious spoilers.

Meet Dave Fishwick. He’s balding, he’s from Burnley, and he doesn’t give a shit. Only he doesn’t give a shit in the best possible way: see, Dave’s idea of being wealthy isn’t really the same as most people’s, especially the bankers. Instead of holidaying non-stop, paying himself ridiculous bonuses and alternating drives in various expensive sports cars, Dave’s dream, at the beginning of this completely inspirational Channel 4 programme, is to open a tiny bank that’s run by the people for the people, and give any profits to charity. In other words, he’s the kindest banker you could ever hope to meet (and a hell of a lot kinder than the git at Barclays who refused to lend me £10 when I was 16 — despite my glowing record — but that’s another story. I hope that git is reading this).

Only there’s a problem and it’s serious: despite being one of the most inspiring people to ever come out of Burnley — a list which doesn’t offer too much in the way of competition, it has to be said… — Dave is every financial experts worst nightmare come true. Not only is he belligerent as hell and immune to virtually all obstacles, but he doesn’t believe in the word No and hates the big banks as each of us do, if not more. 20 minutes into the show, here was a man who made the legend of Robin Hood look lazy. I wondered if every single person watching the show was, like me, wondering how they could join the Bank Of Dave and get the hell away from their current bank as soon as possible…

I have to admit it, though: when I saw the trailers for Bank Of Dave, I was cynical for all the obvious reasons that anyone reasonably would be. Firstly, I struggled with the idea of why a seemingly average wealthy businessman from the grim North would want to open a bank, and secondly, anything with a TV show attached to it makes me instantly suspicious and liable to disbelieve it. But it didn’t last long. As the days passed, I found myself considering the idea more and more, doing some research, and by the time today came around — Thursday July 12th, 2012 — I was more or less convinced: Bank Of Dave wasn’t going to be some shoddily put together documentary piece. It was going to be just what we all needed. A bit of hope. Something good for once that promised and actually delivered.

And nobody can reasonably accuse Bank Of Dave, episode 1, of not delivering something. We’re talking about a guy who had every single obstacle thrown in his face over many months, condensed into an hour-long viewing period. An ordinary bloke that was standing up to the financial forces and saying fuck you. Quite literally, as it happened. Like I said, Dave really doesn’t give a shit and his thoroughly northern use of expletives is about as creative as it gets. And why would he care and listen, actually? The man has clearly done well for himself. OK, so he knows as much about opening and running bank as that bloody Songpop thing on Facebook — I still have no idea what the hell that is — but so what? It’s not like he isn’t in good company, and like Dave said, “I can hardly do worse than they [the banks] have.”

Dave’s first main struggle was to find out how to actually open a bank. Easy, thought Dave, I’ll just Google it. Unsurprisingly, this spewed immediate problems. The first of which was a recurrent theme throughout the episode: he could open a money lending outfit, but he couldn’t open a bank — so said various experts. Like Dave was going to listen!

Not to be out-done,  and still impervious to criticism, Dave predictably went on the rampage. Remember: here is a man with an almost disturbing level of enthusiasm. Dave’s just not gonna take it, he’s gonna keep on going — never surrender!

For a while, it was looking really good. Mainly because Dave wasn’t looking at the negatives, and in part due to him opening the bank regardless of any kind of official papers which he was supposed to possess. And this was the part that really made me smile. Dave wasn’t waiting for anyone, and the entrepreneur in him didn’t give a monkey’s about upsetting people or causing a fuss. Instead of just sitting at home waiting, or giving in to what the experts wanted him to do — not open a bank and instead open a building society, but preferably just go home and never leave the house again — Dave was just doing it. Exactly the kind of thing we need to see on TV, to remind us that sometimes, it’s about what you do, not just what you say.

It was then, shortly after acquiring the world’s smallest banking safe — probably from Amazon — that things really got interesting. Following a miniature radio campaign and opening, Bank On Dave! was finally unleashed on the public. No more pissing about with endless nonsensical forms and all that crap, Dave — along with a young Burnley banking geek who hadn’t yet been corrupted by the system — was ready to lend and lend he would.

By this point, I was totally enthralled. Dave’s ideas and philosophy on life were seriously addictive, and even though half the stuff he said sounded outlandish, you couldn’t help but believe that it was going to happen anyway. And who had a right to say it wouldn’t? The man had made a huge success of his own company, so why not this?

What followed from there on was some of the most bizarre, banking-related TV anyone is likely to ever see. Things like Dave visiting Steve Punchard’s Tropical Fish Superstore — pride of Burnley’s fish passion, and no, I didn’t make that name up — to discuss with Steve Punchard himself how much a shark costs. “Probably about £500,” said Steve Punchard with a completely straight face, who’s name I just love writing. Dave might well come to be known as the man who single-handedly caused numbers of black-tip reef shark to rise in the UK, but he’s also an ingenious amateur banker who will happily lend you £8,000 plus on trust and instinct — the two main things which the banks despise. The man really is a one-and-only…

Then, just when you thought it was a done deal, came the big punch in the face: the FSA — the people who had been put in place with the precise job of keeping financial vigilantes like Dave eternally out of their business — got in touch and said he’d need to raise £10 million Euros in order to keep trading…

Was Dave phased? Of course he was, but like I said before, he doesn’t give a shit! Look out for more from the man same time, next week.

I can’t wait to see what’s coming next. Thank fuck for Dave Fishwick.

Update: new post now up about the phenomenon of Bank Of Dave, which concludes tonight, Thursday the 19th at 9pm on Channel 4.


The Undateables Episode 2: addicted to poetry, first impressions count and being very brave


Imagine, if you can, waking up one morning with excruciating chest pain and finding out, not long after, that you’re almost certainly going to be paralysed from the waist down for the rest of your life; caused by a burst blood-vessel in the spine, it’s a horror situation which nobody wants to think about, yet this happened to Carolyne, and contributed to the end of her 10-year relationship. Or, consider for a moment that you were born with a rare genetic condition that causes tumors to grow all over your face and body (type 1 neurofibromatosis, if you were wondering). Or, if you’d rather, think about what it’s like to see the world through a different pair of eyes; you write poetry for women and they look at you funny, and when you detect the slightest sign of affection you fall truly, madly, deeply in love (although you don’t start listening to Savage Garden all the time, so it could be worse you suppose).

Episode 2 of The Undateables was just as fascinating as the first installment, and what I really liked about this show in particular was the honesty and determination of all 3 individuals. Confronted with a hell of a lot to deal with, Carolyne, Justin and Shaine gave real insight into their particular issues, with Carolyne admitting that she thought a lot of men might only be interested in her as a “fascination fuck”. Personally, I think Channel 4 should be commended — the editing was sensitive, the narration wasn’t condescending in the least and, overall, I felt everything that needed to be addressed was. It began with Shaine: a 31-year-old man from B0urnemouth…

Shaine looks like he should be a magician, like he was born to be a magician. That was my first impression of this sweet, innocent man who was looking for love. And I don’t mean looking for love in a vague, non-specific if-there’s-nothing-else-on-telly-I-might-sign-up-to-plenty-of-fish kind of a way, oh no. Because here was a man who would stop at nothing to find his soul mate. Honestly, throughout the film, Shaine’s belief in love astounded me. Not only that but I was jealous of just how well he was able to iron (next to him it’s debatable I can iron anything at all. If anyone asks me from now on, I’m just going to say I have an Ironing Difficulty and hope they don’t Google it).

Then we moved onto Justin. 39-years-old and a stock assitant from Rugby, my first impression of Justin was I wonder if his body aches all the time? I say this because his condition has, over the years, caused his body to grow larger on one side, making his head sit more to the right than in the middle. I thought about people I know who moan about a bit of back-ache, and I thought about how I had moaned just the other day because I banged my head on the stupid bloody panel that you have to pull out above our hot-plates to allow the fan to kick in. It’s poorly designed with horrible sharp edges just perfect for making a 6-foot-man’s head bleed, yes, but it’s just a snap-shot in time that barely counts (past the initial “fuck me that really hurt!” bit which usually lasts a good ten minutes). Forget ten minutes: Justin had been putting up with his condition ever since he’d been born. More to the point, Justin had never had a date, or had any kind of relationship. Listening to him talk about wanting to find someone, I couldn’t help but feel rather pathetic and really very lucky. And that’s not something I usually say in conjunction with that stupid fan-door things, I can tell you.

Lastly, enter Carolyne, a pretty 29-year-old woman from Manchester. And it was this part of the show which got to me for several reasons: 1) I could empathise with what had happened to her (as many people who have read this blog will know, between 2006 and 2009 I was very ill with a rare virus which wasn’t detected until the damage had been done; I too woke up one day, and within several hours had completely lost the use of my legs — something which, unlike Carolyne, I fortunately later got back and recovered from). And 2) Carolyne spoke about men asking, very callously, “Can you still have sex?” As if that matters more than anything else in the world. I could also understand where Carolyne was coming from in terms of losing everything she’d had; when I became ill, it all started to fade quickly once the house of cards came tumbling down, and, like me, the illness was also the kiss of death for her relationship (although I don’t blame my girlfriend at the time; I’m certain I was a massive pain in the arse).

It will come as no surprise to know, then, that the over-riding feeling I got from this week’s episode was one of major unfairness. I mean, let’s face it, if everything is going right for you the world is pretty much filled with unfairness anyway, isn’t it? You only have to read the paper or find yourself scared into a corner by a spider that, you swear, is “easily this big!” (Make your hands far apart enough that you can hold a decent-sized fish). Yet for these 3, the word unfairness just didn’t seem to cut it. Like last week’s 3, in the end it all came down to society and how we perceive people with disabilities. How closed we all are to things which aren’t completely ideal or perfect.

Of course, when you get realistic about it, the fact that it took Justin much longer to find a date than it might most other people isn’t really surprising: all of us wander around and decide there and then — whether we’re really aware we’re doing it or not — that we don’t like a certain person because their hair looks a bit shit, or there’s just something odd about the way they walk or talk. Most of us proclaim to be open-minded, yet up until tonight we largely won’t have seen anyone like Justin, let alone considered going out with them.

Then there are the more fundamental questions which most of us would never admit to even thinking, less it make us look bad: can the girl in the wheelchair have children? What will people think? Will my friends call me a twat if I decide to date someone who isn’t quite the norm?

And I am not immune to these things, of course (although I do know a bit about disability and facial disfigurement, as featured in my comedy adventure novel, The Number 3 Mystery Book on Kindle and paperback (see a review here). Nobody is. And that includes Justin, Carolyne and Shaine, all of whom had requirements which they were specifically looking for. Things that had to be right for them, otherwise they wouldn’t be happy.

Top 10 good and less good moments from this week’s episode:

1) Good: when Shaine said that a man should “Always be a gentleman.” Fair point Shaine, I’m sure a lot of blokes would do well to learn from you. Now all we need is a time-machine to take you and all the other gentleman back to the 1920s!

2) Less good: when Shaine asked his date Jackie if they were girlfriend and boyfriend now and she said “just friends.” Actually it wasn’t less good, it was horrific. Poor Shaine.

3) Good: Justin not giving a shit what people think.

4) Less good: when Justin said that he’d had in excess of 100 operations on his body to remove the tumors. Made my heart sink…

5) Good: Carolyne’s remarkable, inspiring recovery from what must have been a very dark place indeed — yes that girl has just had to cope with it, and I’m sure many people would have managed similarly, but it’s still very impressive, I think. Getting dumped is hard enough, but when it happens because of a serious life-disaster, you can multiply that by about…who knows. A number doesn’t seem to cut it, somehow.

6) Less good: the fact that a lovely girl like Carolyne needs to resort to a dating agency for men to notice her. Wake up, people, she’s in a wheelchair, but she’s still lovely.

7) Good: Shaine doing a serious Alan-Partridge and bouncing back from his date with Jackie to find someone else to ask out on a date!

8) Less good: Shaine being born 90 years too late.

9) Good: Justin’s ability to keep optimistic when faced with the kind of gut-wrenching obstacles which I couldn’t even begin to fathom, let alone imagine.

10) Less good: the way that Justin seemed to me to be a sweet, caring kind of a bloke, yet so many people will never know this, as they just can’t get past the face.

Did you enjoy this post? Well, if you did that pleases me! My disability-related comedy novel, The Number 3 Mystery Book is available in paperback here and from Amazon UK. If you live in the US, you can get it from Amazon US here. Thanks for reading and goodbye.

The Undateables, Channel 4, Episode 1: awkard, interesting, thought-provoking TV


No, this blog is not becoming a TV-only-deal. Don’t worry, keep coming back and you won’t find me discussing a conspiracy storyline surrounding the tragic death of Heather in Eastenders (Hev! And actually she was murdered and it was terrible, so don’t say Eastenders is crap and it’s a waste of time), or a terrorist-transexual plot which threatens to blow Coronation Street’s already hopelessly volatile world apart (these are things you’re probably not familiar with if you live outside the UK, I guess. And if you are, surely there are better uses for illegal technology capable of stealing hundreds of channels? Just a thought).

It’s just that usually, TV shows are a let-down, and when it came to epidsode 1 of The Undateables — a show which, as suggested in the previous blog post to this, had caused lots of controversy in the media — it certainly wasn’t; at least, in my opinion. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it was and is essential viewing. Ah, the beauty of having your own blog where you can say whatever you like, un-edited…

Usually, before I post a review of a TV show, film or whatever, I’ll check out a few other reviews first and see what the general consensus is. I imagine you’re probably now thinking this is so I can cheat and gather some much needed information, shame on you, or so that I don’t need to take the precious time to form my own opinion; why not just steal someone else’s instead? And you’d be right, although not about the not-forming-my-own-opinion part, which I find is one of the best things about being a human being. The point is, I usually check out other reviews because I forget names and things quickly, and besides that, it’s always worth checking out the general consensus. Firstly, it throws more ideas in my face which I can then mull over along with my initial thoughts, and secondly, it really helps if I fell asleep while watching the show and failed to get any idea of what the hell it was actually about. As I’m sure readers who have a fond memory of stealing the answers from fellow students’ exams papers at school will know, you can never have too much information (note: even if it very much sounds like it, does not condone stealing, even though Chris once saw a documentary on pick-pocketing and it genuinely is a fine art).

This time, however, things are different: I haven’t looked at any reviews yet; no websites, no other opinions. Which means this could go one of three ways: 1) I’ll be wildly out-of-tune with the rest of the world’s thoughts, not that I give a monkey’s 2) I’ll be in-tune and this review will contain the same boring crap as every other, or 3) The Undateables never really existed and is actually an ingenious figment of my imagination, formed from a powerful intake of TV over the years and a want for more shows which tackle issues like this. Let’s hope it’s one of the first two.

Onto this episode 1, then, which followed the perils and delights — yes, there were a few — of the dating experience for three unique individuals: Luke is a 23-year-old stand-up comedian from Merseyside — he has Tourettes and an involuntary tick which makes him uncontrollably shout things like “filthy slag!” or “Dirty whore!” Always with exclamation marks, that’s not just me adding them. And then we move swiftly on to Penny, 23, whos brittle-bones disease — it’s a genetic disorder — and penchant for dangerous, high-flying trapeze antics must have threatened to bring the entire building at Channel 4 to simultaneous viewing-figures climax. Lastly, the show’s rich diversity was finished off nicely with Richard, a 37-year-old Aspergers sufferer and self-professed amateur radio enthusiast who you’d have to have the patience of a genuine saint to eat an entire dinner with. And by amateur radio enthusiast I do mean massive geek with CB Radio obsession. As far as I’m aware, you’re still allowed to have a disability and be a geek, right? Maybe that’s just me.

With such a collection of individuals on one show — each in the series will follow 3 people — it’s not surprising that a few hundred-thousand people were up in arms about exploitation, ranting and raving like a collective imagining of Harry Enfield’s Kevin The Teenager (if you’re too young or foreign, Google it) . The name really didn’t help; many said it only added further weight to the (alleged) belief of many that disabled people are un-date-able. I say what a load of old bollocks. If all the episodes continue in the same vein as this one, then all that Channel 4 are guilty of is a bit of sensationalism.

Aspergers answer to James Bond: Richard

I haven’t yet mentioned what happened with any of the dates. Now is probably a good time, after all I’d like to keep you here and stop you wandering off to someone else’s review.

Well, Richard was first up, and it was 100% obvious from the moment he started spraying himself in what I suspect was the cheapest of the cheap deodorant — a ritual of his which went on for about 30 seconds, until the cameraman started to choke — that he had his work cut out in enormous ways. Aspergers might be amusing to some, but in reality — and I say this because I have known a few people with it, not because I spray that much cheap deodorant on myself (not that all Aspergers sufferers do…OK, stopping now) — it’s a bloody nightmare. Upon joining the dating agency — as they all had — he had a strict criteria which he couldn’t move on; an unshakeable hall-mark of the condition, it meant that he’d only travel 5 miles to meet a potential life-partner, and would only do so providing the computer could give him a comprehensive route, and his mum could advise on every detail.

That was another issue Richard faced, and one which I imagine most women don’t find appealing: the woman had to be older than him and with familiar traits. Essentially, Richard admitted he wanted to date someone very much like his mum (the sad thing was how creepy it sounded and how essential this was). Characterised by a different way of thinking which goes against the grain of pretty much everyone else on planet earth, having Aspergers really is no laughing matter, yet watching Richard go about arranging a date wasn’t in the least difficult to view. I didn’t even hate myself for watching.

Luke, the Tourettes-suffering-stand-up from Merseyside, couldn’t have been more different. Funny, sociable and with a beard and moustache — come on, everyone should love a beard and moustache — now, here was a man you could eat your dinner with. Providing you could ignore the shits and fucks and BOLLOCKS! that was. What was so great about Luke was his honesty, and this was a theme which ran throughout. None of these people appeared to be after attention, or looking to get a TV deal out of this show. All any of them wanted was to find someone who could love them for who they were and what they are.

Of the 3, Penny was, I think, the most surprising. Never one to play up to a stereotype, her ideal man was literally twice the height and a policeman. What she got, however, was a 5 foot 11″ Cerebral Palsy sufferer with that cool, naturally-spikey blonde hair which would have saved me a lot of time and money — so much gel — back when I was growing up. They didn’t particularly click, but at least Luke got on great with his date, did some ice-skating — mostly on his arse, but still — and Richard had a successful second date (the first didn’t go too well. It began smoothly, but went downhill fast when he decided to eat his date’s dinner without asking her first).

Not that Richard’s date was to lead to another. In a tragic turn of events which must have had at least several million people screaming blue bloody murder at their television sets, he decided against a follow-up with the lovely French lady who had expressed interest to the camera. I nearly cried.

And, with that, here were my top-three favourite bits:

1) When Richard started swearing uncontrollably because his mum’s car had broken down and they needed to call a taxi. It just made me laugh. 1) b) when Richard made a serious show out of flexing his muscles at the French lady in classic old-school strong-man manner. While seated in the restaurant.

2) Luke’s date. She was kind, sweet and understanding. Yes, Luke, YES!

3) Penny deciding she didn’t want to date someone with a disability because she wanted “someone who was a bit more lively.” It made me smile.

Got to watch the rest of them. Head on over to the Episode 2 review here.

March the 10th, 2012: National Film Overload Day

Today may seem to be a day much like any other — unless you’re getting married today, or you’re having your first baby, in which case your motives for reading this blog on what is supposed to be the happiest day of your life, or the most painful but happiest, are questionable, if you don’t mind me saying — but it most definitely isn’t. In fact, today is National Film Overload Day.

Haven’t heard of it? That’s because I just made it up, and for good reason.

Cast your eyes down today’s film listings guide and you will notice just why I have taken it upon myself to give today’s date such an accolade. For today, my friends, is one of those rare occasions when doing anything else other than watching TV all evening could be considered almost criminal. Not convinced? Allow me to demonstrate the crazy state of affairs that today coincidentally is (or not. With every taste and variety of film being played today bar-none, it’s not unreasonable to think that dark — or light — forces are at work, conspiring to keep us inside while aliens skavenge about England, cutting the tops of peoples’ skulls off and replacing the insides with some kind of special covert-listening equipment, right?).

The madness began — if I can be so bold as to put a precise time to it — several hours ago at 4.50pm on ITV 2 with Batteries Not Included.

A film which is about slightly kinder aliens than I mentioned above; actually a lot kinder. It then takes a savage comedic twist, as child-freak McCauley Culkin — probably the wrong spelling — takes to the screen at 7pm on ITV 2 to be both somehow simultaneously witty and annoying (but aren;t all child actors? I dare you to name one who isn’t). And immediately you’ll have already found yourself running into a problem of some gravity, because also starting at 4.55pm on ITV 1 + 1 was Evan Almighty! The film all about God and Noah’s ark which manages to be mildly amusing in places — a feat which would have been impossible to achieve had Steve Carell (probably wrong spelling) not been cast as the lead.

On any normal day, all this film action would have been stretched over the whole night, more or less. But not on National Film Overload day, because at the hour of 7.40pm on 5* + 1, Hitch makes an appearance, with Will Smith playing the spectacularly irritating role of a man who is supposedly good at matching people up as life partners, but shocking when it comes to managing the same for himself.

But wait! There’s a problem! If you’re a man with a teenage girl inside him, just waiting to get out, you’ll notice that on Film 4 at 5.25pm was Freaky Friday — the quite ridiculous and silly, generic formula-fest which involves all kinds of daftness (none of which I have any first-hand knowledge of, but I do know it involves a woman becoming a girl and a girl becoming a woman, or something. And I mean instantly, of course. Everyone knows that girls become women — that’s common knowledge).

You’d think that it might all start to slow down after that, but alas, that is not the case! Straight after that sillyness is over, on we go with yet more straight-up, timeless, class A stupidity, this time in the form of Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd.

Then things just get turbo-boosted: Sylvester Stallone bursts onto Film 4 at 9pm, swiftly followed by The Black Windmill at 11.40pm (never heard of it but it looks not half bad). By this point, any usually mild-mannered and capable crap-to-average film lover might just be holding themselves together by the weakest of strands, until the horrific truth is learned: The Matrix Reloaded also starts at 9pm on Sky 1, and at 10.10pm Deep Impact only bloody well starts on BBC 3, at the same time as highly addictive thriller-let-down Daylight begins its mission to by turns please and disappoint us on ITV 2 (what is it with ITV 2? Do they own National Film Overload Day or something?!).

By this point, you’ll probably be in a right state. But things take a sinister twist when you notice that at 11.15pm, The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift is on ITV 1 plus 1…which wouldn’t be so bad…if you hadn’t also just noticed that bizarre thriller Orphan began at 10.30pm on Channel 4 and it’s actually quite good…

When 10pm has been and gone, you’ll be cursing yourself about a number of things. One will be your pathetic attempt to plan the evening, and the second will probably be how you never read all the way down the film guide, which inevitably screws you over completely just when you thought you were safe. Why? Because The Big Lebowski started at 9pm on Dave, and The Wedding date also started at 9pm on E4. Add to this the lunacy that was Reservoir Dogs starting at 10pm on 5USA — not to mention Robert Redford winner Indecent Proposal also starting at 10.05pm on More — and the colossal crushing embarassment is complete.

At least you thought it was…until it hits you right between the eyes: you’ve done the unthinkable! You’ve both forgotten to record or watch Big Fat Gypsy Weddings on Channel 4 + 1 at 9pm!

By the time you’ve picked yourself up of the floor, you won’t even care anymore that you missed Battle of Los Angeles on Syfy at 8pm, or that Dawn of the Dead (the original and still the best) followed it at 10pm. And when you notice that you’ve missed (500) Days of Summer at 9pm on Film 4, which was also followed by Carriers at 10.50pm, you really won’t give a shit anymore.

But still, if you can somehow survive all that then you might appreciate that Stepford Wives is on BBC 2 at midnight, or that Spider follows it at 1am…or that The Jacket is on ITV 2 (?????) at 12.50am…or that…