Right. So. Last night's television. No, not the election coverage – you'll find that in news. The other stuff: the soft stuff, you know. I've spent the past three weeks writing reviews of programmes that hardly anyone watched (clashing as they did with the election debates and then, last week, one debate and two football semi-finals). And now I'm reviewing stuff that virtually no one watched. Still, you were one of the select few that did, congratulations: far better to cast your ballot, go to bed at a sensible hour, and remain blissfully unaware of one's fate until the morning. Or, depending on how hung things turn out to be, in a few mornings' time. Either way, with matters of state on one's mind, what one needs is some light relief, isn't it? Or, even better, an escape plan just in case someone you really can't bear winds up at No 10. In which case, I'd suggest Hong Kong. It looked great in last night's episode of Greatest Cities of the World.
Actually, this instalment was much better than the last one I saw. Then, Griff Rhys Jones nosed around Rome – a great city, but not, perhaps, wacky enough to bring out his strengths. In Hong Kong, he was perfect: buffooning around the place in his scruffy polo shirt, a sharp contrast to the moneyed, educated, socially mobile whizzkids that seem to occupy Hong Kong. Actually, I'm thinking of moving there, whatever happens with the election. Just for the subway system, if nothing else. No one is allowed to eat on it. Or drink – anything, alcoholic or otherwise. That alone would improve my quality of life by at least 100 per cent. It's all spotless, and gorgeous, and incredibly glossy. Even the buildings have been feng shuid, so they look nice and pretty from above. Or, as Griff put it, "like a futuristic Western city".
It's not a bad description. In fact, that's exactly what Hong Kong looked like: the future. Just look at them. Look how quickly the kids can do their sums. It took Griff more time to work the answers out on a calculator than it did for them to do it in their heads; it's astonishing. According to one little boy, it was all about the abacus. That was how they learned to add, so when it comes to mental arithmetic that was what they used, only instead of moving all the wooden beads around on a real abacus, it's all done it their heads. The teacher barks problems at them through his peculiar, futuristic headset and they whiz out the answers, just like that.
Not that it was all modernity. Behind the glossy architecture and speedy transport, there was plenty of tradition at play too. Griff paid a visit to an origami shop, where craftsmen make paper accessories – toothbrushes, drinks, cake – to be burned with the dead for use in the "afterlife". Extended families gather for dinner regularly; on his last night, Griff joined a group of 30 for their evening meal. When he mentioned that his family only gather on special occasions they bust into a rendition of "Happy Birthday" to make him feel at home.
I'm not quite sure what has prompted the rash of autism-themed documentaries recently. Certainly, there have been a few: last week, Autistic Driving School, before that, Autism and Me. Not that they are unwelcome; like all the others, Autism, Disco and Me was, unlikely title notwithstanding, very good indeed.
We met Jimmy, who is 10 and loves to dance, a fact that he discovered only a few years ago. It looked, however, like he had been dancing for far longer than that. He's great, though it is more than a talent that he has found.
Since discovering dancing, said his parents, he has gone from virtually illiterate to reading confidently. His behaviour has improved immensely since he no longer suffers the same lack of concentration. Even at his final, climactic competition, Blackpool's sequin-tastic Disco Kid, Jimmy retained a sense of focus that many a 10-year-old would struggle with.
The thing that made it all so fascinating was that you could see the difference, clearly. Jimmy has a twin brother, George. Both are autistic, but while Jimmy is ambitious, focused and – on the whole – well behaved, George is trouble. It's not his fault, of course – or anyone's. He just hasn't found his interest yet, and there's nothing to take the edge of his symptoms. He had tried dance, but it didn't appeal. So for the time being he has to be content with following Jimmy from competition to competition, which can't be much fun, and teasing him if he loses, which might be more so. It was terribly poignant watching him lurk in Jimmy's shadow like that. I hope it doesn't last for long.
Outnumbered was good, too. The Brockmans were selling their house and last night they had the first viewers. Predictably, it didn't go too well; Pete woke up hopelessly hung over after a work do, and Karen refused to go to school, on the (not unreasonable) grounds that it was Friday 13th. Ben, meanwhile, was doing his best to charm the heavily pregnant viewee. "Our neighbour had a home birth," he told her. "There was so much blood they had to redecorate." Not that any of it mattered, in the end: a pigeon got trapped in the kitchen and put them off buying entirely. Something to do with birds bringing bad luck. Nice touch, that: having a superstition-themed episode on the night of the election.Reuse content