There was an archaeologist on Jeremy Paxman's Start the Week the other day who, reflecting ruefully on the way archaeology was invading the TV screen, said: "Maybe archaeology is the new gardening."
My new information leaflet on Wiltshire local history is very proud of the way Wiltshire people are taking a new interest in their own county history, and concludes: "Perhaps local history is the new rock'n'roll."
Do I detect a pattern here?
I think I do.
I think that people like to describe a new thing by using an analogy with something not so new.
I think that analogy may be the new cooking.
Or, to put it another way, I think we are all driven to describe a new thing in terms of a familiar thing, for fear that it won't make sense otherwise. That's why cars weren't called cars to begin with, but "horseless carriages". That's why the railway engine was first called "the iron horse".
No matter that, if you come to examine them, most of these descriptions don't make sense. Apart from the fact that they both pulled things, horses and engines had nothing in common at all. Local history has nothing in common with rock'n'roll that I can think of, except maybe that they both happened a long time ago...
When someone says that archaeology may be the new gardening, you think for a moment that there may be a real connection. After all, both activities involve digging, and making a mess, and putting things back in a tidy fashion again... But that wasn't what the man meant at all. He meant that archaeology was in danger of becoming trendy on TV, in the same way that gardening has. And gardening certainly has become trendy on TV. I read the other day that Jane Root, boss of BBC 2, is commissioning lots more gardening programmes, so obviously gardening is the new karaoke.
(Do I really mean that? Is karaoke still popular? Was it ever really popular? Or was karaoke just the new American football, ie something that thought it was going to be popular but never really was? I haven't seen a karaoke night advertised in a local pub for years, not in the same way that quizzes are advertised. Maybe pub quizzes are the new karaoke. Or are they the new community singing? Or the new yoga?)
The other thing that seems to be really popular on daytime TV is interior dÃ©cor. Decorating is the new DIY. Literally, perhaps. In the old days you would switch on a home improvement programme and find a man in overalls called Barry explaining how to construct a transom out of three pieces of wood, but nowadays you switch on and find a chap, probably a man, explaining what colour he would do the walls, and then doing them that heavenly colour.
Of course, after a while all this gets a bit boring, so to ring the changes they started appearing in each other's programmes, and the decoration man would change other people's gardens, and the Chef of the Week would say what colour he would like the walls, and Alan Titchmarsh would plant a new kind of ratatouille in his casserole, and I wouldn't be surprised if at this very moment Jane Root isn't planning a new programme in which a team of archaeologists bursts into somebody's garden which was done over last week by Charlie Dimmock (the new Anneka Rice?) and digs it all up to find the most fascinating fossils and shards, while at the very same time a task force of gardeners has forced its way into Stonehenge and trailed the most lovely fast-growing clematis and honeysuckle all over this hitherto bare rockery...
It's called makeover, I believe. I don't know where the word "makeover" came from, but I swear it wasn't there 10 years ago. Maybe 10 years ago we weren't giving each other quick fixes and cosmetic resprays. Maybe makeovers are the new facelifts. Maybe TV programming is the new cosmetic surgery. Maybe science is the new folk dancing, and Adam Hart-Davis is the new Keith Floyd, and perhaps GM food is the new fox-hunting, and anti-GM food protests are the new CND, and tattooing is the new coiffure, and...
Enough of this ranting. I feel better now, anyway. Who was it said that writing a newspaper column is the new therapy? They had a point.
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By Miles Kington
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