Legal High

As you enter the dread confines of middle age, the likelihood of spending every night in a hallucinogenic stupor gets less and less. I think this is down to a number of factors. Perhaps you’ve lost touch with the sort of chancer who used to help you achieve such a state, and you feel that asking your new best friends (the yummy mummies at the school pickup for example) where you could get a quarter of something mellow might be rather frowned upon. Possibly your career as a top judge/school teacher/shadow home secretary doesn’t really knock along with a class C habit. You might have found that your increasing years needed to kick off a review of your lifestyle, and that you were only going to allow into your body ingredients to feed, rather than addle, your brain.

Whatever your reasoning, it’s quite likely that you miss your decadent years. You might find yourself nodding along to that old joke about the man that goes into the doctors:

“Doctor, I really want to live to be a hundred”

“Certainly, all you need to do is give up drinking, smoking, chasing women, fried food and start exercising twice a day.”

“And if I do, will I live to be a hundred?”

“No, but it will certainly feel like it.”

But, if you’re one of those former hemp-heads, listlessly yearning nostalgically for your more agreeably wasted days, help is at hand, courtesy of the Emu, the blog that always aims to please. All you have to do is tune in to BBC1 at just after 7pm on Saturday evening. For there you will find hallucinogenic treats that you thought you’d left just to the back of your very own Camberwell carrot.

The programme is called “Over the Rainbow”, and features a number of nubile young hopefuls desperate to appear in the latest Andrew Lloyd Webber masterpiece* “The Wizard of Oz”. And if you’re short of time, don’t feel you have to watch it all the way through. But you must, repeat must, watch the last 10 minutes of each show, and you’ll be thankful that you did.

At the end of each episode is a ‘sing-off’, where through some complicated mathematics known only to Graham Norton and the BBC pension fund, two girls are pitted against each other and forced to sing a duet in which one of them will lose and be unceremoniously kicked out of the show. Which they seem to do with good humour, although it must be very tempting to try to distract your competitor during the song with a raised eyebrow, surreptitious cough, or discreet wedgie. Then the panel, which includes a slightly camper version of John Barrowman, keeps one Dorothy and loses another. If in doubt, the casting vote goes to ALW himself. Who appears to be on a throne, and is referred to at all times as ‘The Lord’. I must have missed the news on the day that popular multi-millionaire and plagiarist songwriter ALW became a conservative life peer, as I’m sure I would have remembered such a ringing endorsement of the UK political system. Anyway, the dear girl is booted out, but not before some ringing words of sympathy from ALW (sorry, LAWL), such as “I know you’re going to go far” and “Let’s keep in touch”, words which the girls are bound to hear the next time a well-educated bounder dumps them in real life. And then comes the really good bit. Rather than thanking the panel and LAWL, and offering firm handshakes all round before exiting stage left, our Dorothy is asked to sing for the final time. Which she does, with her (soon to be ex) chums, in front of a pair of 15-foot high sparkling slingbacks. And in a croaking voice, she begins a song which includes a line to the panel which goes “You’ve ditched her so completely”, that her fellow competitors gladly sing along to. Then, for reasons best known to the producers of the show, she takes her own sparkly shoes off and symbolically presents them to LAWL, whose putty-like features have creased further into the vacant stare of the rest home client. And then, she takes a few steps up the stairs to a crescent moon seat, and begins a rousing version of “Somewhere over the Rainbow”. And (this gets even better), as she sings, the seat raises up and over the stage so that she’s singing down at her erstwhile competitors. The camera angle changes at this point and looks down at the wide eyed lovelies, all fighting back the tears, and to the untrained eye, all on the verge of a stirring rendition of “Tomorrow Belongs to Me”. As the latest Dorothy to go blasts out her last note, the crowd goes mad, and there are no doubt nods on the panel and whispers backstage about the latest one being a real trouper. And the very very best bit, far better than anything you could get from a tenner exchange in the back room of the Dog and Duck on a Saturday night, is as the camera pulls back. Because without warning, the crescent moon accelerates at some pace roughly North West (ie into and past the top left of your TV screen), taking Dorothy into the spotlights that you can’t see, and also very possibly into a forgotten oblivion. I believe this is called a metaphor.

You couldn’t make it up and you couldn’t buy a trip like that.

*I am marginally outnumbered in my house in not being a particular fan of ALW. If ever I find myself in a tight corner in trying to put him in his place, I always remind myself of the great Humphrey Lyttleton joke: “History has seen some great musical pairings, from Gilbert and Sullivan to Rodgers and Hammerstein, right through to Andrew Lloyd Webber and his Photocopier”.


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