Wednesday 28 June 2017

I demand a telly divorce

His wife may swoon for Simon Cowell and be desperate for Housewives, but Pat Fitzpatrick only has eyes for Nazis

My weekend has been ruined by The X Factor. A chunk of Saturday- and Sunday-night TV is set aside so that Simon Cowell can tell Ricardo from Coventry that he has nothing to offer nine-year-old girls or gay men.

The show then goes backstage for Xtra Factor so we can learn that being admired by nine-year-old girls and gay men was everything Ricardo ever dreamed of. He has to make do with a hug from Dermot O'Leary.

Like every other woman I know, the wife just loves it. It is three scoops of Haagen-Dazs for her soul. I'm allergic. I can't be in the same room as it. There's no point in asking if we can watch something else. I'll have to sit there pretending to enjoy the so-called highlights of Bolton v Blackpool on Premier Soccer Saturday, while the wife sits next to me, thunder-faced. It's not worth it. We're only married a couple of years, but I'm already thinking about a telly divorce. We need a second TV.

A lot of men I've talked to are going through a telly divorce. The ladies like to watch soaps, The X Factor, Desperate Housewives and Ugly Betty. We don't. When we're not watching sports, Mad Men or Top Gear, there's only one thing on our minds: Nazis. Press the numbers 531 on my Sky remote and there they are. It's called the Military Channel, but that's only because people would get upset if you called it the Nazi Channel.

They say that porn is middle-aged men's dirty little secret, but that's as wrong as opening two fronts in a European land war. We're never more turned on than when we press 531 and settle in for an evening of Panzers, Messerschmitts and obergruppenfuhrers. And boy, do the television executives know it. They could make a piece of rubbish called This Has Nazis In It and we'll tune in and probably buy the box set. The same goes for movies. Forget about Gone With The Wind or Casablanca; it isn't Christmas at my place until I'm tucked up with a box of Quality Street watching the Daddy of all World War Two movies, Where Eagles Dare.

There are two reasons that Irish men of a certain age are obsessed with a bunch of murderous Germans from the last century. First off, I blame the Seventies. West Germany was cool when I was growing up. They won the World Cup. Irish people loved James Last.

Most importantly, the Cold War was in full swing and the West Germans stood between us and the Russians, who always looked very pissed off when we saw them on the telly. In my favourite comic, Warlord, the British secret agent Peter Flint actually helped his German arch-enemy escape the Russians because a chap had to know who his friends were. That kind of stuff leaves a lasting impression.

To add to it, there was an enigmatic German living across the road when I was growing up who we knew spent a lot of time on his shortwave radio. We knew him as The Nazi, in an affectionate kind of way.

We moved beyond comics and learned the truth about the Holocaust. That the German army 'good guys' were up there with the SS when it came to atrocities. And a lot of German civilians knew what was going on, and didn't stop it. I literally couldn't believe it. It was like learning that Gary Glitter was a paedophile. It's so hard to get a read on it that I'm still watching documentaries about them 30 years later.

The second reason for this Nazi obsession is a bit simpler. Inside every man, there is still a little boy with an imaginary machine gun going "Achtung! rat a tat-tat-tat-tat" at our friends. We had to stop doing it in public at around the age of 12 because girls find it irritating, but the impulse to blow away the bad guys is still there. Bottle it up and terrible things start to happen.

This is why a lot of men my age have an Xbox. It's our X Factor. A friend of mine swears by Medal of Honor, where you log on to the internet and shoot Nazis all night with other little boys in their 30s and 40s. This friend would often arrive in to work half asleep after a Nazi-bashing session that ran up to 3am.

No, thanks. It's not that I'd hate shooting Nazis on the internet -- I'd love it too much. So I think I'll go ahead and get a straightforward telly divorce from the wife. It will be a no-fault separation; we'll both be doing our own thing.

And, when we bump into each other in the kitchen during the ads, I know what I'm going to say. "Ah, Frau the Wife, ve meet again."

L

Sunday Independent

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