Scene: Open on two women at a watercooler. It’s Monday morning.
Them: What about Line of Duty eh?
Me: What happened? Why did it upset so many people?
Them: Did you not watch it?
Me: No, I haven’t watched any of it.
Them: Well, I won’t tell you.
Me: It’s OK, I’ll never watch it. Why did it disappoint so many people?
Them: But you might.
Me: Really, I won’t.
Them: But you should.
*Retreats online to find out what happened at the end of Line of Duty*
I say watercooler. I’ve never discussed anything around a watercooler in my life – unless it’s asking how to change the water. Then I’m scared and phone someone with skills.
These workplace chats (in the days “before”) tended to be held under unflattering strip lighting in a shared kitchen. Slumped up against a chipped worktop, hoping that no-one has stolen your mug, you patiently await your turn for the kettle.
The smokers, no doubt, would have been huddled in a doorway, remembering the good old days when heaped ashtrays gave an office some character
In an effort to stay away from office gossip, the default position is, “Did you see (insert something of the Zeitgeist here) last night?” If you haven’t, the conversation swiftly moves on to those who have.
You stand aside, tumbleweed replacing your proposed line of chat, and await the click of the kettle that seems to never boil.
Of course, there will be those who have “taped” it as people of my age still say. They will take the fingers-in-the-ears “la la la” stance at that.
The smokers, no doubt, would have been huddled in a doorway, remembering the good old days when heaped ashtrays gave an office some character. That’s what non-smokers think anyway.
Now, of course, in the days of online chats when the quips about everyone looking like Celebrity Squares or The Brady Bunch were funny for a week (and alienated anyone under 40), there’s still the opportunity for a little bit of banter.
Thankfully if someone starts asking about bake-offs, sew-offs, skate-offs, (and all are turn-offs), claim camera failure and have a quick root around the internet to catch up.
In case we meet, the list of cultural behemoths that I can’t talk about at all includes Breaking Bad, The Wire, The Sopranos, Harry Potter (books and films), anything with goblins, celebrities competing to do things and, of course, Line of Duty.
It’s absolutely not cultural snobbery. I can yabber away about Gogglebox, Peter Kay’s Car Share, My 600lb Life, RuPaul’s Drag Race, why Toyah seems to be the favoured talking head for everything from 80s pop hits to nuclear fission.
But when something strides across the cultural landscape in the way that Line of Duty did early this week, I’m back to being the girl who didn’t have Bay City Rollers socks.
To explain, I was of the Bay City Rollers generation as a pre-teen. When you’re the only one in the class wearing plain white socks, without Les and Woody and the others stretched across your teeny shins, then you begin to think that you’re a wee bit different.
It’s not easy feeling like an outsider. Unless you’re a tragic poet and can make a career of it. Then it’s great.
If you will, please tuck your imaginary violin under your chin and prepare your bow. I was never one of the popular girls at school. Too swotty, too quiet, terrible at all games. No brothers and sisters at school to look after me when the more robust girls fancied having some fun at my expense.
The first time I really tried to fit in with the popular girls I was seven. They dared me to shoplift some cherries from a shop near the school (the Challenge in Whitfield, Dundee, if anyone remembers it).
Police on the trail of a master criminal
I was caught, of course, and terrified every Thursday evening when the Grampian TV police report was shown. My tiny imagination pictured an artist’s impression of my wee hamster cheeks and school uniform. My lesson that we shouldn’t do anything to fit in.
As you mature, feeling like an outsider as a teenager can be tough. Even the punks and goths needed to find their tribes, so that they can all be individuals together.
We all find our people at some point. It’s rare that people are complete outsiders for all their lives. We find the people that know you won’t watch something and just tell you what happened.
I might not have Bay City Rollers socks, but I did have ABBA soap on a rope, and I now feel my cultural choices have been vindicated.