Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Breaking News: Blogging Sensation Missy M Calls for Immediate Extermination of Richard Madeley

Tears were streaming down Judy’s face. I put a consoling arm around her shoulder.

‘It’s okay,’ I said. ‘This is for the best.’

‘But why did she have to say such a cruel thing? Doesn’t she know what you’re like? Surely she knew that you’d immediately go out and try it.’

I couldn’t deny that she was right. When Missy M left a comment on my blog and mentioned that I’d have to be dead before I’d be recognised as a great blogger, I could see there was only one thing I could do. I’d brought the step ladders up from the basement and found a good strong length of hemp rope in the garage. I’d been busily setting these up in the hallway when Judy came back from the hairdressers.

‘What are you doing, Richard?’ she asked.

‘Hanging myself,’ I replied, busy with the noose.

She laughed, I think expecting me to finish the joke. Only this was no joke. I explained about Missy M’s comment and the reasons why I thought it best not to go on with my life.

‘I’m cashing in now while my credit’s still good,’ I explained. ‘These Stephen Fry episodes might never be bettered. I think I’ve reached the peak of my creativity. I better end it all now.’

‘But what about the show?’ asked Judy, obviously thinking about herself.

‘You an always get David Dickinson,’ I said. ‘You know you’ve been itching to get him on the sofa. It’s be the Judy & David show from now on. And people will be left to remember me as the blogger who put Proust to shame with his productivity.’

‘Proust? You’re not setting yourself any high goals.’

‘And why should I? That business with Stephen Fry has taught me well.’

‘Oh, that reminds me. Has he woken up yet?’

‘Still sleeping,’ I said, getting back to the job of putting thirteen twists in the noose. ‘To be honest, Jude, that’s why I’m thinking of doing myself in now. Before he wakes up.’

‘You’re still worried where he’s going to stick that hat?’ She nodded. ‘I understand. Perhaps you want some help kicking the step ladders away.’

I climbed down and looked at the old girl. She was taking it a bit too lightly.

‘You don’t think I’m going to do this, do you?’ I asked.

‘Oh, of course I don’t.’

‘But I am.’

‘You’re not.’

‘I am,’ I said and as if to prove the point I hung the noose around my neck. ‘It’s okay,’ I said. ‘This is for the best.’ That's when Judy started to cry.

I was just about to began the slow walk up the stepladders when I heard the sound of somebody whistling Wagner. That's when Stephen Fry emerged from the back of the house.

‘My, my,’ he said. ‘I seem to have intruded on a rightly odd moment of married bliss. Hanging yourself again, Richard? Thought you’d given that up with the vasectomy.’

I explained to him about Missy M’s message and he listened with unusual good humour for a man who had earlier threatened to give me a rectal examination via my old ocelot hat.

‘Oh you silly thing,’ said Stephen. ‘Take that blessed noose from your neck and consider no more this idle speculation about your greatness. You are great now, Dicky. You are greater, almost but not actually, than I. Think no more about your readers. Know only that I read you.’

‘I thought you were going to give him his hat back,’ said Judy, wiping away the tears. ‘I thought you were angry with him.’

‘A sleep perchance to dream, ay there’s the rub,’ said Stephen, cryptically. ‘No, my temper has waned and I feel better off without those silly Americans. I fancy something to eat. You don’t mind if I use your kitchen. Shall I make omelettes for three.’

‘Cheese omelettes?’ I asked.

He patted me on my shoulder. ‘The sweetest cheese omelettes you’ll taste on this side of a knotted piece of rope and a stepladder.’

How Stephen Fry Returned His Ocelot Hat

‘Curmudgeonly’ is a word that slips off the tongue like a half-battered eel. Not an attractive image, I grant you, but reassuring once you realise there are very few times in you life when you will get to say the word.

‘Curmudgeonly,’ I said to Judy as she tried to close the oven door on a meat pie that still harboured dreams of the great outdoors, if not seeing its family again.

‘What?’ she asked, heaving at the handle as something brown and cloven prodded out the grill.

‘I said “Curmudgeonly”. Not a word I find myself saying very often but I have to admit that it’s most appropriate for yon Stephen Fry who visited us just the other day to install an IBM blade whatnot with giggly bits of drives. I’ve just had a text message from him. He’s on his way over.’

She took a knife from the rack and took a slice from the leg which recoiled back into the oven where it no doubt began to nurse schemes of vengeance.

‘On his way over? I thought he was in America. What does he say?’

‘That’s just it. His message is on the brief side of brusque, hence my choice of the word curmudgeonly. Hard to remember the last time I had a more curmudgeonly text message than this.’

The oven stopped struggling as Judy turned up the gas. Something wet and meaty gave a loud pop deep in the oven’s innards and Judy patted the hob in triumph.

‘Now, let me have a look,’ she said, slipping my Nokia between her bloody fingers. She winced as she read the words. ‘That’s not very polite,’ she said. ‘I thought he was supposed to be a man of letters.’

‘As I said, it’s quite…’

She raised a finger and wagged it one way and then t’other. ‘Don’t,’ she warned.

‘Don’t what?’

‘Don’t use that word again. Richard, you’re always the same when you discover a new word. You want to impress people with it and then you over use it.’

‘I do not!’ I protested.

She stood, tapping the mobile on her hip, her tongue pushed to the side of her mouth. ‘Saturnine,’ she said.


‘You don’t remember the week we had when everything was saturnine? The milkman’s a bit saturnine this morning, Judy. Do I look saturnine in these pants? How about spending the evening with a bottle of wine and a saturnine film?’

‘You were saying about the text message,’ I prompted, preferring not to discuss my shortcomings when I knew I’d have to repeat the conversation on this blog. ‘What do you think I should I do?’

‘What can you do but wait for Stephen’s arrival?’

‘Well, okay, I’ll acquiesce to your quite noetic proposition but, I confess, Judy, it’s making me feel somewhat saturnine.’

Scowling, Judy threw the phone back to me. ‘I’ll be in the garden,’ she said. ‘Come and get me when he arrives.’

And arrive he certainly did. Ten minutes to one, a taxi pulled up outside the front gate and a tall figure climbed out. I knew it was Stephen at once. He was dressed in a turquoise smoking jacket and matching hat.

‘Turned back at American customs!’ he raged as he walked up the path to the front door. I stood waiting for him with a hand outstretched but without pause or welcome, he just strode into the hall and then through to the living room where Judy was arranging the cushions ready for the great man’s arrival.

‘Do you know how unedifying it is to be handled by men who have never read a word of Swift, who fail to appreciate the magisterial utterings of Browning, and described Shakespeare as a “fag in pantaloons”?’ His arm shot out and grabbed the closest thing to hand. It was my Ambre Solaire award for Skincare Excellence. Not that Stephen gave it any mind. He simply threw it to the floor, declaring: ‘Casting pearls to swine. Pearls to swine…’

I grabbed him before he could do any more damage. ‘It might well be pearls to swine, mate, but that took me six months of hydrating skin treatment to win that award.’

He looked at me as though I were a rectangle. ‘I beg your pardon? Do you have any idea of the hell I’ve just escaped?’ I signalled Judy to grab a bottle and pour Stephen a drink as he continued his rant. ‘I was supposed to film my trip across America in my vintage 1975 London hackney carriage. Instead, I’m questioned by customs officials for ten hours. Ten hours! And do you wonder why? Do you wonder why Mr. Rick and his friend Denzel decided to question a man who has read the whole of Paradise Lost no less than forty seven times? Do you wonder what they asked me for ten whole hours. Do you have any idea what we were discussing for those six hundred minutes, those thirty six thousand seconds?’

‘That you’re muslim?’ I offered, knowing that the US customs are a bit tricky when it comes to the subject of eastern divinity.

‘Muslim!’ screamed Fry.

‘Well,’ I said, nodding to his smoking hat, ‘you do look a bit odd wearing that.’

‘Odd? Well how odd do you think I’d have looked if I’d worn ocelot? How’s that for a saucy word? Ocelot! Oh, have thirty six million milliseconds ever felt so long?’

He grabbed the glass from Judy’s hand and gave it some neck. When he’d finished he stood rooted on the spot and quoted Auden for five minutes. I took the chance to reflect on his words. Not the poetry, which if you ask me is much over rated and would never got in our book club, but this word ‘ocelot’. After my five minutes were up, I realised that would take a greater mind than mine to wring the meaning out of the word ‘ocelot’.

‘You’re being very curmudgeonly,’ I told him as his vision cleared and his recital ended. Judy winced at the word but I just pushed her to one side. ‘Stephen, can’t you just tell us what this is all about?’

He looked at me over his spectacles. ‘American customs threw me out of the country because you had given me a hat made from osalot. Do you hear me, Richard? Ocelot, ocelot, ocelot.’ He said that three times, which I believe if you check, make it nine accounts of ocelot. That’s really quite a lot of ocelot. Some might even say too much. ‘Now,’ he continued, a little calmer. ‘Stephen has not slept for thirty six hours and he wonders if it possible, if not vital, if not the very least you can do for him, to give him a fair sized bed and a few hours of peaceful seclusion in this fine Madeley residence?’

Judy was shaking her head but what could I say? I pointed him towards the guest wing of house.

‘You’re so kind,’ he said handing Judy the glass and making with the finger to top it up. ‘And after a sleep, we will discuss the matter of a certain hat.’

‘What is there to discuss?’ I asked. ‘I made you a gift. You can’t return gifts.’

‘I’m not going to give it back,’ said Stephen coolly, taking his glass. ‘I merely want to discuss with you which of your numerous and, I’m sure you don’t mind my saying, impressively proportioned orifices you would like me to insert my ocelot hat. The hat will still be mine and your orifice will still be so uniquely your own.’

And with that, Stephen strode from the room while I began the usual routine of trying to rouse Judy who, with typical inconsideration, had fallen into a dead faint across the rug. She always does that when a man has bags to pack and there are South American countries to which he must flee.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

When I Gave Stephen Fry My Ocelot Hat

Some people would let you believe that being a Man-God means that your days are filled with nothing heavier than sunlight and feathers. They might also tell you that there are no dips or bends in the road leading the chap you know as Richard Madeley to greatness and his place in the pantheon of talk show hosts. And yet how wrong those people would be. In fact, a scoff would have frothed on my lips the moment they tried to mention as much to me this weekend.

I knew it was going to be a bad Sunday when I came down stairs and found Judy holding my favourite winter hat.

‘You told me you were getting rid of this thing,’ she said, a bit heavyweight in tone and insinuation. ‘Didn’t you say you were going to send it as a thank you to Chip Dale?’

‘And so I was,’ I answered, snatching the fur from her hands. ‘But then I began to wonder if Wales’ top male stripper would really appreciate a hat of this quality. And then I began remember the wonderful holiday we had in Utah. How could you expect me to throw away a hat that reminds me of our greatest adventure?’

‘Richard,’ she gasped, ‘if Channel 4 ever find out you have one of these things, they’ll fire you. And you know that where Richard goes, so does Judy...’

I shrugged. After all, what is a highly paid job on Channel 4 compared with the memories of a holiday to Utah when a man got involved in thirteen polygamous marriages and bought himself an ocelot hat?

Yet Judy’s greeting flavoured my mood for the whole of Sunday, even if life really needed no reason to keep piling on the agony. I was already feeling down after another spending Saturday afternoon watching increasingly few visitors stop by at my blog. It was why I had gone to bed on Sunday determined to consult the oracle of all things technological.

Actually, scrub that last line and also excuse the little white lie I’ve just told. It was Judy who made the call. She’s a great believer in using our wide network of friends whenever we’re in a spot of trouble. How else, do you think, did Elkie Brooks find herself in our attic on Sunday afternoon, helping Judy lay extra insulation ahead of winter?

I left them to get on with it. I’m one of those men who firmly believe that we progressive husbands shouldn’t stand in the way of working women. I’d much rather stand behind them, seated if possible, while having a good lie down. And, by a remarkable coincidence, that was exactly the horizontal angle to which I’d reclined myself around three o’clock. It wasn’t long before I dozed off to the sound of Judy screaming at Elkie about the right way to lay fibreglass from gable end to gable end. Judy is such a stickler when it comes to her lagging.

I must have only nodded for a few minutes. I had barely got going with my usual dream about the buxom makeup woman when I was awoke by the rather refined breaking of a cough. Then there was a beautifully plummy voice like somebody was dropping badgers into a still mountain lake.

‘So you’ve still got problems with your blog?’ it said.

I elbowed my eyelids open and saw the tall dark figure of a man looming above me in the direct light of the sun. At first I thought I could sniff a hint of mortality in the baggy drop of his suit and I nearly jumped for my life or, if I couldn’t reach that, a bloody big stick. Yet I noticed almost at once that this huge man was a bit light in scythes. I sighed in relief. In fact, if you’re in the mood, you might say that I scythed myself a wide swath of sighs. Sighs were in such abundance in those days.

‘I hate to see a blog going bad,’ the man added, ‘but I understand it has got beyond bad and is now on the downward slope towards a disaster.’

‘Yes, yes,’ I replied, trying to shield my eyes and make out the face. ‘My blog, bloody useless. Nobody reads it.’

‘Fear not,’ he said. ‘That was explained to me by that dear parcel of blessings known as Judy. And, if I may be so bold, I am here to proffer a solution. You need to be running Red Hat Linux on its own IBM blade centre with a suitably fat pipe. This, I take it, is not what those fine but somewhat lazy gentlemen of your internet service providing company have given you?’

I blinked. I couldn’t follow a word the man was saying. But then he moved and sat down in the other lounger. The light rushed to illuminate the more fully featured side of his face.

‘Oh, so it is you,’ I said, relief unknotting the tension in my Stay-Smooth® brow.

Stephen Fry readjusted his large black cape and threw aside the battle scarred hat that I know that he nicked from the wardrobe department on Wilde. He smiled at me as he went about removing his brown leather driving gloves, one finger at a time, before making a show of transferring a roll of five pound notes into his waistcoat pocket.

‘Do you know how many fares I picked up in my cab by just driving up here?’ he asked. ‘I could retire and live the life of Ben Elton if I made this run once a week. Pays a hell of a lot more than The Telegraph. Almost makes me feel as flush as a Branagh.’

‘I don’t know about flush,’ I told him, ‘but you looked positively Satanic when you were stood above me like that. What on earth are doing coming scaring a man during his Sunday afternoon nap? I might have thought you were Michael Grade and given you a nine iron in the keister.’

Stephen chuckled, probably knowing what a keister is, even if I don’t. He’s lexically gifted that way. Not sure if he knows much about golf and nine irons though.

Judy rang me on my iPhone this morning,’ explained Stephen. ‘I understand that she read the whimsical little piece I wrote about technology for Saturday’s Guardian.’

‘So she told you everything?’ I asked.

‘Almost,’ he said. ‘The battery died before she could finish. Bloody good piece of kit, the iPhone, but only lasts ten minutes per charge. It lasts even less than that if I turn the screen on. And don’t even ask me about its inability to run Java applications. But this is mere fluff compared the great belly button of a problem we have yet to explore. If you will allow me to put it like this: Judy thought I might shuffle over here, dock with the Madeley USB port rated to the 2.0 standard, and run a quick diagnostic over your blogging protocols. Are you a Bloggerphile or an aficionado of Wordpress’s lovely designed back end?’

‘I didn’t know you blogged,’ I said, preferring not to answer any question about back ends. Instead I poured myself some tea from the freshly brewed pot. Stephen sniffed the air.

‘Twinings?’ he asked.

‘Is there any other?’

He smiled and laid a reassuring hand on my wrist as he took his cup of the lemon grass. ‘Good boy,’ he said. ‘And of course I blog. My new blog has a grand total of three entries or “blessays”, as I like to call them...’

‘Pfft,’ I scoffed. ‘Three? I’ve written eighty one. Eighty one pieces of Madeley magic. That’s almost enough for a book.’

He looked impressed and played a whistle on his lips. ‘Eighty one? Imagine that. And how many comments has it received?’

‘At a guesstimate,’ I said, ‘I should say at least a few dozen.’

He smiled. ‘Of course, my posts are longish entries. Each one is big enough to fill a book. I suppose that’s why each of them already have…’ He looked over the edge of the cup. ‘Three hundred comments.’

Some hot landed on my crotch. ‘Three hundred!’ I screamed as the air filled with the sweet aroma of lemon grass and scalded flesh. The worst pain was in my head. Three hundred comments on a blog that only had three entries!

‘Give or take a few dozen pingbacks,’ he smiled and sipped some more of his tea.

I was in no mood to sit sipping tea, even it is was Twinings. Not when such impressive figures came so easily to the man’s lips.

‘Well, how do I get myself a fat pipe?’ I asked. ‘I have a bit of old plastic tubing in the shed…’

Stephen waved me down and chuckled like a kind uncle with the key to my aunt’s knicker drawer. ‘I need none of your saucy tubing,’ he said. ‘You leave me to do my work and I’ll have this house sucking in more juice than Andy Murray during a five setter against the Williams sisters.’

I handed him my keys and my credit card. ‘Whatever the job requires, Stephen, just make sure you clear any structural alterations with Judy.’

Has there ever been a kinder man than Stephen Fry? He spent the whole of his Sunday running cables around the house, building what he called his ‘dear, sweat, and ever so accommodating server’. He’s converted the children’s old nursery into a computer room which, as promised, is a hot hub. I’ve already seen a few bats getting a bit confused when they get near the house. I don’t know why the wifi signal should affect them but I saw a pair of them acting out ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ on the washing line. It almost had the same effect on me. A wall of heat crumbled and fell on me as soon as I opened the door to the old nursery.

‘Well, what do you think?’ asked Stephen, wet with sweat and stripped down to his gentleman’s red flannel union suit. ‘You’ve got the most powerful SQL server that money can buy.’

‘So my visitor numbers will shoot up?’

He hesitated. ‘Well, no. Not exactly. Unless you begin to write with a little flare, your numbers will remain the same. But, when you do get a visitor, they won’t have to wait a second for your blog to be served to them. Intel Xeon processors, a terabyte of Raid storage. You’ll be the envy of Channel 4.’

He picked up his cape and tied it around his neck.

‘I’m off,’ he said. ‘Flying to America where I’m touring the country in my taxi.’

‘And you’re going dressed like that?’ I tapped him on his shoulder and rushed out of the room.

‘Is that what I think it is?’ he asked when I returned moments later.

‘A genuine ocelot hat, just like ocelots wear.’

I swear that a tear came to the man’s eye. ‘Richard,’ he said, placing the hat on that great dome of a head as perfect as something by Wren. ‘I’d kiss you and say that you are a saint among bloggers. Only you’d need readers before I could call you that. Toodle pip!’

Friday, 26 October 2007

The Message And The Massage

Just when you think your week is heading for an insignificant end, something unexpected happens. Yesterday morning, fresh from my shave, though still feeling slightly light-headed from the wound my Mach-3 had inflicted on my jugular, I received a nice email of support from a totally unique quarter. And there were some wise words too. It was from my friend and fellow blogger, Chip Dale, who had written to suggest that half of my problems might be attributed to tension.

‘Come on Dick,’ wrote Chip, ‘why don’t you get yourself a massage, slip on a thong and sip champagne from Judy’s slipper?’

The dear man. Whenever heaven breaths a hush, I’m sure his name is mentioned. Consider. Here is a man handicapped by a terrible affliction. He bears more than a passing resemblance to Liberal Democrat M.P. Lembit Opik. He also makes his livelihood in the seedy world of Welsh stripping and lives for his thong collection and his slightly psychotic Romanian Cheeky Girl. Yet he can still take time out of his busy day to send me advice. It’s a shame that I had to email him back in order to tell him that two of his suggestions were out of the question from the off.

I just don’t wear thongs. If the truth be told, I actually wear very little. I hate the thought of being caught with VPL (or ‘visible panty line’ as it’s known in TV land) so I always ‘go commando’ unless it’s really cold and then I wear my long-johns. As for drinking from Judy’s slippers, they’re a bit ragged and have a hole where her big toe sticks through. I wouldn’t advise anybody to put them within arm’s length of their nose unless their arm is the length of the M11. I often tell her that she needs to buy a new pair but she says that Barry Manilow bought them for her before ‘he turned weird’ and that makes them ‘lucky’.

I suppose Chip would have good advice on that subject too. He was certainly right about my needing a massage. For the first time, I’m beginning to understand why some people still think that I’m Chip and that Chip is me. To Chip’s credit, he writes a good blog but it would take a staggering intellect to write both of them each day. After all, it takes a towering intellect to write mine alone.

‘Chip Dale says I need a massage,’ I told Judy as we sat down for breakfast.

‘Chip who?’ she asked.

‘Dale,’ I said, mopping up a sudden spurt of blood from my neck. ‘He’s a blogger.’

‘Oh,’ replied Judy, absent with her toast and the Radio Times. ‘I thought I recognised his name.’

‘Funny,’ I said, pressing a slice of white to my wound. ‘I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned him to you before.’

‘Oh,’ she said. ‘Perhaps the name just rings a bell.’

I looked at her with the Madeley brows in attack formation. ‘He’s a male stripper from Wales,’ I said.

Her masticating ceased. A crumb on her lip seem to pause, consider the canyon of her cleavage, and then jump into it head first. What a way to go!

‘A stripper?’ she asked.

I thought I detected a slight blush.

‘You surely don’t know him professionally?’ I asked, preparing to take careful note of her reply.

She returned to her toast and dipped it into her egg. ‘Perhaps I do,’ she said, apparently indifferent to the thought of being caught ogling men who reveal themselves for money. ‘Does he smell of pineapples?’

That was all the clues I needed. I’ve read Chip’s Diary enough to know that he does indeed smell of pineapples. Sometimes I think he smells of nothing else.

‘That’s it!’ I said, casting aside my bread bandage and snatching up the car keys.

‘That’s what?’

‘You’ve been looking at naked men.’

‘I’ve seen you naked enough times,’ sniffed Judy.

‘That’s hardly significant.’

A look of hard undiluted spite narrowed in her eyes. ‘That’s what I thought too.’

If you know me at all, you know that I don’t take kindly to that sort of remark. It’s like the time she was always bringing up the subject of my vasectomy at the most inappropriate times. We once had a boy scout on the show, taking about his merit badge for knots, and asked him if he could tie a sheepshank in a short piece of string. Everybody knew what she meant except the poor boy who boasted that he thought a clove hitch would be better.

‘I’m going before I say something I regret,’ I told her. Already I was at the front door which I intended to slam. ‘I’m going for a massage and I don’t know when I’ll be back!’

Slam duly completed, I took the Range Rover and headed straight into the city, my mood gradually lightened by the CD of brass band music I always keep in the car for moments like that. As the miles passed by, the bounce of Colonel Bogey played by the Household Cavalry Band was beginning to work its magic on me. I knew that a massage would put an end to my worries and that I would return to Judy a much more tolerant man.

If you are wondering if I felt any shame about visiting a massage parlour, I should explain that massage parlours are much misunderstood. I happen know a well run little establishment which give full authentic Korean massages and is nothing like those other sorts of establishment you have to be so bloody careful to avoid when picking out a place for a good back rub. I’ve known friends to go in to those places to have their tennis elbows massaged only to come out with a Polish bride and a .45 slug in their kneecap.

‘Ah, Mr. Madeley,’ said Hector, who sits behind the counter at Hungs.

‘How are things, Hector?’ I asked. ‘Business good?’

‘Business is excellent,’ he said as he came around the desk to greet me. ‘We’re doing quite well.’

‘So I suppose that makes you quite well Hungs,’ I replied.

He looked at me like I was a vacant parking lot. He never laughs. ‘You want massage, Mr. Madeley?’

‘I do indeed, Hector. I want the most bruising back rub you have to offer. The tension in my shoulders is enough to make a walnut crack.’

‘Ah,’ he said, nodding. ‘Then you want to see Madam Hwang. She’s new in the country. Just arrived from Korea.’

‘That sounds excellent,’ I said. ‘I’m in the mood for the authentic massage techniques of the Republic of South Korea.’

He handed me my towel and guided me into the changing room. ‘Not South Korea,’ he said as I stepped inside. ‘North Korea. Madam Hwang is from the north.’ With that he closed the door and left me to the sound of my heartbeat.

I don’t know how long it should take for a man to change into a towel but it took me longer. Much longer. When I came out of the cubicle, Hector looked up at me as though he’d forgotten all about me.

‘Ah, Madam Hwang!’ he said, as if in reminder. He pointed to the stairs. ‘First door.’

The steps creaked, my bones cracked, and the sound of something sinewy being wrenched came from one of the other rooms. I looked back at Hwang. ‘Don’t you worry,’ he said. ‘That only man with tennis elbow. First room.’

I heard somebody laugh. It sounded faintly Polish. I didn’t wait around to hear if the elbow was going to be followed by a kneecapping. I tapped on the door.

It opened and I found myself facing a chest that could suckle a gorilla. Madam Hwang was not your average North Korean, who tend to be small people, of very delicate ways and a wonderfully warm demeanour despite the years of brutal hardship they’ve suffered under the bastard Kim Yong-il. Nor did she look like she’d suffered from years of oppressive anything. I wouldn’t have been at all surprised if her escape to the West hadn’t been arranged at the highest level of the North Korean military keep to protect the rice harvest. I’ve known smaller sumo.

‘Richard!’ she gasped and slapped her hands together. ‘I know you! I see show! Come in, come in. You lie down. I will make you well. You got bad back? I can tell. Madam Hwang always can tell. You lie down. I fix you.’

I shivered in a way I haven’t shivered since a child about to undergo a school medical. I don’t know what it was; a failure of nerve or a sudden awareness of the distance from Judy and home. I just froze, standing there in the middle of the room wearing nothing but my towel.

Madam Hwang tutted. ‘Come on. No shy,’ she said. And with that, she grabbed the end of the towel and ripped it from me. I must have done a dozen turns before I stopped spinning. Dizzy, I didn’t know where I was until a pair of hands grabbed me by my thighs, turned me upside down and threw me onto the massage table.

How do I describe agony? Let me count the ways… Madame Hwang’s elbow did something to my spine that robbed the feeling from my legs. She then did something to my legs which robbed the feeling from my head. When she grabbed my neck, the light bulbs flickered. This went on for nearly an hour. There were oils rubbed into bones, fingers drilling into tissue. You’ve heard of bamboo shoots placed up men’s fingernails as a means of torture? Well this was worse. When I was in the most compromising position possible, she pulls out a proper length of bamboo, hollowed out into a tube.

‘What’s that,’ I said, through numb lips and with an even number tongue.

‘Colonic,’ she grinned, ‘the old fashioned way!’

I really find it hard to go on describing this. The woman had lungs on her that, I swear, could suck mud up a trombone. The whole thing lasted nearly two hours and by the time she’d finished, I must have been half a stone lighter and a considerable number of inches taller. I had to bow my head when going out of the room just to get through the door I’d early walked through with inches to spare.

When I got home, Judy looked up from her rowing machine and winced.

‘What happened to you?’ she asked, soft, warm, unsophisticated. Just like the Judy I love and cherish.

‘Chip Dale said I should have massage so I had a massage,’ I said as I slumped down in a chair. ‘North Korean masseur. Big hands. Bigger fingers.’

‘But you look so different,’ she said. ‘You seem taller. And much thinner. And what did she do to your hair?’

‘She did nothing to my hair,’ I said, running fingers through my pristine locks.

Her lips pursed in that way she has when she thinks she knows better.

I struggled to my feet and looked at myself in one of the many mirrors I keep dotted around the place in case of I need to do an emergency brush of my fringe.

‘My god,’ I wept as I saw myself. ‘What’s happened to my hair? It’s white.’

Judy just grabbed her oars and started to row. ‘It was only a matter of time, Richard,’ she said, as cruel as some barbarian slave at the oars of a Roman galleon. ‘You can’t keep living in the fast with your Korean massages and dreams of owning your own midget football team. I’ll get you some Grecian 2000 this afternoon and you might remember this the next time you accuse me of looking at other men.’ She tutted. ‘Chip Dale. He might be bigger, stronger, smoother, oilier, and Welsh, but you, my dear Richard, have him beat in other ways.’

‘And what are those?’ I asked, finally defeated.

I never did get an answer. I don’t know how she did it, but Judy began to row a little faster and she started to pull away. Soon she had turned the corner in the hallway and, with a final wave, she disappeared towards the back of the house where the kitchen meets open water.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Judy's Onions

I found a large sack on onions on the kitchen table this morning. It seems that Judy has been chatting with out local farmer and has decided that there’s going to be a regular ‘Judy Makes’ segment on the show. She’s been trying to perfect her mother’s recipe for onion soup and intends to make it on the first show of the new series.

‘That’s a brilliant idea,’ I told her as I poured myself a coffee. ‘Excellent work. Don’t know why we hire so many researchers when we’ve already got brilliance on the Madeley premises.’

She blushed. ‘It’s just something I’ve been thinking of doing for a while.’

I waited to allow my congratulations to sink in. She suddenly paled.

‘Oh no,’ she said.

I held up my hands. ‘You know the deal, Judy. If you get your own segment to do what you want, then I get a segment to do what I want. It’s written in both contracts, TV and marriage.’

She began to tremble as she man to fondle a large onion. ‘So what will you do?’

I pushed my hands into my pockets and walked to the kitchen window. The garden looked wonderful, touched by winter frost and the sunshine and all…

‘I’ve been thinking a lot about little people,’ I said.

‘Little people?’

‘Yes,’ I said. ‘You know... Like midgets.’

She dropped an onion and, together, we watched it roll across the kitchen floor.

‘Midgets,’ I said again and walked from the room.

Half an hour later, I had a phone call from the producer on holiday in South Africa.

‘What’s this I hear about midgets?’ she asked. ‘You do know that it’s not the politically correct term.’

‘Have you heard about Judy’s plans for her onions?’ I calmly replied.

‘Her onions are gone,’ said the producer. ‘I’ll tell her than Channel 4 have a no onion policy before seven o’clock at night. The onions are history.’

‘Well so are my midgets.’

She rang off.

After I’d finished reading the paper, I wandered back into the kitchen where I found Judy crying.

‘Don’t be like that,’ I said. ‘You know this is a team. We can’t go off doing things on our own. People need to think we’re joined at the hip.’

‘I’m not crying at that,’ she said. ‘I’ve rubbed onion into my eyes.’

I wrapped my arm around her and gave her a good squeeze. ‘Now do you see why I had to act.’

‘I suppose,’ she smiled.

‘And that’s why I always have the better ideas,’ I added to make sure I'd made my point.

‘What do you mean?’ she sniffled.

‘Well,’ I said, giving her a hug, ‘when have you ever been made to cry because you’ve stripped a midget?’

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

The Man With The Advice

The decline in this blog’s readership continues apace. Barely had the letter of complaint from the Tunisian High Commissioner crossed my desk than Judy informed me that a man had arrived to turn off our internet supply.

‘We’ve paid our bills, haven’t we?’ I asked the leisurely end of a pair of overalls sticking out from the cupboard beneath the stairs where the cable modem is hidden.

‘Don’t much matter,’ said the man. ‘We’re trying to reduce the overheads on our system by removing the low users. We’re beginning with the lowest and then working our way up to the moderates.’

‘Disconnecting many are you?’ I asked.

‘Don’t know,’ he replied. ‘You’re the first I’ve done. It means you must be the lowest user of the internet in the whole of the South East. Quite a feat. You mustn’t do much downloading.’

‘That might be true but I can’t be a low user,’ I said. ‘I write a blog!’

He appeared from the doorway. A thin moustache, gaunt face, sallow eyes, hair in black enamel. Think John Waters in overalls. ‘A blog?’ he asked.

‘The Richard Madeley Appreciation Society,’ I explained. ‘It’s big with the homeless and African polygamists.’

‘Oh, I’ve heard of you,’ he smiled, his cracked teeth appearing darker their tobacco stained cavity. ‘They were talking about you back at head office. You’re the big star of TV who can’t buy readership.’

‘Really?’ asked Judy. I hadn’t noticed her standing at the back of the room, otherwise I wouldn’t have mentioned my blog. She doesn’t know about the trouble I’ve been having. ‘You told me that there were thousands reading you,’ she said. ‘I thought you were bigger than Big Iain Dale or Devilish Kitchen Cabinet.’

‘Thousands?’ laughed the engineer. ‘From what I hear, he can’t get dozens. What was it yesterday? Twenty six? Twenty seven? ’

I shrugged. ‘It was actually twenty eight,’ I said. ‘But three of those were by the same person looking for information on Trevor Macdonald and the Jehovah Witnesses.’

Before any of you complain, I know I shouldn’t have been so blasé about the Witnesses. Nor should I have been so blasé when Judy fainted.

‘Don’t worry,’ I said to the engineer. ‘She always does that.’

‘Tits,’ said the man with a wink.

‘I beg your pardon?’

‘You need more tits.’

I looked down at my chest, a little confused.

‘Breasts,’ he said when it was apparent I didn’t follow his meaning. ‘Ladies with no clothes on? You need nubile young wenches with a preference for flimsy t-shirts, washing cars, and bad nozzles on hosepipes. Oh, Lor! Look what’s happened! You can see through my shirt. So you can. That sort of thing.’

‘Do I?’

He stroked his thin moustache and perched himself next to the vacuum cleaner. It was a seedy look, as if he had plans for poor little Henry’s dust bag. ‘If you want the hits, you need the tits,’ he smiled.

‘Are you saying that in order to become popular, I need to post…’

‘Pornography,’ he nodded. ‘Works for all the big blogs.’

‘I’m sure that’s not true.’

He crawled out from under the staircase. ‘Listen,’ he said, ‘I’m leaving you with a connection so you can look into this. And if you don’t want to post porn, then post pictures of traffic accidents, or people falling over. But if you’re asking me, the solution to all of your problems lies with tits.’

I couldn’t ask any more because that’s when Judy started to come around. I also thought I’d better move her away from where she’d fallen in the fireplace. She started to come round as I extinguished the smoke coming from her right ear, otherwise she was only slightly singed.

The subject of tits did worry me, though. Later in the day, I thought I’d expore the engineer’s advice. I rang up my old friend Peter Stringfellow, who knows everything you need to know about that sort of thing. The poor man only looks so old because he spends so much of his time worrying about the well being of so many young ladies.

‘Look, Pete, I need some buxom young ladies for my blog,’ I said.

‘When do you need them?’

I looked at my watch. ‘How about eight o’clock tonight? Judy’s off to the cinema to watch something French. I’ll have the house to myself.’

Stringfellow’s hearing aid whined as he turned up the interrogation. ‘What you going to do with them?’ he asked.

‘I thought I’d photograph them in the nude, get them to fill in questionnaires, and then stick them in a taxi with the fare home.’

‘And Judy knows nothing about this?’

I then explained about the need for material for my blog and my pitifully low readership.

‘Twenty eight people?’ He laughs like partially stunned roadkill. ‘You must work hard to drive them away. But whatever you’re doing, I’m not lending you any of my girls. They’ll come back stinking of failure.’

Later that night, as we lay in bed, I put down my copy of Anne Enright’s The Gathering and I turned to Judy who is still trying to get through last year’s book club selection.

‘Do you remember than incident at that awards ceremony when you had your little accident with your top and I helped to tuck you away?’

Judy went pale.

‘Only, I was wondering if you have any pictures that I could post on my…’

I slept the rest of the night in the tool shed with a copy of ‘Salmon Fishing In The Yemen’ lodged nine inches beneath me. Later today, I’m going to see if Dr. Raj can remove it, but it’s from the shed that I’m writing this report.

Which explains today’s top tool shed facts. Did you know that the contents of the Madeley shed include one lawnmower, three spades, a fork, fertilizer, weed killer, a bucket (with hole), a bucket (without hole), a bucket with a brown liquid in the bottom, a bucket with a charity sticker on the side? Conclusion: we are a family of many buckets. In fact, more buckets than I have readers. Which remains, I think you agree, a perilous state of affairs.

Monday, 22 October 2007

The Tunisian Weekend

You have to forgive me if I’m looking a little ragged around the edges this morning. We’re just back from a whistle stop holiday in Tunisia. And can I just say what a wonderful nation it is. Such colour, such weather, and a nation full of wonderful customs, cuisine, and culture. The only thing that let it down was those damn Tunisians and their inability to understand English. They want to speak nothing but French or Arabic, which you might think suits a man who works on Channel 4. But it doesn’t. There wasn’t a single shop selling subtitles. Judy suggested that we buy one of those remote controls to change audio track but we were sorely let down by the absence of a Dixons on the Tunisian high street. There wasn’t even a Boots.

After struggling to get to our hotel, we decided to do things the old fashioned way, by paying a local to translate everything for us. Only not being used to having a translator, I soon got into some difficulty because I didn’t know who was speaking or what was being translated. Our translator would start chatting to us and I’d think he’s talking to me when, in fact, he was merely translating something somebody else had said to him. I didn’t know who to look at, whose hand to shake, or, at one point, which end of the donkey to give the carrot. I soon realised that the problem lay in our translator looking too much like the locals and I solved this problem by putting a paper bag on his head. We spent the whole weekend in Tunisia being trailed around by a man wearing a brown paper bag, translating everything we heard.

In the end it was a good bit of business. We managed to do our piece for the Holiday Programme before we jetted home again late last night, and landed in Heathrow around midnight. To say things have been a bit hectic is an understatement. The last thing we needed was more trouble.

This morning we were back to our usual routine with a shopping trip to the supermarket. We were walking around our local Tesco, when Judy suddenly nudged me.

‘Richard,’ she said. ‘Did you notice something odd?’

‘Odd? What kind of odd?’ I asked, dumping a leg of lamb into the trolley.

‘Back at the cheese counter,’ she said. ‘When you were buying your weekly Edam. Everything you said sounded a bit foreign.’


‘Well, a bit Arabic but mixed with a little French.’

As soon as she’d said it, I knew she was right. But I was also busy slapping my head, realising my oversight.

‘We forget to pay him off!’ I cried, dragging the figure in the paper bag from the shadows of the cracker section. ‘It was my fault. I was so used to having him with us, I must have paid for his seat on the plane back.’

‘I did wonder why British Airways sounded more like Air France,’ said Judy. ‘But what do we do now?’

‘We might take the bag off his head to begin with,’ I suggested.

Judy whistled and raised her eyes to the security cameras. ‘Immigration,’ she sang in warning.

She was right. You have no idea who is watching the feed from these supermarket cameras. The last thing the Richard&Judy show needs is a reputation for hiring illegal immigrant labour. In the end, we bundled him into the Range Rover and headed straight for Heathrow where we left him by the terminal building, with enough money to buy himself a ticket home. I think he was happy with the arrangement but, with the paper bag still on his head, I really couldn’t tell. But that’s another problem with Tunisians. They are people who very rarely show their emotions. And you can consider that your Richard Madeley Certified Fact of the Day.

Friday, 19 October 2007

The Squirrels

If there’s one thing in the world I could change, it would be people’s obsession with decking. Don’t get me wrong. I like a nice bit of wood as much as the next man but not at the expense of a good old fashioned herbaceous border. In fact, a herbaceous border much like the one I found myself trampling yesterday afternoon in an attempt to cheer myself up.

Though the weather’s gone cold, Judy still insists that we do our gardening once a week. After the depressing news about my statistics and the even more depressing news that I’d drank all the whisky, my slight inebriation had been calmed by the freshness of the air and half an hour spent digging the border. Then it was to be my job to rake leaves in my typically efficient manner. I don’t mind raking leaves but I do think it’s Judy’s duty to save me the trouble whenever she can. I wasn't going to touch the rake until I was sure that all the leaves had fallen from the tree. And that’s the reason why Judy had climbed the big oak we have growing at the bottom of the garden. She was doing her best to pick out all the dead leaves before they fell.

I was in the process of pointing out what I thought was a large clump of leaves that were about to fall from the end of a thin branch high in the oak when there was a ‘coo-ee’ from the garden gate. I leaned on my spade and looked up to the house. I couldn’t make out who was there, nor how I was meant to respond to a ‘coo-ee’.

I decided on the cautious approach. ‘Judy!’ I shouted up into the tree. ‘There’s somebody at the back gate.’

I heard a loud sigh and then a branch crack. Despite the fact that was forty feet up the tree, she managed to get down surprisingly fast. ‘Okay, okay,’ she huffed, as she picked herself out of the slight hole she’d made in the soft ground. ‘I’m going, I’m going.’

‘That’s my girl,’ I said as I carried on supporting the spade.

It seemed to take her ages to trots to the back gate but, when she got there, there’s a squeal of delight and then excited chatter. Not being a man who likes to miss interesting things, I dropped my spade and went off to investigate.

‘Oh, Richard, look who’s here,’ says Judy coming around the side of the house.

My heart leapt. Not at 80s pop sensation Kim Wilde, as you might expect, but at the sight of my old mate Terry Nutkins.

Judy had invited Kim around to help with the garden but Terry had come at the invitation of the master of the house.

‘Terry!’ I said, going to shake the great man by his hand.

Kim’s eyes narrowed but I gave her a smile as I led my friend off down the garden.

Terry’s a great guy. He used to present the Really Wild Show on BBC1 but I remember him best from the days of Animal Magic when he used to own a sealion. Terry stills smell rather fishy, on account of his still working with animals, but when it comes to trouble with wildlife, there’s nobody better. Now, if you’ve been reading the 'Richard Madeley Appreciation Society' in recent weeks (and let’s face it, who hasn’t?) you’ll think I’d have invited Terry along to sort out the problem with he mice. And you’d be wrong.

‘It’s these squirrels,’ I said, ‘they’re a bloody nuisance.’

‘Ah, Sciurus Carolinensis,’ he said as we walked down the garden towards the trees. ‘They’re become a pest all over the country since they were introduced back in the 1980s. Do you know that radio disk jockey Dave Lee Travis was the first man to import them? He used to let them nest in his beard. Only they escaped and now they’re bloody everywhere.’

‘Spare me the tales about Travis,’ I said and pointed out the oak tree. ‘Judy was just up there and they were swarming all around her. I’ll tell you, Terry, that I was a little worried that they might bite her.'

'Oh, rabies,' he said, tutting.

'Rabies!' I cried. 'I don't like the sound of that. I can't even think of hitting my dear Judy with a spade just to stop her biting me.' I shook my head. 'But I suppose I’d have to do whatever it took to look after the living…

He gave me a funny look as he prodded a bulge in his trousers. That’s not as odd as it sounds as a pair of binoculars popped out of his pocket. ‘Let’s see what we’ve got, shall we?’ he said and set to examining the tree.

After a moment, there was an audible gasp from Nutkins.

‘My god,’ he said. ‘That’s remarkable.’

For a moment, I thought Judy had climbed back up the tree and Terry was remarking on her ability to swing from branch to branch like a gibbon.

He lowered his glasses. ‘Richard, do you know what you have here? You don’t have sciurus carolinensis, or what are commonly known as grey squirrels. You have Sciurus vulgaris, which we all know as red squirrels.’

‘Vulgaris?’ I repeated. ‘Well, they make me feel pretty vulgar when I see what they’re doing to Judy. Can’t we get rid of them?’

‘Get rid of red squirrels? This might be the only remaining red squirrel population in the south of England. You can’t get rid of them!’

‘Not even with poison?’

If he wasn’t bald, I think Terry would have started to pull his hair out. Instead, he just wiped a fist over his skull.

‘Richard, I really don’t think you see the importance of this discovery,’ he said and reached into another pocket for another bulge. Terry Nutkins is a man of many bulges. I don’t think any one of them is real. ‘You wait herem' he said. 'I think we’ll be able to show you how important this discovery is.’ And with that, out popped his mobile phone and he walked off to get a better signal as Judy came down the garden with Kim.

‘Hello Kim,’ I said and gave her one of those celebrity kisses (all sounds, little lips, no moisture) to make up for my ignoring her earlier on.

‘Oh, he speaks,’ she said, rather tartily, though I’m not saying that Kim’s a tart. She’s still the beauty I used to lust over all those years ago.

‘Richard’s just a bit preoccupied,’ said Judy. ‘We’ve got terrible trouble with squirrels.’ She held up her hand. ‘Do you know one of them bit me?’

I reached for the spade. ‘They’re red squirrels,’ I said as I tried to detect the first signs of frothing on Judy’s mouth.

‘Oh, reds,’ gushed Kim. ’That’s wonderful!’

‘Not you too,’ I groaned. ‘If it wasn’t bad enough that we can’t rid the house of our psycho mice, I’m now told that we’re not allowed to kill squirrels.’

Judy tutted and explained the problem we’ve been having with the mice after Dr. Raj’s brain medicine left them all with multiple personalities.

Terry came back a minute later, looking very pleased with himself. ‘I’ve called my contacts in the BBC,’ he said. ‘I’ve got a nice little surprise for you, Richard and Judy.’

He wouldn’t tell me what it was but the whole street knew half an hour later when there’s the sound of a siren wailing down our quiet little residential cul-de-sac.

We all ran out to the front and saw a line of trucks coming down the road. They were all the distinctive colours of BBC Outdoors Broadcast Units, but the car at the lead, with the red flashing light and siren, was the focus of my attention.

‘I don’t believe it!’ I said.

‘Knew you’re be surprised,’ said Terry. ‘Since his retirement, he’s been on a state of high alert ready for a scoop like this.’

And sure enough, there in a car with a flashing red light was the great man himself, David Attenborough. All twitches, excitement, spittle. And that was just from him jumping out of the car

‘Where are they?’ he asks, full of that enthusiasm that’s made him a household name.

‘They’re in the back garden,’ I said, ‘up the tree.’

‘Up the tree!’ he laughs and trots off to the garden followed by his team of cameramen and sound recordists.

‘Well?’ asked Terry.

‘So, I guess this mean we can’t poison the squirrels,’ I said, ‘but would I be allowed to install electrical equipment in the garden and smear peanut butter over the leads?’

Terry looked at me, not knowing if I was joking or being serious. You know me, so you know I was being serious.

We all followed the crowd into the garden where David Attenborough was already shinning up the oak tree and gushing stuff to camera about this being a great discovery and the caution he had to show in case the squirrels had rabies. I gave another look at Judy but there was still no sign of madness in her eyes but I also knew that dehydration was the earliest symptoms.

‘Fancy a drink, Jude? I asked.

‘No, no, I’m fine,’ she smiled. I lessened my grip on the garden spade but wouldn't let it go until I was definately sure.

But by then, if I'm honest, it was all getting a bit too much for me and I was about to say I was going back to bed when a breeze suddenly got up. I began to shout something about elderly TV presented shinning their way up oak trees in blustery conditions when I realised it wasn’t the wind that had turned. Wind isn’t usually associated with the sound of rotors. A helicopter had just crested Madeley Towers and was looking to land in the middle of our large and expensively laid croquet lawn.

‘What now?’ I sighed. Terry just shrugged, Judy fainted, and Kim caught her. In a way, each person played their role quite admirably.

I ran across the helicopter and was about to tell them the price of quality turf when the back door opened and I saw the flash of the BBC logo

‘You lot can’t just keep on harassing Channel 4 employees in this way,’ I told the man before I even looked up into his face. ‘Oh God,’ I said, ‘not you!’

‘You can cut that out,’ said Alan Titchmarsh. ‘Where’s that bastard, Attenborough. I was promised all the wildlife gigs. He was supposed to stay at home and write the forwards to books.’

I pointed to the tree. ‘He’s up there,’ I said. ‘Don’t catch rabies,’ I said, my voice laced with sarcasm.

Titchmarsh jumped out and went racing off towards the oak and the only community of sciurus vulgaris in the South of England. I smiled at the helicopter pilot.

‘Going back into London?’ I asked.

He nodded.

‘Don’t suppose you could give a man a lift? Drop me anywhere.' I said. 'I’m really not that fussy…’

Thursday, 18 October 2007

And Now The End Is Near...

Reality struck me hard yesterday. Real hard. Hard like Judy’s elbow on a cold Monday morning. It left me so that I couldn’t cope. Couldn’t post. Couldn’t even function as the normal warm caring human being you’ve come to know and, I hope, love. Then it got worse. Dr. Raj wouldn’t answer my calls. He’s apparently still upset about my change of heart about paying for the psychotherapy sessions for all our mice. He’d planned to use the millions in fees to open his own private hospital. Judy wasn’t interested either. She thinks I’ve been a fool right from the beginning. Whisky was the only thing that could ease the pain on a Wednesday morning.

Having been in the public eye for so long, I’m somewhat use to having my own way. The best seats in restaurants, tickets for all the new West End shows, speeding tickets disappearing like an Amazonian’s leafy back garden. There’s not been a thing in my life at which I’ve failed. Until now.

What is this terrible failure, do I hear you ask? I did a foolish thing yesterday morning. I looked at the statistics for this blog.

I don’t know what made me do it. I imagine it was boredom. It’s always been my great nemesis. Nor do I know what I expected to see. I thought my readers might be in the thousands. Perhaps even tens of thousands once I took into account all the millions of housewives we get watching the Channel 4 show. I just wasn’t prepared for what I did see. It wasn’t tens of thousands. Wasn’t even thousands. It wasn’t even hundreds. It was fifty three. Fifty three people bothered to read this blog on Tuesday! We employ more people to produce the trailers for our show.

Things got worse when I looked at the statistics in detail. Seventeen of those people had arrived here from Google after searching for the phrase ‘Richard Madeley is a tw*t’. Hard to believe, I know, but true. Nineteen people came from other blogs where I’ve left some of my typically forthright comments. When I came down to counting the repeat visitors who clearly didn’t hate me, I counted seven. Think about it. That’s seven people who actually enjoy… Hang on, let’s not get carried away. That’s seven people who read this blog every day. And I know that one of them is Judy and another is me. In other words: I have five regular readers.

Once the tears began to flow, the bottle ran dry. I had no option but to ring up my old friend Phillip Schofield. Between you and me, Phil’s an unacknowledged expert on the web. If you can do it virtually, you can bet your bottom dollar that Schofield’s tried it. Hair extensions, penile products, Thai brides, commando holidays in North Korea…

‘Fifty three readers?’ he repeated. Then he laughed, a braying laughter like somebody had just inserted a red hot poker up the non-carrot eating end of a donkey. ‘You’re having a laugh, aren’t you? Gordon the Gopher’s website has ten times that number of hits each day and he’s been dead for ten years. You must be doing something to put people off!’

‘I’m just being myself,’ I said.

The phone went silent.

‘Well I think we can see your problem, Dick,’ he said.

‘I don’t have a problem dick, thank you very much,’ I said, indignant. That kind of loose talk was how the rumours began about Forsyth.

‘No, no, your website. You shouldn’t be yourself. You’ll be telling me that you’re as abrasive on there as you are in real life.’

‘Sod off,’ I said, perhaps a bit abrasively. ‘If telling the truth is abrasive, then I’m abrasive. I admit that I seem to offend a few people here or there. I can’t stick a mouse down a garbage disposal unit without somebody thinking I’ve killed their childhood pet. As for my problem with polygamists, I think it’s only reasonable to upset them. And as for the homeless…’

He gasped. ‘The homeless?’

‘Well, not technically the homeless, per se,’ I explained. ‘There are apparently many different types of vagrant in the city, many different levels. Some with homes, some without. It caused a bit of a stink when I lumped them all together. Though, if you ask me, lumping homeless men together has to be a recipe for something a bit pungent.’

‘There you go again, Dick,’ said Phil. ‘You open your mouth before you realise what you’re saying. That’s why people don’t read your blog. You are incapable of speaking without being deeply offensive.’

‘Yes, well,’ I mumbled. ‘It won’t be a problem for much longer.’

‘What do you mean?’ he asked in that sycophantic tone he has whenever somebody rings up This Morning and sounds a bit suicidal. I don’t know why he can’t just be more like me. I'd cut straight to a break so I could tell them to pull themselves together and do a jigsaw or go read the Guardian.

‘I’m thinking of closing down my Appreciation Society,’ I explained. ‘Do I really want to waste thirty minutes of my day writing a thousand words to an almost non-existent audience of five people? I might as well go work on the BBC if I wanted that kind of exposure.’

I shouldn’t have mentioned the BBC in Phil’s company, not after the way they treated Gordon the Gopher’s funeral. It took six flushes before they could get rid of his corpse. It was no surprise when Phil made an excuse to hang up, though he hadn’t had any useful suggestions other than I should let Judy write the blog and I should be happy nicking suitable photos from other websites like every other blogger does. Only, I’m not happy being like every other blogger. I want to be a shining star among blogs. I want every post to have ninety comments, watch small rivalries develop between groups of readers all vying for my attention. And if I can’t have that, I’m not going to play. I’m thinking of giving up unless somebody can come along and give me a good reason to stay. Any reason. Any reason whatsoever.


Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Cobbling With Louis Walsh

Along with a few other celebrities, I spent my Monday doing a sponsored hike around Kent on behalf of the Queen Alexandra Hospice’s Prosthetics Appeal. Not only was it an extremely good cause but a fun time was had by all. Afterwards, a very relaxed group of celebrities retired to the pub where we all proceeded to get legless.

It’s not really like me to enjoy other people’s company. Madeleys aren’t great socialisers, or at least, I’m not. I’m not a people person. I’d much rather be on my own, researching some new subject, discovering a new element, working on my cold fusion reactor. It’s why I’m not a man to be bullied. I don't care what people think. If anybody tries to intimidate me, I’ll show them the stern side of my face and if they continue they get the even sterner side of my fist.

Which is my long-winded way of explaining how I came to punch Louis Walsh.

Now, I know what you’re going to say, you Swearing Mothers, you Glamourpusses, you… Well, anybody else who bothers to read this post. You’re going to say that Louis Walsh is an inoffensive little Irish love puppet, that there’s not a hair on his cheeky little body that would wish anybody any harm. Only you’d be wrong. Halfway through the ten kilometer walk, I come across Walsh sitting by the side of the road. He seemed to be having a problem with his shoes.

‘Lousy fecking cheap hiking boots,’ he explained, holding up a shoe with a six inch gash in the side. ‘I paid a hundred quid for these off that feckin Sharon “I’ve contacts in retail” Osbourne.’

I dropped my rucksack by the side of the road and took out my tupperware box into which Judy had that morning placed a pile of tuna sandwiches.

‘Have some tuna, Louis old chap,’ I said. ‘And let me have a look at that shoe. Little do you know but this is your lucky day. I am an expert cobbler.’

He looked at me. ‘I believe that,’ he said and seemed to mean it.

So, while he muched on my sandwiches, I took my ubiquitous needle and thread from my bag and proceeded to do him a tip-top service on his shoe. When I was done, it looked as good as new. In fact, I’d say it looked even better than ‘tip top’ on account of the way I’d cleverly stitched his name into the leather.

‘That’s amazing!’ said Louis, handing me back my empty lunchbox. He slipped the shoe on his foot and began to dance around. (I was about to type that he began to dance around like a Leprachaun, but that sounds a bit non-PC, even if it is bloody accurate.)

‘Yippee!’ he said, raising his little green hat off his head as he continued to dance a jig. ‘Tipperary, here I come!’

I smiled, rubbed his shock of hair that’s redder in real life than you realise from the TV, and I packed up my bags. I was about to head off when I felt something tugging on my trouser leg. I looked down and there was little Louis, on the floor and a slightly unfamiliar shade of green.

After about a minute of laughing at what I thought was another example of Gaelic wit, I realised that the poor little mite was choking. I did what only trained medics can do. I began to kick him where he lay. Eventually he gave a cough and whatever was stuck in his throat came free. He rolled over, regaining his breath, and then he held out his hand. In it sat the largest fish bone I’ve ever seen.

‘Those feckin sandwiches,’ he gasped, standing up and raising himself to his full height. My kneecaps have never had such a staring down.

‘Don’t blame me for that,’ I said. ‘I didn’t ask you to eat all my lunch.’

To that he said something which I wouldn’t like to repeat in a place where Judy might be listening. Needless to say, when Diana Rigg came waltzing imperiously along five minutes later, she found the two of us scuffling in the dirt. Though Louis isn’t a great fighter, he does play dirty. But I’ve not gained a black belt in Judo for nothing. I had him in a headlock and was planning to let him to pass out so I could make my getaway. Only, in the end, I didn’t have to worry. Diana lifted him from me and carried Louis away on her back. I watched in some relief as they went off, with him waving his fist at me from her rucksack and swearing that he’d have his revenge.

By the late afternoon, the little fellow seemed to have calmed down. When I entered the pub, he was the first person to come up and offer to buy me a drink. I sat with him for the rest of the evening, drinking my stout and singing songs about the old country.

It was during this drinking session that I discovered some interesting facts about Louis Walsh. Did you know, for example, that he is one of twenty seven brothers, all of whom are record producers? They account for nearly ninety seven percent of the middle-of-the-road music produced in the UK. Louis has made a fortune from Boyzone but has promised to rectify the harm he has done by leaving his fortune to charities working with the terminally tone-deaf.

Monday, 15 October 2007

Mice or Mouses

It was the incessant noise of rodents eating their way through the rafters that finally broke my normally unbreakable spirit. Gnawing, scatching, scampering is bad enough but when I heard them engaging in foreplay, mating, and Christ only knows what else somewhere above my bed, I knew then that I’d be spending my weekend trying to trap the little buggers.

The sounds easier than it is. The house has been needing repairs for some time and there are now more holes for mice to wriggle through than you’d get in a World War 2 POW camp manned by nothing but Dickie Attenboroughs. Judy has been so busy out in the garden, recementing the patio, that she’s not had a moment to look into our problem. Clearly, I’d have to be shrewd in the way I approached the problem.

Poison may not be the most humane method of killing a critter but I thought it would be the easiest. The difficutly lay in getting them to eat it. We seem to have a superior mouse in the Madeley household and even the finest Hungarian goat cheese didn’t bring them to the table. By Saturday night, I’d got so desperate that I rang up Dr. Raj who agreed to come around and lend me a hand. He’s an expert in pretty much anything, and with two great minds on their tails, the mice would stand no chance.

Saturday night found us climbing up into the attic. I took out a whole elbow’s value of skin as I went but Dr. Raj insisted that he knew what he was doing. I keep all the old bric-a-brac from Good Morning up there and it was behind a large cardboard cut out of my head that we found the hole. Just as Dr. Raj had predicted, the mice were using the chimney to climb up from the basement. Dr. Raj put his hand on my arm and tapped the side of his nose.

‘I have just the solution to this particualr problem,’ he said in a breathless rush and opened his medical bag, which he carries with him at all times, and removed a small bottle and a piece of cheese. ‘This will kill them instantly,’ he said as he applied a few drops to the cheese and pushed it through the hole. ‘It’s a very powerful nerve drug. Lethal to mice. Come on,’ he said, snapping the bag shut. ‘Our work here is done.’

Well, there wasn’t a squeek out of the mice all Saturday night and into Sunday morning. Then, around three o’clock yesterday afternoon, I heard Judy scream and the sound of a body hitting the floor. At first, I didn’t bother myself too much. Judy is always screaming and usually fainting. I’ve known her to have a dizzy spell just because we’ve run out of butter.

I found her slowly coming around on the kitchen floor.

‘What the hell’s the matter?’ I asked. 'I saw a fresh block of butter in the fridge door only this morning.'

She waved a trembling hand towards the sink. ‘Look,’ she said.

With my mind on butter, I didn't expect to see a mouse in the bowl. It had become trapped. Not only was it trapped, but it was in a terribly agitated state. It would give a squeak and then run around the bowl and give another squeak towards the place it had been previously standing. It kept on doing this for as long as I watched it. Then Judy gave another scream and jumped up from where she’d been lying next to the dryer. Sure enough, behind the dryer, another mouse seemed to be holding a conversation with itself.

I grabbed the second mouse by its tail and stuck it down the garbage disposer unit along with the first. Not that it solved the problem, except by two insignificant mice with obvious psychological problems.

‘You’ve done it again!’ I told Dr. Raj when I got him on the phone two minutes later.

‘What’s the problem? Didn’t the drugs work?’

‘Work? I’ve got a house full of mice all suffering from multiple personality disorders,’ I screamed. ‘Technically, you’ve managed to double the number of mice in the house in a matter of hours.’

‘How odd,’ said the good Doctor, ‘but if this is now a psychological problem, then you know I can’t help you on a weekend. Ring my office first thing Monday morning. I’ll book the mice in for a few sessions.’

I told him what he could do with his sessions. A few thousand mice, each requiring a course of Dr. Raj's therepy, would cost more money than there is currently in the Bank of England. We’d have to start another phone quiz just to pay for it.

And that’s how things stand this Monday morning. We’ve got a house full of mice who think they’re also rats and who only knows what else? However, before I go off and ring for some professionals, I have a few mice facts for you. Did you know, for instance, that mice are some of the most psychologically fragile animals, followed by ferrets, turtles, and the tufted sand hopper? They eat ten times their own body weight in a single day but are very susceptable to criticism about their weight. They don’t always eat cheese since they prefer low fat alternatives. Mice are extremely good pets, though the government have issued new policies about their disposal. No longer is it advisable to flush them down the toilet when they die. Special pre-paid mailable boxes are now available free at vets and all dead pet mice should be sent to the government for correct disposal.

Friday, 12 October 2007

Al Bloody Gore And The Norwegians

I’ve been overlooked again. If you caught last night’s Newsnight, you’ll have seen the cretinous smirk creep across Paxman's mug when he announced that Al Gore was about to win the Nobel Peace Prize. He knew, of course, that my work for Roehampton’s natterjack toads was about to go unnoticed yet again by the Norwegian prize committee. I’m not a bitter man, as you know, but Al Gore wouldn’t know the lickable end of a Roehampton natterjack toad from the other.

The whole thing stinks of a fix. People like Bill Oddie, Alan Titchmarsh, and all those ruddy Attenboroughs might a few minor plaudits for being seen to be working for the environment and world peace, but it’s the hard working silent types such as yours truely that deserve the big prizes. Not that I feel the need to justify myself to the world, you understand. Working so closely with the environment has given me a new peace of mind, even if it hasn’t given me the peace prize. However, why on earth would a man allow his much loved wife to go wading in muddy ponds collecting natterjack toad spawn if he isn’t going to be rewarded for his efforts? Didn’t I raise the alarm when I saw her slip and slide beneath the water? Did these Norwegians not realise how I risked the chance of pouring my flask of hot coffee into my lap just by pushing the car horn?

As usual, Judy is distraught and has sworn to have her vengeance on Roehampton’s toads. I’m in the mood for a bit of payback myself but I tell her that it isn’t their fault. The toads didn’t have a vote. It’s those damn Norwegians obsessing over the water levels in their fjords. I’ve always maintained that there’s something not quite right about the Norwegian habits of mind. Have you read any Knut Hamsun lately? If you have, you'll agree with me when I say that Norwegians are obsessed with digging ditches and painting barns. I think it's a problem of having too much cold weather, too little sun, and an excess of much whale blubber in their diets. There's nothing worse than whale blubber for blocking up the drains.

Since this means the end of my efforts to help Roehampton’s natterjack toads, I might as well give you a few of the facts I’ve picked up working with them. Considered by connoisseurs to be the premier licking toad, Roehampton toads excrete a highly addictive drug which gives me you an extreme sense of well being and an ability to see the future. They are some of the rarest toads in the UK and are facing the prospect of extinction. Fortunately for them, in 2010, Simon Cowell will come forward and lead a campaign that will save them. The campaign will also propel him into politics and his eventual rise to Prime Minister in 2015. The even of civilisation will end shortly after in a nuclear sing off between the USA and the newly reformed USSR. Or so I’ve been told… I wouldn’t know that, myself, of course. Never licked a toad in my life. Nor should you. The visions can be terrifying.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

The Nicer, Kinder, More Caring Richard

Again, I find myself apologising for my silence. My spirits have been somewhat down given the hostility I’ve received over the things I’ve been saying about the homeless, the blind, the deaf, polygamists, the people of Warwick, midgets, Tanya Byron, and the nozels on the Electrolux Cyclone Ultra Z7310 Cylinder vacuum cleaner. It seems I can’t say anything that doesn’t upset somebody somewhere. Over the weekend I came very close to closing the blog and never opening my mouth again.

But, you know me. I find it impossible not to speak my mind. I have instead decided that, in the future, I am going to be more sensitive to people and their feelings. No more will I mock people’s ways of life, nor be judgemental about the way they live or look. I said as much this morning when a pair of Jehovah’s Witnesses turned up at the door. I’d normally give them directions on the sharp end of my boot, but remembering my new vow to be nice to people, I instead gave them a few moments of my time. I think it demonstrates what a changed Richard you see before you.

‘Sir,’ said the woman (there were two at my door, a man and a woman), ‘do you know why bad things happen?’

That, I thought, was a leading question. I’ve asked enough of those in my time to spot one.

‘Bad things happen,’ I replied, ‘because good people allow them to happen.’

She smiled and her male friend at her elbow began to chuckle in a breathless whisper. His hand reached for his pocket. When it came back, I thought he was about to shave when he pushed something that looked like a Braun Pulsonic shaver to his throat. Turns out it was an electronic voicebox.

‘Bad things happen because people have lost faith in the word of the Lord,’ he buzzed.

‘Wow!’ I replied.

The woman misinterpreted me.

‘You are a man of the Lord?’

‘I’m more of a man who likes a cool looking gadget,’ I replied and turned back to the man and his amazing sound. ‘Can I have a go of that?’

He looked somewhat shocked, not knowing my early years in electronic music when me and Brian Eno did amazing things with noise and created the age of the electronic synthesizer.

‘This is a medical device,’ he returned. 'It's not a toy!'

‘Oh, don’t give me that,’ I laughed. ‘Even Fred the Weatherman used to let me try his truss on for size.’

He looked at me long and hard.

The woman just looked between the pair of us and clearly decided to get the conversation onto more inspired matters.

‘Are you interested in hearing more of the Lord’s words?’ she asked.

‘I am if he uses something like that,’ I replied.

She shrugged. ‘Close enough,’ she said and grabbed her friend by the arm. ‘Come, Morris. This gentleman has invited us inside.’ He started to protest but she shushed him quiet. ‘Beggars can’t be choosers,’ she told him and the turned to me. ‘Two sugars for both of us.’

Well, I made them coffee and then spent an hour listening to God’s words spoken as though the Darleks had joined forces with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. In the end, we parted with my agreeing to think some more about their message but in reality with an idea for a new album of ambient noises. I’ll be ringing Eno later this afternoon (I got his answerphone when I tried a few minutes ago) and hope to be in the recording studio before Christmas.

Not that you’re interested in any of this. But it does go to show what happens when you begin to be a bit more considerate about people, sensitive to their needs, and not mock them for the beliefs. In fact, I feel quite proud that I’ve started on the long road to make me a kinder, politer, more caring and politically correct man.

Now, some voice box facts. Did you know that the humming bird flaps its wings faster than the human voice box can vibrate? In fact, the first example of an artificial human voice box is that of an ancient South American tribe who used a hummingbird trapped inside a jam jar. So popular was this practise that it is still considered the main cause for the decline in the world’s population of hummingbirds.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Jamie Oliver on Vauxhall Bridge

Excuse my absence yesterday. I’ve been working with a homeless charity after pressure groups got in contact with my agent over comments I’d written last week about a tramp called Dodger. A monsterous injustice was committed on the name of Madeley but nobody seemed to care about that. Nobody leapt to my defence when I was unfairly criticised in comments. But I suppose everybody assumed that I have a big team of lawyers to do that for me. Dodger certainly wasn’t surprised. He’d told me privately that even bringing the subject up would lead to trouble. That’s the problem of being a blogging celebrity: honesty brings its own misery.

As I was serving soup to the homeless on the North Bank of the Thames, I looked up and saw somebody taking pictures of me. I thought it the paparazzi but noticed that the camera was too small. Then I assume it was a tourist. Then they lowered the camera and I saw it was Jamie Oliver.

‘Oy, Madeley,’ he yelled, a huge grin on that meat shank of a face of his. ‘How are you seasoning your soup?’

‘F**k off, Oliver,’ I shouted. I was cold, tired and stank of cabbage soup. He just chuckled and began to show off to his friends.

‘Is it oxtail? If it is, you want to season it with some real sea salt for that added flavour.’

‘Didn’t you hear me?’ I shouted back. ‘F**k the hell off, Oliver. We don’t need you around here.’

That got a small cheer from everybody in earshot. It surprised me. I’m aware that not all of you like me. In fact, I realise that I’m not everybody’s cup of tea. But in a contest betwee myself and Jamie Oliver, it seemed I had the popular vote. It was a unique and very satisfying feeling.

That's why I begn to feel good with myself and I grew determind not to respond to any more taunts. Only Oliver then began to get personal.

‘Love the black eye, Madeley,’ he shouted. ‘Did Judy give it you?’

My face must have visibly darkened. I don’t like to hear people making fun of Judy. I was about to ask him if he wanted one of his own, when I received some welcome support from an unexpected source.

The guys I’d been serving soup to suddenly turned on Oliver. The sound of tin soup tins being dropped was something eerie. It was like Dawn of the Dead as these shambling fellows then began to chase the guy who is supposed to be the nation’s most loved chef. I heard they lost him somewhere near Vauxhall Bridge but there’s an all-points-bullitin that’s gone out through London’s vagrant community. Oliver won’t be able to show his face in public without being spotted by one of them.

Jamie Oliver doesn’t deserve one of my factoid dumps but I’m cautious about what I say about the homeless, so I guess he’ll have to do. Did you know that his father made trombones and from an early age Jamie had a natural gift for the instrument. He’s still the only person to high a high C on a trombone before his fourth birthday. His remarkable lungs allow Jamie to talk for seven minutes without a breath. The downside of that is he needs extra large shirts as he’s always ripping them whenever he breathes too deep. His chest measure fifty seven inches fully inflated.

Friday, 5 October 2007

Black Eye Dick

If I don’t seem in a good mood this morning, it’s because, as you can see, I’m nursing a black eye. I had a terrible evening at a dinner celebrating the best in British Comedy organised by the Red Cross. The award I was supposed to be presenting was for best standup, which I was more than pleased to do. When I worked as a standup commedian in the late 1970s, I discovered that there’s nothing harder than making people laugh. I wasn’t up until near the end of the evening, which had been going quite well. Brucie had received his usual Lifetime Achievement Award with his typical self-deprecating humour and all the hosts had been in good form, particularly Des O’Connor who told a rather funny anecdote about Fred Dinenage and a wheelbarrow.

After such a build up, I’m afraid I let the side down. I made a slight slip up when I opened the envelope. Instead of Bobby Davro’s name, I announced that the winner was Joe Pasquale, whose name was written at the bottom of the card as a way of reminding me that I was meant to introduce him to present the next award. Before the organisers could point out my mistake, Joe was half-way through his thank-you speech. That’s when I got the message in my ear telling me that I’d made a mistake.

I did the best I could in the circumstances. I stepped forward, tapped Joe on his shoulder, and explained my mistake. Davro was ecstatic, of course, and came bouncing up on stage. Only Joe wouldn’t listen to reason. I tried to be polite but, when he wouldn’t hand the statuette back, I tried to snatch it from his hands. That was my fatal mistake. They’re like lemurs, these commedians. They have a gang instinct. Seeing one of their own being manhandled, I had four minor jokesters come lunging at me from the crowd. I managed to punch Alan Carr, kick Alan Davies, and completely avoid the lumbering bulk that was Justin Lee Collins. But that bloody Dave Gorman caught me with a right hook that sent me flying. Can you believe I was floored by Dave Gorman? The bloody guy seems to get everywhere.

While all this was happening, Davro and Pasquale were grappling for the award. It seems it’s okay for them to fight among themselves. In the end, Davro won, leaving Pasquale in tears.

What all this means is that the Union of Television Hosts and the British Comedy Federation are now not officially speaking to one another. Whether this will have an impact on TV shows is yet to be seen. There might be a lack of comedians on 'Have I Got News For You?', though to be frank, with the quality of their guests lately, that can’t be a bad thing. And the less that’s said about Trevor McDonald’s show the better.

While I nurse my black eye, here are some facts about Bobby Davro to keep you going. Did you know that he trained to be monk? He is also a great reader of the gnostic gospels and has written three books on them. After a slight decline in his fortunes, he’s once again one of the most popular commedians in the UK. He has been asked to play Davros in the new Dr. Who and will be appearing in a three hour long Christmas special. As an in joke, the Doctor will actually refer to Bobby Davros. It will be the first time that viewers will get to know the first name of the man behind the Darleks.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

The Tramp Called Dodger

The plans for the new series get more exciting by the day and I’m pleased to announce that our’s will be the first UK show to provide regular jobs for some of London’s thousands of tramps. I admit that this was my little brainwave. I notice on the drive to the studios that London has an abundance of homeless vagrant types, wandering the streets with nothing else to do. ‘Untapped potential’ thought I as my eyes narrowed and my brain went into overdrive. This morning I asked my driver to slow down next to one of the ugliest, smelliest, and most violent individuals we could find to see if he'd be interested in filling in while Denise Robertson goes on her spiritual quest to find herself up the Andes.

‘Excuse me,’ I said, through the window’s one inch gap. ‘Are you interested in a job?’

‘A job?’ repeated the man slowly as though the word once held meaning for him. ‘Ay, I’m interested. What doing?’

‘I thought general chat about weekly new items seen from the perspective of the slightly deranged and possibly sociopathic.’

‘Sociopathic? I could do that,’ he said, fingering the knife he’d take from his pocket. ‘When would I have to do this?’

‘Possible twice a week,’ I said, ‘depending on the number of guests we have on the show. You’d probably be on the sofa between Kim Wilde and Dr. Raj. You’d provide an alternative point of view.’

‘I like the sound of that,’ said the man as he began to scratch his initials into the door of the limo.

‘Well, that’s that,’ I said. ‘Hop in and I’ll take you to the studio.’

The production meeting went fine, except for the ten minutes we spent at the end trying to get my friend to release his hostage. A half-consumed box of Jammie Dodgers seemed to pacify him and all was settled when we promised him a weekly supply of his very own.

I personally think that Dodger (as we've now christened him) is going to be a huge star for Channel 4. We’re already thinking about producing his own series. We just have to find the right vehicle for him. Perhaps something to do with home improvements. I like the ironic twist it gives to a well worn genre.

Since I’ve been light on facts the last couple of days, here’s some facts about Jammie Dodgers. They are the world’s most popular biscuit, though in American they’re known as St. James Dodgers. In Japan, they have a wing of their biscuit museum dedicated to the dodger. The jam in a dodger isn’t actually jam but a syrup. It’s specially formulated to keep the two halves of the biscuit together and is actually stronger the rubber cement. Too many jammie dodgers eaten in a day can clog up the digestion, producing dodgeritus, which is a real medical condition, the remedy of which is to gorge on fig rolls. Conversely, eating too many fig rolls can produce a condition known as figrolltiddilyitus, the cure of which is – you’ve guessed it – eating plenty of Jammie Dodgers. But once you start, you will find it hard to reach a balance. You have been warned.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

J.W.H. Madeley: A Tribute

In the belief that more helpful and relevant information will make this blog a success, I have decided to expand my horizons and provide a vital service to all people blessed by the name Madeley. In the coming weeks and months, I intend to publish biographies of significant members of our family. I begin today, with a man who eclipses even my own moderate fame. I speak, of course, of the highly esteemed J.W.H. Madeley.

Some of you might be aware that I recently discovered this hitherto unknown member of the Madeley family posting comments on another blog catering to a niche audience with special interests (not all of which are entirely wholesome). I admit that the discovery led to regrettable words being exchanged between myself and my relative. I was too hostile in my reaction to him, having previously believed that only one Madeley had achieved any measurable success in the public eye. I now see that it was an overreaction on my part and I want to make amends, here today, with my profile of the man I have come to think of as the pater familias of the Madeley clan.

Throughout his eighty seven years, Jacob William Horlicks Madeley, known to his friends, colleagues, and creditors as ‘JWH’, has challenged convention. Building a reputation as a gentleman, scholar, and the nation’s most important aquaculturist, he was a controversial figure in his youth. Yet in recent years, he has fallen foul of critics who say that he is nothing more than a reclusive old man who smells of fish. To accept these criticisms at face (or perhaps nose) value is to perhaps overlook JWH Madeley’s many other faults. Vain, argumentative, prone to histrionics, and with highly refined taste in oriental lady friends, he challenges traditional notions of greatness. What makes it more intriguing is that this comes from a man who made his name as a philanthropist, a raconteur, the lover of the some of the world’s most famous women, an award winning novelist, and as a long distance ferreting champion. Little can be said about JWH Madeley that does not evoke strong emotions, except to say that he has lived his life in a way that has brought nothing but credit to the family name.

At a very early age, JHW was recognised as possessing a great talent but his mother soon managed to make him stop touching it and he instead turned his mind to more healthy interests. Bought a goldfish for his third birthday, Madeley developed the passion that would govern the rest of his life. At four years old, he could already distinguish between ninety seven different breeds of fish by smell alone, and, by the time he was seven, he was considered an expert in bearded herring.

This savant of fish left school at thirteen and entered university, emerging from Trinity College Cambridge four years later with an MA in Fish Aquaculture and a growing reputation as a radical thinker in the British fisheries industry. His eminence was confirmed by his Ph.D thesis, titled, ‘A Theology of Herring’, only for Dr. Madeley to eschew an lucrative academic career. Buying his own fishing boat when he was still only 21 years old, he began a second career skippering a trawler and learning many of the practical skills that would serve him well over the coming decades. Using his amazing aptitude to smell fish over great distances, Madeley was soon finding some of the biggest shoals of herring in the North Sea. His first boat was followed by a second and a third, and after ten more years, the Madeley fleet was cited as the main cause of overfishing in the North Sea. His 1954 performance before the UK Fisheries Committee is considered one of the classics of modern day filibustering, denying the committee’s authority give their inability to distinguish between the nineteen different types of haddock.

The downturn in JPM’s fortunes began when his 1967 biography was fist published, containing allegations of his taste for exotic fish oil cocktails and his involvement in the notorious Kensington and Chelsea Society of Eels. Escaping prosecution by moving to Switzerland, it was there that he had surgery to repair damage done to his hands by a knife-wielding lover whose heart he had broken in his fish gutting factory. The operation left him with webbed fingers and, inexplicably, a dorsal fin. Allegations of his private life would become news again, a year later, when his romance with Diana Dors became public and his newspapers printed details of his on-off relationship with Irene Handl.

1969 proved a turning point. Accused of importing variegated marsupials with the intention of breeding them with his fish stocks, Madeley retired from public life, becoming a prolific writer. The seventies were a productive time for Madeley. Author of seventeen books on fish subjects, his ‘Herring Trilogy’ is considered the finest series of novels about fish and first introduced the world to his much loved anti-hero Barney Calbill.

Shunning the literary limelight, he continued to write a series of epics about the lives of North Sea bass but critics soon began to argue that his obsession with fish themes prevented him from developing as a writer. Reclusive, belligerent, brilliant, but often prone to delusions that he was part mackerel, Madeley spent the following decades seeking the holy grail of herring breeding, the fabled hairy herring.

In November of last year, an allergic reaction to treacle saw Madeley break his silence for many years and declare to reporters waiting outside his London hospital that the hairy herring was a reality, claiming that he’d successfully crossed fish with the koala bear. The announcement has led to rumours that Madeley is now ready again to return to public life and news that the Icelandic Fisheries Board have agreed to drop charges of flipper tampering leads many to believe that the path to Madeley’s rehabilitation in the public eye now lies open to one of the greatest yet overlooked figures of the twentieth century. But if the public is ready for a man who is now reportedly more fish than man, we can only speculate.