Let’s open the windows, heel the cat out the door, and clear the air in here. I need to be honest with you.
Too many bloggers do nothing but lie to their readers and consistently mislead them. I’m not like that. I’m known as ‘Honest’ Richard for a reason; I’m ‘Madeley’ with a capitalised ‘Truth’ and with the British Standard Mark for Veracity branded on my behind. Which is why I’m so blunt when it comes to admitting that I’m one of the most disliked men in the country. Oh, there’s no use in denying it. I’ve seen all the skits and cartoons. I’ve heard all the things that people say about me. And it’s all water off a drake’s rear-facing manifold, as it were. None of it fazes me. Besides, unpopularity has many rewards. I don’t get troubled by people wanting me to endorse their products and I’m rarely chased by the paparazzi. Children fear me, pensioners jeer me, and I’m unwelcome in twelve different countries, two UK holiday resorts, and the BBC.
There are times, however, when you want the press on your side, a few people to cheer you up when you’re feeling down, or somebody with a bit of muscle to aid you in your times of trouble. I needed all three only last night when I was faced with a man alleging that I’d scorched his crotch with a blazing wheelbarrow of rubbish.
‘Listen here, matey,’ said David Dickinson, thrusting a golden finger into my chest, ‘you can’t put a blazing wheelbarrow full of rubbish between my thighs and think you can get away with it.’
We were standing in the hallway and he had technically trespassed his way from the porch and onto the Axeminster.
‘I don’t know what you’re talking about, David,’ I said in my most reassuring voice. ‘But if you get any of that tan on my shirt, I’ll hit you with the laundry bill.’
‘Oh, you cheeky bloody bugger!’ he wailed. ‘This tan is pure Far East, mate! None of your Ambre Solaire nonsense with me.’
‘Be that as it may, David,’ I replied. ‘I don’t know anything about your scorched crotch.’
‘You don’t know anything about it? You admitted to doing it on that bloody rubbish blog of yours.’
‘Rubbish blog!’ Now it was my turn to stretch for the decibels. ‘Rubbish blog! Don’t you know that Stephen Fry writes for The Richard Madeley Appreciation Society? I’m the talk of Tunisia and Australia!’
‘It’s a rubbish blog… A child could do better. Bloody nonsense you write about on there. You’d think a man of your years would bloody grow up and do something more productive with his time. All this obsessing about Bill Oddie. You’re bloody mad, man! You don’t really think Bill Oddie and Stephen Fry got where they are today by writing such bloody stupid rubbish do you?’
I gave a non-committal shrug. ‘Depends on your definition of bloody stupid rubbish.’
‘Oh, a smart Alec! I see. Now I’m beginning to get the full picture. You and that Michael Palin both think you can outsmart the Duke Dickinson. Well, I’ll tell you something now, my friend, and I hope you’ll take this on board: the Duke bows down for no man!’
‘Or woman,’ shouted Judy from the kitchen.
Dickinson smiled. It was a dreadful conjunction of ‘pearly’ with ‘white’. ‘Thank you, my dear. I was about to add “woman”.’ He pointed towards the door. ‘You should listen to your good lady wife. She knows the Duke and knows what happens when you scorch his thighs.’
‘Mildly scorch,’ I said. The truth was, despite the explosion and the flames, Michael Palin’s rocket powered wheelbarrow has done a poor job of demolishing the giant hoarding that Dickinson had erected on his front lawn. His towering presence was still casting an orange glow over the whole suburb.
‘Listen, are you going to do the right thing, apologise and fix the damage?’ he asked. ‘If you do, then we’ll say no more about it.’
‘And what about Palin?’ It seemed to me to be the most obvious and fair question. ‘Don’t you think he’s more to blame than I?’
David tutted and readjusted the knot of his tie. It was the size of a fist holding a coconut. ‘My poor boy. Michael works for the BBC. I work for the BBC. You work for Channel 4. You get my drift?’
‘Damn the BBC handshake,’ I cursed as Judy emerged carrying a tray of finger sandwiches.
‘Like to try a pawn nibble, David?’
‘Love to, my dear. And then I’m going to get this bloody idiot of a husband of yours to come and scrub down my crotch.’
I waved Judy’s bemusement away and grabbed my jacket.
‘This might take all evening,’ I said.
9PM. David Dickinson’s lawn. I’m up a ladder chipping away the scorched paint from a three foot wooden crotch.
‘He got you then?’ said a voice below me.
I look down to see Michael Palin standing with one hand in his pocket and the other holding a cocktail. He’s a bit of a show off when it comes to his elaborate drinks. Since he came back from his first world tour, Michael’s won’t touch alcohol unless it’s mixed with Cobra venom.
‘I’m supposed to call you “The Lovely One”,’ I said. ‘A poster on my blog told me that’s your real name. Only, from up here, I can think of at least a dozen alternatives that are more appropriate.’
‘BBC immunity,’ he said as though that were apology enough.
‘And to think, Mike, we had spent the afternoon slapping each other with fish. How could our friendship founder on David Dickinson’s crotch?’
‘Many have,’ he said and sipped his snake juice as I continued to scrub. ‘The thing we must remember, Dick, is that our friendship is bigger than this. We must look beyond Dickinson’s crotch and think of our next great adventure together.’
‘You’ve got plans?’ I asked, intrigued.
‘Oh, I can’t say too much and this might be more than a two man operation. We’ll need to bring in specialists.’
‘What kind of specialists?’
‘Well we’ll need a man who understands technology and somebody who can mimic the call of a duck.’
I turned back to my hand which had continued to scrub. I was suddenly excited again. ‘I might know two men who fit that profile,’ I said. ‘But aren’t you going to tell me more?’
He raised his glass and turned back to his house. ‘In time, Richard, in time,’ he said as he fell into the shadows, whistling the tune to the ‘A Team’, as though an omen of better times ahead.