‘Brace yourself, Richard.’
I looked up from hammering another nail into my showbiz career. I’d been penning my ninth letter to the people at X Factor complaining yet again about their constant attempts to misrepresent it as a ‘musical talent show’.
‘What’s wrong, Jude?’ I asked as I carefully crossed the ‘f’ and spelled Louis Walsh’s name the way I think it was always meant to be spelt. ‘You’ve not been eating eggs again? You know they don’t agree with you…’
My darling wife tapped her piece of toast on The Guardian. ‘Have you read this?’ she asked.
‘Not yet,’ I replied. ‘I was going to leave Stephen Fry’s latest article of technowangliness for my morning ablution. Though, to be perfectly honest, I don’t know why I’m bothering. I go out of my way to pen him a poem and he hasn’t got the politeness to drop by and read it. You do know that a real poet reviewed me? And she compared me favourably with Lord Byron.’
Judy gave me a lightly buttered scowl. ‘You sure she wasn't recommending another session with Tanya Byron?’ she asked, as quick as that. If she'd been as witty as quick on the show, we might never have got cancelled. ‘Tanya did a bang up job with you,' she continued. 'I never thought she’d help you get rid of that habit of randomly shouting out the names of Kaisers whenever you got stressed.’
‘You were saying about the paper,’ I prompted.
‘Oh, yes. It’s about your blog...’
I paused, pen in mid air, wondering what was coming. I had a nervous uncle to whom it was wise to avoid mentioning Libya. Just the mention Tripoli and he'd start singing like Vera Lynne. Judy has a similar response at the merest mention of my blog. Which made it odd that she'd brought it up and was not singing about the White Cliffs of Dover. ‘They’ve reviewed it quite favourably,’ she said.
I dropped my pen. ‘Prince Frederick William Albert Victor of Prussia!’ I screamed.
‘Oh dear,’ she said, giving me a withering look.
‘What did they say? They mentioned my poetry, right?’
‘Not exactly,’ she answered and went about reading out the little blurb they’d written about you-know-who.
I listened carefully, as one does when hearing about oneself, occasionally humbly nodding my head or punctuating the reading with a round of applause. But by the time Judy reached the final full stop, she discovered me still sitting in my chair with a quizzical look besmirching my fine manly features.
‘Well, what do you think about that?’ she asked.
‘Fine’ I replied, ‘but what was that bit about “this blog may not be all his own work”. Whose work might it be?’
She shrugged as she turned the page over to the DVD reviews. ‘Can there be another man in this nation with such a strange set of preoccupations? If there is, I’d like to meet him, shake him by the hand, and then have him experimented upon. I would have thought you were quite unique, Richard. A bit like Les Dennis but without the humour.’
I snatched The Guide away from her and thumbed back to the blog reviews to read it for myself.
‘I don’t know... I seem to be below a website disapproving of rabbits. I don’t mind that at all. I thoroughly disapprove of rabbits. And I also have strong opinions on both hares and conies.’
‘Conies? I thought they were testicles,’ said Judy.
‘Well I disapprove of those too. Especially when they dig up our lawn.’
I finished reading the review a second time and glanced my eyes over the rest of the page. ‘All in all, I'm quite pleased with that. I’m in some fine company. I should prepare for a flood of traffic, eager to see the man newly liberated from Channel 4. I can now say and do what I like. You know, Jude, I could quite get used to this independence. I might write a little treatise on Fern Britain. I’ve always wanted to say a few things about the way she ruined This Morning.’
‘Poor Fred,’ tutted Judy, as she always does when she thinks of Liverpool. ‘We must remember to send him another care package this Christmas. Or perhaps we should ask him to come and stay with us. What do you say, Richard? Richard?’
The pencil snapped in my fingers and Judy cowered as the name of Frederick William Nicholas Charles of Prussia echoed through the house.