I’ve had a dizzying twenty four hours and hardly enough time to write about it. There are moments like this when the impetus to write is at its lowest. I'm talking, of course, about those moments when ‘the Real World’ puts its considerable weight against your door and forces its way inside.
The Madeley attitude towards the Real World is a rather naive one: I try to avoid it whenever I can. A frigid shoulder is the best the Real World can expect from me. Yet yesterday it had me cornered and I could tell by the look of malicious intent in its eye that I would be lucky to get away without serious damage to my ego. Where it bit me, I prefer not to say. That it bit me at all is enough for you to know.
As you’re no doubt aware, the imminent arrival of 2008 has had me feeling deeply anxious about my future. It came to a head around midnight on Christmas Day. I was sitting at the bottom of the garden, a bottle of whisky on one knee and a garden gnome on the other. As I emptied one, I confessed my problems to the other. Neither offered much of a solution. Yet my sobbing must have carried up to the house because not long after I’d emptied the bottle, a figure of hope came looming over my shoulder.
‘Don’t let Cilla get you down,’ said Fry. ‘She doesn’t mean anything by it. How was she to know you’re a quarter Russian?’
‘It’s not that,’ I said, wiping a tear from my cheek.
‘Then why the tears and the need for a gnome?’
‘I’m broke,’ I confessed. ‘I need to find work or all this will come to an end.’
‘Ah,’ said Stephen, sitting at my side. He took the gnome from my knee and threw it into the shrubbery. ‘There is no need to confer with the little people when Fry’s around. If you need money, then you only need to find some work. Take me as your model. I’m always running low on funds but there’s work out there for men of reasonable intellects.’ The sight of a smile of my lips confused Stephen into thinking I was happy again. He slapped my knee and stood up. ‘Now come on back into the house,’ he said. ‘If we don’t stop Cilla’s 60s medley, she’ll start into the hits of the 70s and I can’t be sure that Titchmarsh won’t snap in a most violent manner.’
How that I wished it were all so simple!
With the Channel 4 contract running out in the Summer, I’ve become preoccupied with my finances. Now, no doubt you are sitting there, wrapped in the warmth of your semi-detached in some lovely London grotto, quaffing quality brandy while a large wolf hound sleeps by an extravagant fireplace. You think to yourself: what is Madeley blathering on about? Surely the £500,000 advance for his biography was enough for him. And what about the millions he has earned during his stint at ITV and Channel 4? You might even wonder about the ‘You Say, We Pay’ monies. Where are they now, you might uncharitably ask?
Well it’s nearly 2008 and that means it is time for brutal honesty. The Madeley funds are low. Lower than low. Were I an office cleaner, tethered to a vacuum for £5.50 an hour, I might consider myself comfortably off. It has got to the point where I need to act or prepare for a life wrapped in cardboard and selling matchbooks. Even blogging is becoming a luxury I’ll be unable to indulge for much longer. That’s why I spent yesterday making a full inventory of my skills and why I intend to make use of them in the near future.
I scribbled down the list yesterday morning. After half an hour’s consideration, I had the following laid neatly out on the back of one of the Tesco shopping receipts I so assiduously keep on me.
Full Name: Richard Caesar Madeley
Sex: Alpha Male
Occupation: Talk Show Host
Qualifications: Honorary doctorates from five universities, plus ‘O’ levels in carpentry and English.
Skills: listening, interrupting, pontificating, writing (questionable), loyalty, intelligence, computer literacy, expert on every conceivable subject, established contacts in light entertainment.
With my curriculum vitae complete, I folded it up and stuffed it down my sock. Half an hour later, I was in a nearby metropolis and had found myself an employment agency.
‘Hello,’ I said to a lively twinset sitting at a desk by the door. ‘I’m looking for work.’
The woman gazed up at me and within the space of the word ‘blink’ she was screaming my name.
‘Richard Madeley! Oh my God! It’s you, isn’t it? It’s really you!’
‘Guilty as charged,’ I said, ‘though I was let off on appeal… Irresistible sex appeal.’
‘Oh my god! What are you doing here?’
I put my foot on her desk and rolled down my sock to show her my makeshift C.V. Then I gestured to my surroundings, the green office furniture, the walls covered with small cards briefly describing employment opportunities. ‘I’m here seeking work,’ I said.
‘Oh, come on!’ she laughed. ‘Don’t fool with me. What are you really here for? Is it a show?’
‘No, no,’ I replied. ‘I’m really here for work. Or, at least, I’m here to see what kind of job a man of my vast experience and skills can land.’
‘You’re really here for a job?’ she asked, looking not a little disappointed. ‘Well what kind of position are you after?’
‘Ideally it would be something in presenting a national teatime chat show, perhaps on a generous contract of a few million a year. But if you don’t have that, I thought something in an office…’ I held out my details. ‘I’ve written down all my skills if that’s any help.’
She took one look at my résumé and, after making a comment about the price I pay for peas, turned it over. She seems quite impressed as she cast an eye down my qualifications on the back. She then picked up at a card she had been in the process of filling out.
‘To be perfectly honest with your Richard, with this limited skill set we’d be looking to place you in a role such as a General Catering Assistant.’
‘And what does that entail?’ I asked.
‘Can you ladle dumplings?’
‘I see,’ I replied, not immediately attracted to the work. ‘And is that it?’
‘We do have an opening for a Community Care Worker. You would get to meet a wide range of interesting people.’
‘Define “interesting”,’ I said.
‘Newly released prisoners and people with some kind of social disfunction. It’s basically work with the violent and the criminally insane.’
‘A bit too close to dealing with bloggers,’ I replied.
‘What about a Human Resources Officer working with Information Systems?’
‘Ah ! An executive job. That sounds more promising. Are there any more details?’
‘Full training will be given on site,’ she said, ‘though you might have to double for the usherette on a busy night.’
‘You mean I’d be selling tickets in a cinema?’
‘That’s what I said,’ said the woman. ‘Human Resources Officer working with Information Systems.’
‘And is that all I’m good for?’ I asked, falling back onto a chair, amazed at what I had heard. ‘Does an honorary doctorate not account for anything these days?’
‘Almost as little as a real one, I’m afraid,’ said the woman.
There really was nothing more I could say. I told her that I’d consider the job working with ex-convicts and made my way home. I got back at three to find Stephen Fry lazing in my arm chair. He was smoking his pipe.
‘Ah, the Dick of the house is now in residence,’ he said as he closed my copy of ‘Private Eye’. ‘I hope you don’t mind but I settled myself with a humourous read while I waited. Unfortunately, I’d already read that particular volume of Wodehouse and was forced to pick up the “Eye” instead. There was a joke on page seven that almost made me smile. Then I realised it was merely an errant staple.’
‘Judy not home?’ I asked as I threw down my car keys on the table.
‘She had go out early to beat the London traffic. I understand that it’s bingo night at Denise Robertson’s.’
I kicked off my shoes and made like the last English Oak and collapsed onto the sofa. Given the angle between my head and Stephen’s chair, it felt like I was about to undergo a session with my shrink. As it turns out, that’s not far from the truth.
‘Oh, Stephen,’ I began. ‘Why is it so easy for you? How did you become such a polymath? You only need to say that you’re going to do a thing and you cause it to happen. You want to publish a novel, the publisher says how much do you want as an advance. You say you’re writing a book on writing poetry and they make ready to print a hundred thousand copies.’
‘Do I sense jealousy, Richard?’ asked the Great Fry.
‘Only admiration,’ I said. ‘I’m tired of being typecast as the handsome yet knowledgeable irritant. I want the next stage of my career to bring me moderate rewards for all the work I do. Is it too much to ask that I’ll not be consigned to spending my days writing invoices and inputting data into a computer? I want to carry on writing, Stephen, but the world simply won’t allow it. Have I deluded myself into thinking that I have a talent for this work? Are those people right who vote for me to give up blogging? Should I accept my lot in life and succumb to the routine of a telesales office?’
‘You must succumb,’ said Stephen. ‘There are very few of us who can make a living by being witty. You are no different to the thousands who try and fail.’
‘You really think I’m no different?’
‘No different except you are perhaps a little more determined, rather stubborn, and have a higher tolerance for pain. Otherwise you’re born to fail.’
‘So that’s it then? ’
‘I’m afraid so,’ said Stephen as he puffed away at his briar. ‘A man must know his limitations and you do have such woefully limited limitations, Richard.’
I exhaled a sigh that would have been enough to extinguish the world’s light.
‘Oh, come, come, Richard,’ cried Stephen in reply. ‘Don’t look on this as the end of your writing career. See it at the beginning of a career in telesales! And who knows? In a year’s time, perhaps you’ll be the most famous telesales person in the country. People will be talking about your telephone manner from Wick to Cornwall, from Bright to Aberdeen.’
I sat up and gazed on his magnificence. ‘My God, I do believe that you’re right,’ I said. ‘I will do this and I will be a success. I’m going into telesales. If I can’t talk to the nation each night at five o’clock, I’ll ring them individually at inconvenient times of the day. It’s about time people stopped thinking of Richard Madeley as a man who lives only to annoy them.’