With the new week you find a new guest at the Madeley home. Bill Oddie’s come to stay with us for a couple of days while his leg heals. As you might have read, poor Bill was accidentally skewered by an errant heron last week. I don’t want to get into the medical details of his wound but I will say that he still has three inches of beak still buried in his right thigh. Walking is now difficult for him and he's troubled by these strange cravings for freshwater fish...
If you think that an accident like this would dent a man’s love for his avian friends, you don't know Bill. It has, however, disappointed him in other ways, such as the lack of fan mail he’s been receiving, or not receiving as is the case. But as I’ve been trying to explain to him, we celebrities have allowed ourselves to be treated as something other than human. It’s only natural when people forget that we need love and encouragement like everybody else.
Take this poll I've been reading about this morning. Doesn’t it prove that we British are a credulous lot when large portions of our fellow countrymen believe that Winston Churchill was a figment of some writer’s imagination? They also think that Sherlock Holmes was a real turn-of-the-century detective. Among the other famous figures who many believe are myths are Richard the Lionheart and Charles Dickens. The report doesn’t say where Madeley ranks, though I know that many people think that I don’t exist, despite the evidence of this blog and my daily appearances on Channel 4.
And this is the point I was making to Bill. The fact that the public confuse fact and fiction is perhaps a reason why we’ve never had the revolution I’ve been hoping for these last few years. I don’t mean to overthrow wealth, or anything as trivial as that. I mean the moment when the great British public dispel the illusion of British Media and start to support projects like The Richard&Judy Show which are the product of real talent.
‘There’s something abhorrent about this country,’ I said as I pushed Bill around the garden this morning in his wheelchair. ‘Nepotism strikes at the heart of everything we try to achieve.’
‘That reminds me,’ he replied. ‘How’s your daughter, Chloe, doing with all those reporting jobs you’ve been giving her for the show?’
‘Don’t talk about family, Bill. You know I won’t and don’t. And, quite frankly, I don’t see what that has to do with my comments on nepotism.’
‘Fair enough,’ he said. ‘Don’t know what made me ask. Perhaps I thought it significant…’
I decided to ignore his comments as the ramblings of a man high on painkillers and beak. Besides, it was irrelevant to the point I was trying to make.
‘I was watching the BBC news the other night and they had a guest reviewing the papers. I thought her face looked vaguely familiar and, sure enough, I soon realised that it was Boris Johnson’s sister. Odder still was the fact that she was there, on national TV, criticising MPs for hiring their family.’
‘I don’t see your point,’ said Bill.
‘I can’t even get a job writing film reviews for The Leamington Observer, but the Johnson family alone account for half the column inches written in the nation’s broadsheets. A mere coincidence? I think not.’
I could tell by the way that Bill’s ears began to flush that I’d roused him.
‘Damn them,’ he snarled. ‘Tell me what we can we do about it?’
‘What indeed?’ I asked and lay a reassuring hand on his shoulder. ‘But the problem doesn’t end with the talented Boris Johnson and his equally gifted siblings. I turned on BBC2 last night to watch “Ski Sunday” thinking I’d be in for some high-speed piste action. Only, what did I find? That they’d changed the format of the show. No more can I watch David Vine having fun at the expense of foreigners have big spills on lethal seventy degree slopes of blue ice. Instead, they’d dropped some fashionable young type on the top of a mountain and the whole thing has become a festival of celebrity. The licence fee is now being used to give celebrities free ski lessons. I don’t know about you, Bill, but I resent my money going to teach Ben Fogel how to knock a few seconds off his slalom time.’
Bill went quiet as he watched something through his binoculars. Finally, he lowered them and gestured for me to push on which I duly did.
‘You see, Bill, I’m a man who likes to think that we get where we’re going on our own power. Celebrity connections are one thing but is there anything as sad as watching a celebrity pushing the career of a friend or relative?’
‘Oh, I see,’ said Bill, suddenly struggling in his chair. He threw aside the rug that had been across his legs and pushed himself to his feet. ‘I thought you were trying to tell me something.’
Hobbling, he began to head down towards the lake.
‘Where you going?’ I shouted after him.
‘I’m going to see Stephen Fry,’ he said.
‘He’s in America.’
‘The other Stephen Fry,’ said Bill. ‘And you needn’t come. I can get there under my own power. After all, there’s nothing as sad as watching a celebrity pushing around a friend.’
Overwhelmed with fondness for the poor fellow, I smiled as I slowly followed after him. There are times when helping a friend is the best thing that a celebrity can do. Especially when that friend has beak shaped shrapnel.