Dennis is my P.A., or, as he likes to describe himself, my Personal 'Attendant'. He attends to all the jobs I have neither the time nor the patience to do myself. Sometimes it's Dennis who types up my posts and publishes them when I'm busy with the show. You might say, therefore, that Dennis is my extra set of legs. He's also my third arm, but, I hasten to add, he's not my fourth. Dennis has only one arm. In fact, he's one of the few one-armed P.A.s in the country, which makes him half a P.A., or an 'A' as he likes to joke.
Dennis has a unique sense of humour about his disability, which is the way he says you have to be. Not many men have had a limb bitten off by a basking shark off the coast of Cornwall and I doubt if there's another man who can laugh about it as much as Dennis. It's what makes me feel so certain that you'll like him. However, a word to the wise: Dennis' involvement in my blog explains why there are often so many spelling mistakes and typos in my posts. You may think you're correcting my poor spelling but you're really making a one armed man feel bad about his disability.
I've decided to introduce you to Dennis because tomorrow I'll be going to meet the team who will be working with me on 'Eye of the Storm 2'. There's already talk of 'Eye of the Storm 3' and 'Eye of the Storm 4', so this job will be consuming two days of my week from now on. Should I disappear for 48 hours, I'm hoping that Dennis will help keep this blog going. Being a one armed man, he will probably be writing posts that are considerably shorter than my usual pieces. I hope that Dennis will become to this blog what Nige is to Bryan over at Thought Experiments. Or that's how I explained it to my little one-armed helper this morning.
'Dennis, would you relish the opportunity of doing some extra typing each week?' I asked him as he began to clear up after the first production meeting of the day.
He looked at me from under his heavy brow and grunted.
'Is that a good grunt or a bad grunt?' I asked.
He put his one, lonely, solitary hand in his pocket and adopted the look of a suitably unimpressed one-armed man.
'I take it that you don't want to hear what I want you to do?'
'I'm not writing your blog, if that's what you're asking,' he said, forgetting for the moment which handsome Channel 4 type pays his wages.
'You've done it before,' I said. 'There are many times you've transcribed pieces from my Dictaphone.'
'But you get all the credit.'
'As it should be, Dennis. As it should be. You can't honestly believe that people should credit you for transcribing the words of a man with the full compliment of limbs?' I rubbed my face, which was aching at the cheek of it all. I could see that I would have to compromise if I wanted my plan to go ahead. 'So, would you do it if I told people of your existence? Perhaps I could give you a regular column in which you'd get to talk about life from a one-armed point of view.'
He shrugged but his face couldn't conceal a fleeting look of excitement.
'That's better,' I said, 'but if you're going to have a more visible presence on my blog, we have to make some ground rules. Take a note, Dennis. Head the list: Things That I, Dennis, Should and Should Not Do When Writing on Richard's Blog.'
'Fair enough,' he said, his hand coming out of his pocket and taking a pad and pencil from his desk.
The list took half the morning to compile but I present it to you as a way of filling the blog while I now go and practise my documentary voice.
1. Don't annoy the punters. Americans don't like too many references to Stephen Fry or obesity.
2. Don't provoke the visitors to any online forums dedicated to 'The House'. They will hunt you down, Dennis. The last time, I was lucky to get away with only three crank phone calls and a jiffy bag full of rabbit excrement.
3. Try to promote Jerry Caesar's blog whenever you can. I'm tired of being the only person to leave comments over there.
4. No posts about disability rights.
5. No posts about Esther Rantzen. I don't care how wonderful you think she is, Dennis.
6. Don't flirt with Selena Dreamy. If you had three arms you still wouldn't have enough.
7. Don't mention Finland to Ax unless you speak the language.
8. Don't provoke Mutleythedog. He is not a dog and probably isn't called Mutley.
9. Do not disillusion Bertas. She still thinks that Norwich is a good holiday destination.
10. Remind The Twitch to keep taking his mood medicine.
11. No name dropping. People cannot stand it when a blogger casually drops the names of famous people they have met into their blogs. Stephen Fry doesn't do it so neither should we.
12. News about Stephen Fry takes precedence over any other. Then it's Bill Oddie followed by That Man Clarkson. News about Jeremy Paxman can be posted if there's nothing better to do.
13. Respect Judy at all times. Remember: she pays our wages.
14. No jokes about one-armed bandits or any other kind of bandit.
15. No pictures of naked one-armed women.
16. Remember that people are here to read about me. I, Richard Madeley, should appear in every one of your blog posts. As should a completely superfluous link to Stephen Fry's blog.
17. Never mention your stump. People aren't interested.