Saturday, 31 May 2008

In Which I Feel Loved And Take Everything Back

Flattery will get you everywhere, especially when it's directed towards my toes. I awoke this morning to find Judy massaging my feet.

'I thought it would help you relax,' she said as she used her elbow to work the tension from my heel. 'I have to say, Richard, that you have the sexiest hard skin I think I've ever seen.'

'It is unusual to see scales like that,' I admitted as I tried to sit up in bed. Judy just kept a firm hand on my ankle and wouldn't let me shift. I couldn't for the life of me presume to understand her behaviour, though had I known that Judy had such a gift for the foot massage, I wouldn't have to go into London every month to get my rub down by my Korean shiatsu master, Madame Ping Shu Nut.

'I thought you were a little highly strung yesterday,' said Judy after another five minutes of blissful hand-on-bunion action.

'Highly strung?' I reflected on her words. 'I suppose I was a little.'

'A little?' She snorted a laugh. 'I thought Bill Oddie was going to cry when you vowed to hunt down and kill every goshawk in Kent. The poor man... I've never seen him run so fast. I bet him and Nige are still out, catching every bird of prey in order to give them sanctuary.'

'I suppose I should ring him to apologise,' I said. 'But I just couldn't listen to yet another boast about how he's BBC2's most popular presenter. Not when everything has been going pear shaped for me lately...'

'And what's wrong with pear-shaped?' asked Judy, suddenly stopping mid-massage to stroke her blouse down over her ample hips.

'I didn't mean it that way,' I said, knowing how my dear wife is proud of her full figure, as indeed, she should be. 'I just think that life is not treating me all that fairly and I've been in no mood to write. I would much rather go out and heckle people. You know how I accidentally kicked a dwarf in Manchester last week? Well, I never told you but it made me feel so happy.'

'It's that autobiography you're writing that's doing it,' she said. 'You're reliving painful experiences from the days before you were a celebrity. It can't be good for you, Richard. It's making you bitter. I don't even know why you're doing it. You've already been told that there's not a publisher in the country who would want to read it.'

I had to admit that she was partly right. The whole exercise was futile, no matter how well I was progressing in writing my life story. I've already reached 1977 and the time I spent working to overthrow Fidel Castro. 'I suppose thirteen thousand words feels such a long way from finishing the damn thing,' I said. 'By threatening to abandon blogging, I was merely admitting that blogging might be the only thing I'm cut out for. I enjoy doing it but it makes me feel bad about myself.'

'Perhaps you should go back to masturbation,' she said. 'At least it was something you did in private.'

'Now you see,' I said, looking down the bed. 'That's the sort of remark I can't repeat on my blog. Do you really want me to get a reputation as a sex blogger?'

'It was just an idea,' shrugged Judy. 'Denise said that she thought it might cheer you up.'

The thought of Denise Richardson giving me advise about self-abuse was enough to make my toes curl.

'Yes, well, today will be different, Judy. I swear it. I'm going to be much more upbeat.'

After another twenty minutes, Judy finally managed to straighten out the curl in my toes which had wrapped themselves around my heels. I then showered and covered myself in talc before dressing myself in my favourite Afghan gown. I cleaned out my office and even wiped the bird muck from the window (it had been sitting there all week and I'd seen no good luck to speak of). Finally, I gave Stephen Fry a call and asked if he was in the mood for a Scrabble marathon.

'Scrabble? Ah, Dick. Were you to see me now, relaxed on my chaise longue, you would think I were a man content with the world. But, alas, 'tis not so. I yearn for the chance to increase the value of a “zumbooruk” on a triple word score. I'll be around in ten minutes.'

Sure enough, the man is as exact as he is tall and wise. Ten minutes later, the front door opened and Stephen Fry backed into the hall, dragging his suitcases behind him.

'I suggest we play normal rules for the first twenty four hours,' he said, 'and then we'll move over to the far more challenging game, which I devised while touring America. Every vowel scores double and there must be at least three in every word.'

'Sounds intriguing,' I admitted.

He puffed himself up in that way he has when feeling most proud of himself. 'I once had a game against myself that lasted a full ninety three hours,' he said. 'Quite the challenge.'

It was during our first game (Stephen was losing and therefore in the mood to chat) that I mentioned my off-the-cuff threat to abandon my Appreciation Society.

'You should consider changing to the form of the blessay,' he said as he sucked on his pipe. 'A long twenty-seven-thousand-word post twice a month is enough to keep the punters happy. It also leaves you plenty of time to do what you want. Write your novels or launch new projects even more intriguing than your Nut Club.'

'I do have ideas in that direction,' I admitted. 'I would quite like to adopt a pseudonym and launch a blog that's sure to offend everybody who reads it. That's my problem, you see, Stephen. I'm much too polite for the modern world. I need to find my edge.'

Stephen pulled the pipe from his lips. 'Then I make this promise to you now, Richard. We'll do it together! You keep on writing you Appreciation Society and I'll help you in any new venture that takes your fancy. Have you thought of writing a blog about wallpaper?'

'I don't know,' I smiled. 'Wallpaper isn't really my cup of tea. I was thinking of some pretty extreme subjects. They might make you feel uncomfortable to be uninvolved in something so puerile.'

'The more offensive the better,' smiled he, the man who has yet to let me down. 'And I'm sure there will be room for a little something on the nature of decorative wall covering.'

'Then that's a deal. The Appreciation Society continues but I'll get to work on a new blog that will remain anonymous but frisky, well written but depraved, Oddie free but round enough to roll down Blogger's Hill. People won't know what has hit them!'

'Excellent,' said Stephen as he learned forward and set out a word across a triple word score. 'There... “zumbooruk” which I believe is a small cannon that sits on a swiveled rest on the back of a camel.'

Friday, 30 May 2008

In Response To Mutley

“You try too hard to be funny Mr M... sometimes real feelings are the important thing. Let us know about your real self...” (Mutley the Dog)

And so, Mutley jams his finger (or is that paw?) into an exposed nerve. Trying too hard or not trying hard enough: I feel doubly damned. I have neither the will nor the energy to be funny today. Yet, should I try, I suppose I’d only be accused of trying ‘too hard’. And you know what? I really don’t give a damn any longer. I’ve had it with blogging.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Madeley’s having one of his tantrums. You might be right. I might feel different on Monday. A publisher might ring me this evening to say that they care enough to take a punt on my talents. I might get a writing gig that earns me a pittance but restores the belief that it is all worth it. It’s probably only today that I feel like I really do mean it when I say that I’m quitting this world of blogs. I’ve been writing them for over three years, written well in excess of 1500 posts, and in all that time, in the real world, my Channel 4 gig has come to an end and I’ve risen to the position of a desk jockey stuck in a serviced office somewhere between Manchester’s Chinatown and the Gay Village. Today is my payday and I have £30 to last me four weeks. That’s always a sobering thought when you sit down in the morning and try to make strangers laugh.

Not that I have many readers. People must have tuned into to the show just to see Judy. Nobody tunes into read me. Some say I write too much, others that I write too little. It’s my own fault. I suppose. I never pandered to the sex and knickers brigade, where every post involves a sex toy and a lubricated donkey. I don’t post porn, filth, or even bad language. There too, I misjudged the British public. I should reinvent myself as a prostitute and, tomorrow, give you the inside leg measurement of my first punter. Would you read me if I turned tricks? You needn’t answer that one.

I should have spotted where I was going wrong. Every morning I go through half-a-dozen mailboxes to delete the emails and comments I receive because of my blogging activities. How many mornings do I read something along the lines of: ‘you know its like you think your funny but your not funny you are just sad and i want you to die’? Eventually the poorly written insults from teenage girls weaken the spirit. For the first two years, it was all quite amusing. Now they are just a sad incitement of education in this country. Even our insults have fallen below the standard expected of a fully functioning Western liberal democracy. And when the Belgians can hurl more imaginative insults than your own people, you know your country is in trouble...

Damn, there I go, trying to be funny. And I’m clearly not funny. Why else would my novel get dumped a couple of months before it was due to be published? But then, blogging was always a delusion to match that of my writing. There was a time when I laughed at the emails I received from people wishing me dead. Now I’m tired of it. Why did I expose myself to the petty ridicule of a few and the desperate pleading of others? Just for the thanks of a very small minority?

So, I’ve had it. I concede defeat. And I suggest that we all give up. The mainstream media win again. Only those with real talents get a place on Jordan and Pete’s latest talk show. Say what you want about Katie Price but she’s gone out there and achieved what the rest of us haven’t. You can all mock her but how many of you were nominated as best children’s author at this year’s Galaxy Book Awards? I would have been so proud to have presented her with that award. I mean that. So very proud.

As for me, I’m going to save what little remains of my dignity before I become one of the slaw-jawed misanthropes with a chip on their shoulder because they’ve not had their manuscript published about the man who invented sea salt. I always wanted to write professionally. Moaning about my lack of success was never how I thought it would go. So, before it goes any further, I’m going to play elsewhere. You might see me on satellite TV. Watch out for me on the next series of ‘Eye of the Storm’.

Mutley, you’ve done a great thing. Your comment was the straw that broke this camel’s last vertebra. I’ve clearly been trying too hard and now I’m not going to try any longer.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

The Morning After Eurovision

Goats have been nibbling my ears all night and the sun still hasn’t risen. I’m sitting here in the darkness, listening to replays of ‘Divine’ and trying to work out why Europe hasn’t seen fit to vote for a group of female backing singers wearing beards. It was only a shame that the act of casual violence promised us at 2.30 in the video didn't make it to the Eurovision stage. Sebastien Tellier was robbed of his deserved Eurovision glory. It's wrong. It's all so very wrong.

The conclusion I’ve come to is that I clearly have no taste in music. Or, at least, I don’t share the public’s taste, which I suppose is a different thing entirely. The BBC’s plans for my taking over from Terry Wogan also lie in tatters. I sat through the Eurovision last night, taking notes on now to insult our European neighbours without sounding too insulting. It came as a terrible shock to all of us to hear that Terry is thinking of standing down. My time might have come a little too quickly and there’s already talk of giving the job to Jonathan Ross or Russell Brand. The BBC’s doubts are valid ones. Do I really have the experience to insult tanned East European divas with bleached teeth and hideous moles? Is the UK ready for my support of Europe’s alternative acts, with catchy melodies and a proper sense of the ridiculous? We shall have to wait and see.

I wouldn’t mind but the evening began so well, with Terry reminding us that last year’s winner looked like an ‘angrier version of Janette Krankie’.

I thought my own ‘glandular Ronnie Corbett’ was closer to the mark because I at least had the gender right...

Things started to go askew when Sir Terry began to praise the power ballads and mock the different. My choices from last night were all the songs that have received the most insult from the nation’s media this morning. I am, as you know, quite a fan of Tellier but I also was won over from the entry from Bosnia and Herzegovina. At first, Judy suggested that the guy looked like a paedophile with a Leslie Phillips fixation but we were soon warming to the enjoyable alternative rock song by Laka. The whole performance was helped by my understandable attraction to Cleo Rocos wearing a revealing dress and knee-high stockings.

The Spanish entry was also quite catchy and surreal, plus he was backed by a few attractive woman displaying plenty of flesh. I’ve often been accused of watching Eurovision for what Judy describes as ‘tail’ and I won’t deny it. A bad song with flesh on show is easier to endure than yet another ballad sung by a Romanian steel worker and her friends.

If Terry Wogan does retire from Eurovision (and assuming that the BBC don’t do the sensible thing and give me the gig) then I suggest that we should withdraw our considerable funding from the competition. We pay a large portion of Eurovision's wages and if our licence fee isn’t being used to provide an easy outlet for our latent xenophobia, then what is it going to be used for?

Friday, 23 May 2008

24 Hours... Eurovision joy and my favourite night in front of the TV.

This weeks wages are on a French victory. If Sébastien Tellier doesn't win, the world will fall into darkness and goats will nibble your ears.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Sunday, 18 May 2008

The Blog Post In Which I Try To Pick A Fight With Will Self

In a duel between two of the better looking members of the ‘Grumpy Old Men’ cast, I think I'd have the advantage of my never having been a smoker. In fact, such is the clear superiority I’d have over the author of The Butt, which I recently added to my library, I would have more than enough opportunities to trap his wheezing body with the deadly Madeley earlobe manoeuvre inside three five-minute rounds. The fight would be over and I’d then have chance to confront an immobile Will Self about the terrible state of his penmanship.

That, at least, is the plan.

There is, in this, as much a note of confession as there is boastfulness. Confession because I’m quite aware that I lack Will’s relationship with words; his loquacity, the way he rumbles and tussles with synonyms, and the élan with which he executes any series of clauses over the course of a tightly writ contemporary satire. Yet I'm not ashamed to acknowledge that I have a clear advantage over the man when it comes to keeping the punters happy. I know, for example, how to sign my name. See:

The process that led me to make this startling realisation began on Friday morning when I found myself again cast out onto the streets of Manchester. An independent television producer with a mild Goebbels complex threw me from the ‘Eye of the Storm’ production offices because of the way I pronounce the word ‘mist’. Tearful, I dashed down to Deansgate and into Waterstone’s, where my slightly outlandish disguise of a beret and a false nose/moustache combination is sure to attract no ridicule. Half of the customers in the shop are celebrities seeking a little solitude and if nobody is going to recognise Bill Roache in a floral hat and woman’s taffeta gown, then I know I’m sure to be safe from the general public. It’s why I go there at least twice a week and rarely buy anything. I just loiter around the Henry Miller books where I console myself that – had I the money – I still wouldn’t go to the desk with a book covered with more modernist nipples than an Elberry post.

Yet Friday was no ordinary day. I had money from my birthday tucked into my sports girdle. In addition to which, I had eaten neither breakfast nor lunch, so I had a few extra coins in my pocket. I was in the mood and financial zone to buy a book. This is how I came to find myself deciding which of the editions of Will Self’s latest to grab. Was it to be the drab paperback made from recycled egg boxes or a hardback signed by the great man himself?

I chose the latter option but soon became disillusioned with the book once I’d settled myself in the coffee shop and set myself to reading it. I had a problem with how it was written. Not the story, I should add. I just mean the signature.

Swipe a pen across a sheet of paper dancing on a manic breeze and you might approximate the autograph I have in my book. The indifferent run of the pen lazily describes a shape that could be a ‘W’ but might also be some strange runic code involving white witches and duck tape. A few dots had been hammered after the scribble, but these too were without meaning. Where they the eyes of the author looking at me or nipples on a lounging figure? Has I turned away from Henry Miller only to still buy myself a reclining nude with literary pretensions?

Or was it that Will is so tired of signing these books that he no longer cares? Has the signed edition really become such a formality? A sham? A marketing exercise? Getting home late on Friday night, I retired to my room examine a few of the other signed editions I own. It didn’t take much searching to realise that Will is just not putting enough effort into his book signings. I have signed editions by Kurt Vonnegut, Alan Bennett, and David Mamet; all of whom were quite happy to exert their elbows when it came to signing my front pages.

Kurt Vonnegut's signature is a work of art as well as including a good partortion of his name, including at least a 'K', a 'V' and a 'T':

David Mamet's signature is almost readable on account of the two recognisable initials.

As for Alan Bennett, his signature is a work of precision to match his prose. Should a signature ever wear a herringbone tweed, this one would certainly have creases to match.

It begs the question: does Will Self know how to write his name so others might recognise it or is this lack of legibility caused by the rocking motion of the Waterstone’s gravy train? I suppose I’m surprised that the act of signing a book still involves a writer putting pen to frontispiece. Might we soon have to satisfy ourselves with the first edition ‘as breathed over by Will Self after a particularly spicy meal’? Might the tang of chicken korma curry be enough to prove that the book has been in the author’s presence? Get the man to urinate on a pile of hardbacks from a great height and I would consider that his mark has been made. Let Waterstone’s print stickers for the cover that read: ‘As Sprayed On By The Author’ and I’ll pay a premium price for a book by the man who best captures the zeitgeist, the throb of the nation’s pulse. He has words coming out of places where most men grow hair. I just wish he weren’t so incapable of signing his name legibly.

Will: I’m calling you out. I demand that you post me a legibly signed copy of your book or I’m coming for you. And I warn you that my deadly earlobe manoeuvre has crippled many a healthy man.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Herring Nipples

While Judy hogs the living room and watches the FA Cup final with Dame Shirley Bassey, I’m spending my afternoon here in my office, catching up with blog business, buffing my elbows, clipping nostril hair, and generally doing that important spot of grooming I’ve put off for so long. One of the problems with the Madeley gene is that the males of the line have the quickest growing nose hair to ever grace a chin. Judy has often suggested that we turn it into high quality matting that I might sell via this blog. It’s a fine idea except I can’t promise a supply a single shade of fibre. An everlasting ‘Welcome Home’ mat is one thing but would you really buy one that’s got flecks of grey in it?

I don’t know why I’m asking you this except I want to also take this opportunity to clear up any outstanding business on this blog. I have a love/hate relationship with my statistics, as indeed, I have with reality, and my posts recently dried up while I came to grips with my new job in Manchester. I even stopped looking to see how many people continued to visit me and never had chance to see who has linked to me, included me in their memes, or generally badmouthing the finest looking man in an electric-violet cummerbund.

First of all to Elberry, who really moved me with his post, ‘The Knights of Madeley’. The thought of being sponsored by my readers touches me deeper than my expert Korean masseur, Hwan Long Finger. However, I’m not a man to take charity. I just ask you to gather at Trafalgar Square next Friday at noon and march on the offices of Random House or Macmillan. I’ve got a firm undertaking from Selena Dreamy that she’ll do the dance of the seven veils before any publishing executive or literary agent willing to put me on their books. (And I would like to take this opportunity of publicly thanking Selena for this kind gesture and for filling in after Vanessa Feltz slipped dropped out during rehearsals. I’d also like to thank The Twitch for handling that situation so well.)

Speaking of heavy matters, I’d like to thank the people at the BBC’s College of Comedy competition for their gracious response to the ten pages of sitcom I submitted to them last month. By not contacting me, they have chosen to preserve my dignity and respect my privacy. I’d like to also thank them for not dragging me into London for the final round of interviews, nor loading my schedule with the onerous duty, as winner, of having to write them a complete sitcom. My loss will ensure that the BBC’s next generation of sitcoms will be of the same standard as the last. Hurrah!

Finally, I would like to send my thanks to 'Maureen Chlorine' for the admirable attempt to render my handsome profile in finger paints but I wonder if she really needed to include my plastic bag in the same picture.

Onto meme business: I’ve been listed in a meme on Monscooch, where I’ve been asked to describe myself in six words. Hard to do. Do they want the ‘real’ Richard or the public Richard? I think I’ll cheat and give them both. So, the public Richard is:


As for the private Richard, you might say that he’s almost a totally different man. The Richard you get to see on this blog is:


Which leads me on to Nige’s brief-but-much-appreciated post, to which I was forced to add my own three replies. The problem of being both Nige and myself, writing two blogs a day, is that I sometimes get a little confused as to which persona I’m inhabiting. Am I the wren loving twitcher with a love of English poets or am I Nige? Only time will tell.

Finally, I must mention search terms. It’s always a pleasure to look to see what people have put into Google. Not having examined my statistics in months, I have missed some real gems. The following three caught my attention:

‘Herring nipples’

What more can I say about my favourite brine-flavoured snack? They’re the juicy North Sea chews that you can tickle in your pocket.

‘What’s wrong with Richard Madeley’s left knee?’

I sprained it when I fell over after ogling a mime. It is still giving me a little pain, though I’m glad to report that the last few days has finally seen a small improvement.

‘Who is Richard Madeley?’

A perfect moment to post the description of myself I wrote for my entry on Wikipedia:

Richard Madeley, TV host, writer, blogger, fertility god, and inventor, is the immensely popular and influential host of his own talk show on Channel 4. His wife, Judy, often appears as his special guest. Richard also writes a blog which is even more popular that his TV show. An estimated 4.5 million readers a month read about his adventures with celebrity friends Bill Oddie and Stephen Fry. He has been sued by ex-pat Tunisians, members of the deaf, blind, midget, and homeless societies, and David Dickinson, though he has settled out of court a record number of times. He is currently writing a epic poem based around the lives of his blogging friends.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Red Dawn

Drunk Russians are calling up to me from the street. If they can smell my fear, I don’t know why they also blow kisses and wave women’s underwear that they’ve looted from the local Anne Summers.

You’d think I’m in downtown St. Petersburg, not a hotel just a few hundred yards from Manchester’s Town Hall. I’ve turned off the lights and I’m keeping well away from the window. The way these folk fire their small arms into the air, it’s easy to catch a chunk of shrapnel. In fact, as easy as it is to catch the lacy bras they keep throwing up here. Since the Rangers fans rioted last night, the Russians have decided to show them how it’s done. Tonight, the city has the air of the worst kind of African capital. Think Mogadishu but with canals and trendy coffee shops.

(And surely they don’t expect me to fit into anything less than a DD cup?)

I knew there was something wrong once the armoured personnel carrier dropped me at the office which sits in Manchester’s Chinatown, at the edge of the Gay Village. As soon as I ran down the tailgate, I realised there wasn’t the usual abundance of flamboyantly dressed men from the orient whistling to me. Just men with blue football scarves wrapped around their wrists. Or around their RPGs. Whichever was thicker.

‘It’s been like this all night,’ said Art, Eye of the Storm's producer, from beneath his desk. ‘Since they won the cup, the Russians have decided to take the city. The council offices fell at dawn and they’re now working their way towards the Ardale Centre with the intention of taking the last free Starbucks south of Bolton.’

‘Damn their post-Soviet hides,’ I cried and looked to grab the nearest gun.

‘It’s no use,’ said Art, clearly sensing my intention to make a stand. ‘They’ve put snipers in every Greggs The Baker.'

In Manchester that could only mean one thing. 'That's one killing machine on every corner!' I cried.

'Precisely. You better get back to your hotel and lock your door.’

‘But there’s nothing we can do?’

‘Just flee the city at the earliest opportunity, Richard, and be sure to tell the world our story,’ said Art, tears in his eyes.

And what a story that is! I can confirm that Manchester has fallen to the Russians and as the bullets and bras fly outside my hotel window, I'm waiting for darkness to fall. I'll either escape or be captured by men who want to dress me in undersized brassieres.

I don't know if I'll make it home. In fact, you might even say that it's either London or bust...

In Which I Respond To An Outrageous Accusation

I’m blogging late tonight and I have to ask you to picture the scene. Judy is already in bed. Fed with cocoa laced with Horlicks and a tablespoon of Ovaltine, she is wrapped in her fleecy pink PJs and lies with her knees in the air dreaming of Engelbert Humperdinck frolicking naked on his mink farm. Meanwhile, I’m down here in my office. My tie is dragged to one side and the shirt is wet on my back. I light myself another cigarette before I pour myself three fingers of some cheap cooking sherry I found behind the potatoes in the pantry. Only then do I run a hand across my unshaven (though undoubtedly handsome) jaw and contemplate the next words I’m about to hammer into my keyboard.

‘Saul Bellow eat your heart out!’ I cry. ‘How’s that for setting a scene?’

Here, I think, you have a touching portrait of a man deeply troubled. A man who has tonight been accused of lacking depth!

‘Where is your killer punch,’ wrote a friendly blogger.

‘Where indeed?’ I replied.

I’m a man who writes his blog in minutes, not hours. My mind only flits here for relaxation while my body does great things in the real world. You might say that this blog is the product of .05% of my brain’s capacity for genius. Yet the accusation that I lack depth still troubles me. I won’t shame those shameful types who have said these things. I only ask that they take heed of wiser words than mine. For I believe it was Cicero who once lamented: ‘high ratings don’t make the man shallow, but the shallow man can have high ratings, particularly on Channel 5 when the show features oily breasts and that guy who used to be in Eastenders and has a metal plate in his head’.

So, what if I’m here for cheap laughs? I always thought there was more between us than that. So much more. Forgive me for speaking on your behalf, but I thought we had something special going on between us. Not in a way that requires lubrication or tissues. I just mean: intellectually. After all, you are members of my ‘Appreciation Society’ and part of that appreciation is to understand my many hidden depths. Work commitments might prevent me from posting my regular interesting facts, but it doesn’t mean than I’m no longer in possession of suitable nuggets of data were you to ever need them. You only need to ask and I will tell you that Australia is the single largest piece of sandstone in the world and that earwigs got their name because they resemble Victorian ‘ear wigs’ that were popular in the 1840s. You want more? Well, did you know that brisket is technically a biscuit of meat and that Kent has more homeless Iranians than Tehran?

But I can see that all this depth is wasted on some of you.

I’m travelling up to Manchester in the morning, hoping to find inebriated Russian billionaires littering the streets after the UEFA Cup celebrations. As I rummage through their pockets, I’m going to try to formulate a new action plan for this blog. You claim that I’m not writing enough quality material and I agree. A re-launch is called for. Even the title, ‘The Richard Madeley Appreciation Society’ might need altering to highlight that this is blog written for intellectuals by intellectuals. I’ll leave Elberry to quote his German philosophers and post pictures of flat-chested women who choose to wear no knickers despite the high likelihood of their needing to bend over while standing in close proximity to a camera with a zoom lens. I’ll stick with handling the meaty end of the thinker’s baton, so to speak. I might not have the eye for interesting curios like Bryan Appleyard, know a little about everything else like Nige, nor have an encyclopaedic knowledge of brothel etiquette like Selena Dreamy. I don't know a thing about literature and choose to leave that sort of business to Ms. Baroque. I'm no font loving style magnet like Davethedesigner and my hand could not find the pulse of American politics if you placed my fingers on Hillary's thigh. I suggest you go see Jerry Caesar if that's your thing. And if you want your politics cold and aloof, head over to that frightful bore, Iain Dale, and ask him about ten pence tax rates and Gordon Brown’s habit of scratching his nose when happy.

However, those of you that choose to stay with me will see that I have an abundance of good sense. With the right plan, I might even start to enlighten you to my further hidden depths. You'll discover why I don't trust people who buy 'The Big Issue' and what rare earth metal I've had lodged up my right nostril since Vietnam. What's more: I’ll make thinkers out of all of you. Then we’ll see who still believes that I write ‘a shallow blog’.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

A Discourse On Toast Muffins

A brief post for the sake of my nerves.

Judy sat down with her Slimming World magazine a few minutes ago and thumbed through it as I mixed some pancakes with the joyful air of a man who has just had the all clear on his stool sample.

‘They have a fantastic recipe in here for a poached egg on a muffin,’ said Jude. ‘Only, instead of a muffin, they’ve cleverly cut a piece of toast so it looks like a muffin.’

‘In which case, it’s not a muffin,’ I replied. ‘That’s a recipe is for poached egg on toast.’

‘No, it’s poached egg on a muffin,’ said my dear deluded wife. She was clearly in no mood to argue the point -- I could tell because the veins were standing out on her forehead -- and I was left to silently mix my batter, otherwise seething with an unexpressed rage towards toast ‘muffins’.

Which is why I’ve come here to vent.

My problem is that I can’t accept these random redefinitions of the things around us. You cannot cut a piece of bread into the shape of a muffin and then say it’s a muffin. It’s a piece of toast with the edges trimmed off. Confectionery companies try this trick of redefining products more than anybody and, unless you're diabetic, you probably fall for it. Take, for instance, Cadbury’s Creme Eggs. They are repulsive balls of cheap chocolate packed with sugar but I understand that some people like eating them. They are usually sold and eaten at Easter. So much so that Cadbury clearly believe that they can market the brand name all the year round. And this is why you can now buy a Cadbury’s Creme Egg bar.

But it begs the question: but if it’s a bar, why is it called an egg? You see my point? You might even argue that a chocolate egg is not technically an egg since nothing is likely to come from it except tooth decay and large hips. But if you do, at least, accept the premise that something shaped like an egg can be called an 'egg', it still doesn’t make any sense that chocolate shaped into a bar can be called a ‘Cadbury’s Creme Egg bar’. They've now even gone a stage further and released the Creme Egg Twisted. (How you twist an egg, I have no idea but when I hear the name, I think of that most dreadful medical condition, feared by schoolboys everywhere: 'twisted testicles'. How you twist a testicle, I also don't know. But I I've always lived in the fear that it might happen to me. However, I digress...)

I know you probably think that your dear beloved Richard has finally lost it. You might even be sitting there, considering writing to the authorities to ask that my stools be resampled. However, I think you’ll find that I’m merely unnaturally sane in this crazy world.

Right, I’m now going back to my batter. I’m going to make myself a pancake hat, which I’m going to wear until Judy sees sense.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Happy Birthday Me!

It was more than the maturing of my peppercorn stocks that prompted Judy to wake me this morning. ‘It’s your birthday, Richard,’ she said. ‘Or it is according to Wikipedia and if that’s good enough for our team of Cambridge-educated researchers, then it’s good enough for me. Now what would you like to do to celebrate?’

I didn’t know what to say, birthdays having become something of a low point of my year since I prefer to go by my skin age rather than my real age. Besides, I’ve been miserable for so long that I have forgotten the meaning of ‘fun’. It was clear that Judy could sense my mood.

‘I know the contract negotiations with Channel 4 have upset you,’ she said, ‘and I appreciate how tiring it must be to travel up to Manchester once a week to work in an office. But why don’t we spend the peppercorn dividend on the biggest barbecue this street has ever seen? I could ask Cilla to come down and you could give Bill a call...’

The thought of Cilla Black singing ‘Happy Birthday’ was enough to turn a pubic hair but Judy did have a point about my needing to relax. It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed a good time with my showbiz friends and there’s nothing as good for the spirits as singing one the karaoke while Bill Oddie plays his spoons.

‘We’ll do it!’ I said, throwing back the sheets on my naked body. ‘Uncooked meat on a Tuesday! There’s nothing as likely to provoke the threepenny bits on a Wednesday. And Stephen’s back in the country. Now his arm is fully healed, I’m sure he’d love to bring over his famous sausage.’

Three hours later, as the sun beat down on Emery Close (named after its first famous resident Dick), I prodded my fork into a lump of quality meat and turned it over before basting it with some of Judy’s spicy sauce. The garden was full of family, friends, neighbours, and colleagues. David Dickinson was loudly explaining the difference between walnut and mahogany, while Ant (for once without his Dec) was playing his banjo as Stephen Fry interrogated Robert Llewellyn (he of Scrapheap fame) about welding techniques for the softer alloys. Over in a corner, we’d left some old golf clubs for the kids who were using Keith Chegwin as a makeshift pinyata. His little Scouse screams amused all who heard them.

‘Isn’t this better?’ asked Judy, standing at my side and buttering her buns. ‘We’ve been needing a day like today to get rid of all the tension.’

‘A man could be happy if only he could prod meat for a living,’ I agreed.

Judy put her lips to my cheek and wished me a ‘Happy Birthday’.

I blushed, realising how lucky I am. I turned over a sausage and thought of how many men would swap their whole world for just a few hours of living like that. I had reached for a bottle of sauce, believing that things couldn’t get any better, when I saw Vanessa Feltz arrive. Dressed in a thin summer dress, she came jogging over to me. Judy muttered one of her more nautical curses but I was mesmerized.

And that’s when the world caught fire.

A little time later, I woke up and felt an intense pain across my forehead. A figure was bending over me, wiping my face with a damp cloth.

‘Ah, ‘tis I, Fry,’ said Stephen, ‘extinguishing your flames with my now ruined summer cloak. Dear Richard, did you think it wise to pour a can of fuel onto a lit barbecue? Were I am man more given to reproach, I would advise you that it is a very silly thing to have done. I would berate you with a “tut” and a “tush”. Bless...’

‘Is that what happened?’ I asked, trying to sit up. I felt for my brow and was surprised to feel how smooth it was. ‘The last thing I remember was being distracted by the approach of Vanessa Feltz’s summer bosom. It was like a field of sunflowers bouncing towards me. I must have picked up the wrong bottle? Am I injured? How do I look?’

‘Eyebrows,’ said Stephen. ‘The poor little fellows stood no chance. Your brow is as smooth as a Brazilian buttock. However, it has taken years off you. You now look like a man in his fifties.’

The dear man. He can always provide a ray of sunlight in even the darkest of hours. I patted his arm and managed to climb to my feet from where I surveyed the scene of the barbecue. Much of the back lawn was blackened and all my meat ruined. Even Stephen’s famous sausage was too scorched for salvage. But say what you want, days like this that remind you that it’s important to surround yourself with friends, family, colleagues, and large bosoms.

What more can a man ask for on his birthday. Except, of course, a new set of eyebrows. Brown if you’ve got them...

Thursday, 8 May 2008

In Which I 'Cop A Feel' Outside Picadilly Station

I would like to publically apologise to the woman sitting by the window on the express into Manchester this morning. I didn’t mean to grope her leg. It just happened.

The problem was that I’d been wedged into my seat by an impatient passenger who wouldn’t let me get to my bag when I sat down. As soon as I was in my seat, I was forced to drag my bag beneath the table and, from there, extract my James Wood book. In the process of searching for the zip, I inadvertently ‘copped a feel’ of the woman sitting opposite me. Not that it was much of a ‘feel’. It was more of a slight brush against her shin. The look she gave me was pure disgust and I must have winced as I awaited a face full of pepper spray. As it was, I turned a shade of red that was off the David Dickinson scale and mumbled my apology. I was then forced to stay on the train until the end of the line lest getting off (not the best phrase in the circumstance) at my normal stop would involve more groping beneath the table.

But that’s the sort of week I’ve been having. Yesterday it was pots and paddles. Today it’s a minor sexual assault. I really worry what tomorrow will bring.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Rectal Matters

Selena Dreamy’s return to blogging has prompted me into action. It’s with some shame that I’ve been silent for the last few days and I realise that this has led some to think that Selena and I share the same patch of time, space, and hair gel. Well, that’s not the case. I have much better legs that Selena, though it’s often been said that we’re identical around the bikini line. The truth be told: I’m really Nige in disguse and spend my weekends pretending to be Elberry as I chase tramps with a carving knife and a copy of Wittgenstein.

I’m also given to write tonight since it’s with greater shame that I’ve not responded to your kind comments from last week (thank you M-Alice -- you really did cheer me up when I was feeling down). It’s just that life has been so hectic and I’m still labouring from the effects of the recent flu outbreak, which a hospital doctor recently informed me was the worst he’s ever known since he made the trip from Zambia.

However, to catch up on recent events, I must really go back to the Friday night I spent at the local hospital. I was called there to retrieve my relative who, being much improved, was released to make way for the usual influx of drunks that fill the nation's wards over the weekend. A hospital is quite the interesting place to visit at 11 o’clock at night. I recommend it to any of you who happen to be connoisseurs of terror. I arrived and soon found myself walking alone down long empty corridors whose fluorescent lights periodically flickered and went out. It was like some cheap horror movie but without the usual guest appearance by Robert Englund. At every turn I was faced with a new sign indicating the way to the ‘Facial Reconstruction Unit’, 'The Elbow Attachment Department' or, even more sinister, ‘The Mortuary’. I then had to make the return journey pushing a heavily sedated relative in a cast iron wheelchair, with the words of the nurse still ringing in my ear: ‘pull it, don’t push. It can easily break your legs.’

After such drama, life settled down for the rest of the weekend and I almost enjoyed my Bank Holiday Monday which I spent reading ‘Blott on the Landscape’. Things were really looking up. Then the telephone rang this morning. It was a man from the local environmental health department who said that he wanted to come and see me.

‘I’ve got some good news,’ he said once we’d got him settled in the living room. ‘Your relative's tests have come back from the labs and everything is clear.’

‘That’s good news, isn’t it Richard?’ said Judy, from the arm of the sofa.

‘Indeed,’ I replied, not sure what any of this had to do with me. It was my relative who had been sick, not Madeley (Richard). ‘But if there’s no sign of the usual flesh eating viruses, why exactly are you here?’

He smiled in the impure way that only men charged with the cleanliness of our nation can smile.

‘Well, there were signs of a certain bacterial infection...’


‘Oh, there’s no need to worry. There’s no danger. These bacteria are found dormant within all of us. We just have to carry out our usual checks and make sure that they’ve not come from contaminated food.’

‘And that’s a relief too,’ smiled Judy. I wasn’t so sure that she understand half of what was being said.

‘Checks?’ I asked.

‘Have you eaten any meat in the last week?’ asked the officer.

‘I don’t touch the stuff,’ I replied. ‘Bill Oddie made me sign a pact.’

‘Have you drank any milk that might have come in contact with blue tits?’

‘None that I know of,’ I answered, being the sort of man who remembers the tits he’s contacted during his busy week. ‘Bill Oddie has warned me about tit related infections.’

The environmental health offer smiled again and wiped a tongue over his hygienically clean lips. ‘Well, that’s fine,’ he said. ‘All I need to do now is ask you to give me a sample.’

‘Ah ha!’ I cried. ‘So that’s your game!’

‘Not so much a game,’ he said. ‘It’s more of a test of your dexterity. I’ll leave you a jar.’

‘There’ll be no jars,’ I said, rising to the moment. ‘You won’t get me urinating into one of those damn things. What’s this country coming to when a man can be ordered to urinate into any old cocked hat?’

‘Urinate?’ he smiled. ‘Who asked you to urinate?’

And that, my dear reader, is how I have spent a Wednesday I had originally set aside for writing chapter 15 of my latest novel. This is probably a detail too far, even for an honest blogger such as myself, but have you ever faced the problem of filling a sample jar with your own waste material? It’s not an easy task, despite the small plastic spoon they provide. It might not have been so bad but the spoon was remarkably similar to those that came with Screwball ice creams of my youth. I didn’t know if I had it in me to dig into the stuff, and when I did, I found it very difficult not to start looking for the gobstopper at the bottom.

Needless to say: no gobstopper was found and I now feel that my very being has been violated. Wrapped up in a Tesco carrier bag and sitting on the kitchen table is a parcel beyond description. I’ve warned Judy to keep away from it but we’re all drawn to it as though it contains some strange magic.

‘I think I’ll go to bed early tonight,’ said Judy, staring at the bag over her cup of cocoa.

‘Can’t say I blame you, love,’ I replied, as I stared at the bag over my glass of brandy. ‘It’s been another of those days. I don’t know how many days like this I can take. I mean... It's not something you expect to be doing when you get up in the morning.'

She turned her eyes to me. 'Nothing surprises me when it comes to you, Richard.'

Thursday, 1 May 2008

My Epiphany

This afternoon I was standing in the corridor of our local hospital and I was rubbing some kind of sweet smelling antiseptic lotion into my hands. An automated voice had told me to do this and I couldn’t go any further onto the ward until my hands were completely free of flesh eating viruses.

And that’s when it struck me: I really have to cheer up.

So I want to apologise to all of you who have been stopping by hoping to read something uplifting. I’ve been letting you down. I can see that now. This blog is meant to be fun but I keep taking life too seriously.

It began a couple of months ago when my laptop screen cracked and the subsequent repair process led my losing 60,000 words of a manuscript I’d been working on for months. I now understand that it was meant to be wryly amusing.

Then I was informed that my first novel had been cancelled by my publisher barely a month or two before appearing in bookshops. Oh, I hid my disappointment well by making it sound like it happened to a friend of mine. Yet it was really me who suffered this twist of fate. There I was: thinking that people across the land would be laughing at my cunningly fashioned comic tale. Instead, I’m now working in an office where my literary skills go ignored. Again, it’s hard not to chuckle as such terrible bad luck. But now I see the error of my ways. I'm laughing. I really am.

It was about this time that I fell over and blackened my eye in the famous mime-related incident. Weeks later, I still barely suppress a smile when the pain shoots through my still-ruined left knee...

A week last Friday, I fell ill with a version of the flu (Flu 2.0, I think it was) that had me in bed for six days. I was really sick and I’m still not right. But this only serves to remind me to laugh at the humour of my situation. Who wouldn't smile at days without sleep and constant temperatures. Comic gold!

This week’s highly 'comic' event was my sister being rushed into hospital at two o’clock yesterday morning with a rather horrible medical condition that we now learn will probably require surgery in the coming days.

It was while waiting to be let onto the ward to see her that I began to realise that Life is merely trying to be sardonic.

Now, I enjoy black comedy as well as the next guy. I really do. All these ‘bad things’ must be happening for a reason. Am I meant to fashion them into some strange comic tale that will make my fortune and save me from a life of being so highly qualified that I'm only capable of menial office work? If so, then Providence, that old chuckler, is being really kind in providing me such material.

But I wonder: could Life not move on and make somebody else their stooge for a little while?

No, please. Won’t it just stop and let something good happen to me, no matter how unfunny that might be?