Thursday, 26 June 2008

A.A. Gill Reviews Richard Madeley at Delmodes, The Strand

No man is an island. Nor is he an isthmus. Possibly more accurate is the statement that every man is a peninsula. We all look out onto a sea that rages on three sides. Our familiar connections trail off behind us. Our spirit seeks to abandon itself in the open water. Our commitments keep us wedded to dry land.

The sea is in the British blood. It’s like curry, sweet fried barbeque ribs, the blues and urinating in public. And that proud son of this seafaring nation, Richard Madeley, is less of a peninsula than any man I know. He’s much more than an isthmus. It might even be geographically correct to call him an island. He certainly sits alone in the dangerous waters of light entertainment.

Richard’s energy is molten. It surrounds him. His currents draw in facts – ‘life’s flotsam’ he calls them – and his encyclopaedic knowledge of every conceivable subject is legendary. His wit is quick to strike, like a cobra on methamphetamines and state benefits. We are sitting in Delmodes, a cosy little drop-in, just off The Strand. The food is a mixture of incineration and tap water but the company is unmissable. As a weak broth is served I’m tempted to suggest that they deliver it by hosepipe. Too late. Richard is giving me a flash of the radiant being that lives within his immaculately tanned flesh and bone.

‘Did you know that Bolivian turnips are the world’s second biggest edible vegetable?’ he asks.

I dodge an elbow working a truculent clam into my bowl. ‘I wasn’t aware that they are,’ I answer. It seems to calm him but only for the moment. There was more of the same to come. In the next sixty seconds I discover that liquorice contains real liquor and that giraffes are the only other mammal able to whistle. It was clear that I was sitting in the presence of greatness. However, to understand greatness like this, I realised that I must really remind you to ask yourselves a more vital question. What is the true genius of A.A. Gill?

It sounds egotistical of me, I know. But consider the one-eyed king... I don’t mean Jonathan King; and why people call him ‘One Eye’ is as much a mystery as how he made his fortune through music. I mean the one-eyed king from the hackneyed old saying: ‘In the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king’. You no doubt learned that one at your mother’s teat. I know that I did. I was seventeen years old and breaking in Hendricks, my first valet. He would bring me my mother’s teat with my freshly polished brogues at breakfast. I remember one dismal morning quite well. My mood had been badly fouled by Spanish broccoli the night before and I found the breakfast service barely adequate, the teat a touch too nippled, and the shoes slightly scratched on the instep.

‘Those shoes are scuffed to hell,’ I snapped at him. ‘Bring me another pair.’

He just shrugged. ‘In the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king,’ he said.

‘One eyed man, Hendricks? What’s all this nonsense about a one-eyed man? I want my shoes not monocular monarchs. And take this teat away. You’ve allowed it to go cold again. Don’t you know that a mother’s teat should never be served below body temperature? I’ve a mind to give you a damn good thrashing.’

Not long after I fired him for having dirty cufflinks. Only, now that I’m older and wiser, I know precisely what the old grub was trying to say. In a cupboard full of shoes scuffed from kicking the pedestrian classes up their proletarian holes, shoes that are only slightly scratched might be considered quality footwear. And in the entertainment world, is it really an exaggeration to describe men of considerable wit and infinite imagination as good shoes? Id est: Madeley and I. A matching pair in brown leather.

‘The lyric of the Welsh national anthem is the only one to contain an acrostic,’ explained Richard later over a plate of snails who were clearly only there to badmouth the chef. ‘That word is “Mgetgtohpteomnn”. It’s Gaelic for “isthmus”.’

It was astonishing. Richard had brought me back to my original metaphor that I had jotted down on the notepad at the beginning of the meal. Apparently, reading shorthand upside down is one of his many tricks and he had spotting what I’d written about men and islands. And then he’d been so good as to tie up my review with a touch of elegance the same shade of purple as my suit’s silk lining. The piece was writing itself! This really was professional journalism and in a tailored double-breasted to match.

My good mood would not last. Gill was feeling A.A. when the main course skulked into the room. It really was the sort of food for which the word ‘skulked’ was invented. Richard had ordered Mexican. Sombreros were optional but heavily whiskered prawns were soon circling our table, firing pistolas in the air and threatening to ravish our appetisers. The battle was protracted and distasteful. When it was over, we satisfied ourselves with coffees and no dessert. My only fear was that The Times would refuse to pay a meal that probably had warrants outstanding at The Hague.

The waiter walked over and presented the bill. It was like being flatulated upon by a car battery dying in the middle of the M4.

‘I’ll take that,’ said Richard, snatching the tab.

I could do my best to refuse but the bill was gone before I could leave a fingerprint on my expense account. As we left, a party of locals arrived for their regular evening entertainment at Delmodes. I was glad to escape the heavy atmosphere before the place became a pub quiz tabernacle as we fell amid the braying of Middle England. Madeley went on his way too.

‘Remember what I told you, Adrian,’ he called as I pushed him away from my car and indicated towards a passing taxi. ‘Joni Mitchell is a skilled welder and she builds hot rods in her spare time.’

I was sure to remember. As I would remember Richard Madeley: more urban myth than man. More island than isthmus.

The service was tolerated.

Richard Madeley: *****
Delmodes: **

10 comments:

Lord James Bigglesworth said...

I am feeling rather isthmusy today though, Richard [or should I say Urban Myth].

Lola said...

Isthmus, aaaah. Thank you, A.A. Although I believe that you have confused the noun (peninsula) with adjective (peninsular) which is surprising for such a highly educated gentleman. Even one named after a motoring group or alcoholics recovery organisation.

Give my regards to Mr Madeley.

Dick Madeley said...

Lola, the man struggled to get this in on time and I mistyped it. Now fixed. All my fault. You have a keen eye. I'll make you my proof-reader.

Anonymous said...

I always believed that Isthmus was the pagan version of Christmas. I'm going to phone all my druid friends and ask them to return the Isthmus presents I sent them. Thanks for the education Dick, I knew this blog was good for something.

Dick Madeley said...

Let's admit it, Anonymous. This blog is good for nothing.

Oh damn. Now I'm leaving crabby comments on my own blog. I should go and vent my frustrations elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

Cheer up Dick....I am sending you an early Christmas present...a dozen selection boxes of chocolates filled with goats cheese.

Selena Dreamy said...

“What is the true genius of A.A. Gill?”

The man himself, of course! (Silly question).

Like a stray bitch looking for a master, I’ve been trying to plagiarise him for years. Nor could I help feeling that his share in the relationship was one of enormous indifference. But what you really require to emulate his "true genius," is a durable disposition, a rare facility for lying, and an impassive face. None of which I possess...

Thanks for a treat!

Dreamy

elberry said...

"a cobra on methamphetamines and state benefits"

Jesus, that's good!

There is of course the OTHER one-eyed king, but that's a story for another day.

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