Thursday, 19 June 2008

Butterscotch Nuggets

No great anecdotes for you tonight. I’m caught somewhere between a brain that’s full of ideas and a body that’s already unbuttoning my shirt and stirring a mug of cocoa. It has been a strange day, split between Manchester and London. I suppose you all know about my time in London, given that much of it was covered live on Channel 4 between the hours of five and six. It’s the early part of my day you won’t know about. It was the usual slog and you can probably guess a few of the details: miserable train journey, Manchester as overcrowded as ever, used my mobile phone to take picture of extravagantly dressed woman only to later discover that it was a man in drag... You know: a typical day in Madeleyland. I'd post the picture but I don't know if that would be considered illegal.

My greatest achievement was to discover a new word. ‘Underemployed’. It might not be new for you but I think it perfectly sums up so much of my life at the moment. It’s quite different to being ‘unemployed’, which is never as bad as it sounds, so long as you’re a man with the Madeley spirit. Up at dawn, at my desk by eight, and working a full fifteen hour day on my books, essays, blogs... Rarely a night goes past without my getting a solid eight hours before I’m up again, working away and hating every moment I’m forced to relax, go shopping with Judy, or help Clarkson weld new wing mirrors to his rocket car. My autobiography is now past 30,000 words and I’m getting into the foothills of the ‘This Morning’ years. That part of my life is going swimmingly. Role on publication in 2010!

So, you see, except for the wage, my form of unemployment is extremely rewarding. It keeps me poor but fully employed. I set my own pace – brutally taxing, if I’m honest – and goals which are generally unreachable but I enjoy trying to reach them nevertheless. If I were in any other walk of life, I’d be classed as a workaholic, a high flier with offices in the city and an expense account to match. Because my business is writing, my office is a pit of a spare room, overloaded with books and half-finished manuscripts, and my expense account is whatever Judy is willing to slip me at the end of the week.

All of which leads me to my new word and the reason I’m still proud of it at half-past eleven at night.

To be ‘underemployed’ is to have spare capacity for work. Not just any work, though some days I do wonder if I’d be happier tending lawns and emptying bins. (I once knew a university lecturer who gave up his high paying job to become a gardener. He claimed he didn’t miss academia and was much happier.) What I mean by ‘unemployed’ is to have the capacity to do lots of complicated and challenging tasks but never getting the chance to flex that muscle. Give me an impossible problem and I’ve got the patience of a saint as I try to solve it. Give me something easy but routine, I tend to drift off into my own world. I begin to think I’m terribly bad at my job and not particularly bright. It’s all quite depressing.

The whole sorry business was put into perspective at half past night tonight. I was sitting with Judy, watching the football, when she suddenly jumps up. I’d drifted off and thought German had scored and began to curse the Kaiser.

‘So sorry, Richard,’ she said. ‘I forgot to mention that I had one hell of a morning with the people at Blackberry Manor.’

I gave a shudder, though I suppose you wonder why.

I don’t like to boast but Judy and I have a rather profitable sideline as consultants for the entertainment industry. We provide ideas for theme park owners and resort managers who want to update their facility mix with the latest in visitor attractions. Blackberry Manor is one of our latest consultancy projects. It’s based on the Isle of Man and comprises a large field which the owner wants to turn into a tourist hot spot.

‘The thing is, Richard, they want our ideas for tomorrow.’

‘Tomorrow?’ I cried. ‘Why didn’t you tell me earlier? It’s impossible now...’

‘Not for you,’ said Judy, displaying all that faith she has in my super abilities, which makes our relationship so strong.

‘But you can’t honestly expect me to come up with ideas off the top of my head so late at night,’ I begged her.

‘But that’s what we need for eight o’clock tomorrow morning or we lose the contract. Twenty resort destination ideas for the over 65s, based around an empty plot of land in the middle of the Isle of Man.’

I sank back down into my chair and closed my eyes as Judy got her notebook ready. After fifteen minutes, I’d got up to nineteen ideas.

Richard Ideas for the Blackberry Manor Theme Park

1. Udder Fun -- milk your own dairy cow
2. ‘Teat World’ – similar to Udder Fun but could involve any lactating mammal.
3. The Stilt Museum – break your hips in style
4. Taffy Pulling – a visitor attraction either about making toffee or a dating scheme for Welshmen
5. Gnome City – a miniature city populated by garden gnomes
6. The Brassiere Patisserie – we bake ‘em, you wear ‘em.
7. Donkey Sanctuary/Nunnery – funds itself if you think about it
8. Spongecake World – a multi-story museum detailing the history of cakes with a layer of strawberry jam in the middle
9. Miniature golf – with miniature golf instructors, all under three feet four
10. What Was it Like in the War Grandad? – Relive those WW2 memories stuck in an Anderson shelter with a book of coupons and a stick of lard
11. Name That Rash – All the fun of the rash! Get rashes, give rashes, watch them develop, learn all the cures, fun for all the family, the itchy treat that keeps on giving
12. Pick Your Own Coconuts – Shimmy up your very own a palm tree! Exhilarating and good for the thighs!
13. Name That Spoon! – the Isle of Man’s biggest spoon collection
14. Pan For Gold! – Butterscotch Nugget Gold!
15. The Hole – Enjoy the view from the Isle of Man’s deepest hole (which is neither a pitshaft nor a natural cave system)
16. A Brief History of Curtains – an interactive tour where the over 65s get to look out of the curtains of the rich and famous.
17. Extreme Sports for the Over 65s – knit your own bungee rope
18. Traditional Tea Garden – rule over an exact replica of a colonial tea plantation and then taste the produce of your brutal lash
19. Pimp My Mobility Scooter – drag racing at a dizzying 8mph!!!

Judy sat back and gazed at the list. Tears of relief were in her eyes.

‘You’ve done it again, Richard,’ she said and planted a kiss of my cheek.

‘What’s that for?' I asked. 'I’ve only done nineteen.’

‘Oh, I’ve got a good idea for the twentieth,’ she said and scribbled a final line of the page.

20. Richard Madeley World – a theme park dedicated to the most wonderful man on the planet.

What could I say? I simply couldn’t argue with that.


The Anonymous Twitch said...

Such a brilliant mind! you are indeed "underemployed". A mind like yours would be far better employed running one of this countries great institutions.Dick, It was'nt you by any chance that designed mini roundabouts? Are you sure those were tears of relief you saw in Judy's eyes?

okbye said...

She better be nice to you after the other day.

Selena Dreamy said...

“...used my mobile phone to take picture of extravagantly dressed woman only to later discover that it was a man in drag.”

I’ll have you know, Richard, that I was nowhere near Manchester at that particular time. But since Elberry has already accused me of hiding behind a transgendered intermediary and doubted my personal particulars twice in the last few weeks, this information may not be totally reliable ...


Dr. Raj said...

I recognise all of this. I believe it's all my work!

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