Thursday, 31 July 2008

Just Writing

"I’m writing because to do otherwise is to think. We rang the hospital. My father has just come back from surgery. I want to say no more. Not for reasons of discretion but just because I don’t think it’s right to do that. I try not to think about, let alone verbalise, certain things. I can only exist from minute to minute, as I have been doing for the last few days. My thoughts are elsewhere. I wait for another hour. Another phone call.

Writing this is an escape and I wouldn't write it if I wasn't going to post it. It has been a long morning in the longest three days of my life. Since Monday evening, I have done so much sitting, waiting, thinking, and changing, in however small a degree, as a person.

My attitude towards bloggers has also changed. The very act of blogging, it strikes me now, has always been a positive thing. I have always made much about writing comedy as a means of making a moral statement about how we should live. I’ve always been inspired by Lord Byron whose early life was couched in writing bleak, melancholic poems such as ‘Childe Harold’, but in later years, chose to write ‘Don Juan’, one of the finest comic poems ever composed. He clearly made a choice. I never thought of bloggers doing the same. I never before realised how much we are a community. That we choose to contribute, for whatever reasons of whatever ways, we are contributing to something that is wholly good.

We have rebels. We have conservatives. I have always seen myself as a rebel. I would always do things that ran counter to the prevailing current. Even in the last few weeks, I have annoyed people when I only wished to amuse them. It’s to be expected. People who appreciate my humour, the things I want to say, would find me eventually. Some might enjoy or see the point in what I try to do.

That a few have understood me has always been of great pride. For me, the real world is not much of a world (at least, not in the North West) and living in my words and through my words, I tend not to want too much an outer world. I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I don’t go clubbing. I just write and be with a family. They sustain me. It’s only friends that I meet online, that I come to know and choose by reading their blogs, that have become some of the closest friends I have. I quote them daily as though I have only just met them that morning. It’s hard to convey but as an anonymous commenter puts it: ‘A blogger becomes a secret family member and best friend and they are a special breed.’ However, I never really truly understood this until I witnessed the depth of the support I’ve received in the last few days. There haven’t been hundred of emails but there have been a few, all of which have been very meaningful to me. Some make me cry. Some make my heart swell when it has only been feeling small and insignificant. The messages have sustained me but not in large obvious ways. I feel like somebody has reached out and shared a moment’s warmth with me. In this there’s everything that we forget about being human. Being civilised. Being together.

I questioned when I wrote my previous post, feeling like hell, lying in bed at six AM yesterday, after three hours of weak, broken sleep, that I was reducing my father’s suffering to ‘a blog event’. I disabled comments because I didn’t want to make it feel like some fiction. I am glad that I did that but I am even happier that you still reached out to me. I still wait. I still worry. I still feel so much hurt. But I am also proud to have discovered so many real and decent people."


"I just wanted to thank you all for your kind comments and the supportive emails I’ve received in the last 24 hours. Many of the emails came from people that I’ve never before met, either in person or via the comments. They were the regular but silent readers of this blog. There is much to be said about the kindness of strangers. There is equally as much to be said about the kindness of friends. It's a very real community spirit that exists. You have all given me and my family a great deal of comfort as we wait for news."

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

A Friend Writes...

"Last night, my father was moved to a neurosurgical unit in a far away hospital. ‘Far away’. Makes it sound like some fairy tale. And yesterday began with such hope. Even thoughts of happy endings.

We’d rang the ward to be told that my father had enjoyed a comfortable night. My mother and my sister went to visit him yesterday afternoon, to take him his medication, his slippers, his newspaper. The nurse told them that he was fine but ‘we haven’t been able to wake him.’ Doctors spoke of a severe infection. So my mother and sister sat with him for an hour, talking to him as my father squeezed their hands though he seemed to be in the deepest sleep. Like a fairy tale too, I suppose. Last night they were called back to the hospital. When my mother rang to tell me that my Dad had suffered serious bleeding to the brain, I broke down in my girlfriend’s arms. I’ve never known such pain.

My sister, who has found such strength, such calm, said to me last night or early this morning, ‘let your writing get you through this.’ I didn’t know then as I don’t know now. It felt like something I would never do: have an overly sentimental reaction to an event of such profound emotional significance. Yet I woke up this morning at dawn crying again. Writing this is the only way I can make it stop for however short a time.

Waking up, there was no sudden moment of recollection. I had feared that I would emerge from sleep having forgotten the last 48 hours. I didn’t want to be subjected to the renewed sense of desolation. Instead there was just the profoundest sadness and this voice; this voice that so often writes inside my head and makes me happy by phrasing phrases, parsing sentences, writing jokes, constructing stories. It’s like another version of me but more self-assured, in control of his emotions. I wanted him to step in and help me for a time. I wanted him to help me overcome the pain I’m suffering this morning. I haven’t stopped crying for 24 hours. I don’t know what’s becoming of me.

My father is the kindest man I’ve ever known. The gentlest too. The perfect neighbour, he’s the man that everybody would turn to for help. And he would gladly give it. He had a tool for every job; his shed a shrine to the post-War make-do mentality with pieces of bent metal to get through every blocked drain or wall cavity imaginable. He has tools with handles he’s fashioned out of other tools, cable he has hoarded for the next electrical emergency. He’s the man who, at the height of summer, would spend hours in the front garden and talk to anybody who walked past. He loves to talk. He loves people. He believes that people are good and that the world is good. Yet for the last fifteen years he’s been in such pain that it changed his character. It made it so much harder that we are too much alike.

My mother says that’s why we’d so often clash. Our relationship is complex. I share his love of laughter, his interest in books and science, his fascination with how things work. I hope I also share his decency. Yet I only ever wanted to make him proud. He was probably the only man who willingly chose to read my Ph.D. thesis, though I think most of it was lost to him as it was probably lost on me. He loved poetry but not, I suppose, reading about poetry. And a deep hurt this morning, among so many deep hurts, is knowing that he never got to read my first novel. I thought having my book cancelled weeks before publication was the worst thing that could happen to me this year. I hadn’t shown him the book because I wanted to wait until it was really a book. Published. His family name on the cover. Yet now it means nothing except I can still hear my father’s laughter and I live in the hope that I might hear it again.

So I’m writing this and I don’t know if I’ll really post something so personal. I don’t know if I want these horrible unstructured words to represent all that I’m feeling because they don’t. But when I write, I do have a sense of something greater than my pain. I don’t mean to make people pity me or perhaps I do. And that also troubles me. Why share this? Why talk about this? Perhaps I want reassurance. I need to know that on the other side of this is a life I’ll be happy to live, that I’ll still have a chance to write, to be the man my father made me. Yet it sickens me to think that I’m even thinking of myself. That I cannot be strong. That I simply cannot stop crying."

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Closed Until Further Notice

For the present time, I'm closing this blog for the reasons explained in the post below. Those of you who have read me for long enough understand what I mean why I speak about my friend. His father's condition is described as 'stable' but the doctors believe it's pneumonia. He isn't awake but this is apparently normal for this condition. It is, however, a matter of waiting.

I thank you for your support, both now but over the last year. I would just ask you to prey for a very kind man who we love very dearly.

Brief Update

A brief note to say that updates to the blog will be delayed. A friend of mine, vital to the running of this Appreciation Society, has been called away. His father was rushed into hospital last night. Until we know more, things might go quiet.

I hope you’ll bear with us until we find out the situation, hopefully later today.

Monday, 28 July 2008

A Quiet Monday Morning

It’s a new week down on Madeley Farm and things aren’t looking good for the livestock. All the web traffic has dried up and the blog is like a dry watering hole with the carcases of my last two posts lying there, teeth exposed in a rictus grin and their prime meat worthless now that it sits dead on the bone. What’s apparent is that many of you are either on holiday or out enjoying this unseasonably warm weather, which is good if you’ve got the caravan perched a five minute walk from the beach but not so good when you’re indoors with a woman with knee ligament damage.

The weekend has been exhausting. When I’ve not been waving a fan over Judy to keep her cool, I’ve been running to the kitchen to swap frozen vegetables for those that have defrosted on her knee. There there’s been the constant guests coming to see how Judy is doing. Cilla Black came by yesterday afternoon and the two of them sang a few of their old favourite songs as I tried to provide accompaniment on the Casio. That’s hard to do when you’re ears are plugged with three inches of tightly packed cotton wadding. I was glad to see her go.

Then there was a visit by the Corbetts and Ronnie’s ill-advised comment that I’m surprised hasn’t been picked up by the media.

‘I don’t suppose... Ha! Oh dear...’ he said as he readjusted his glasses in that way he does. ‘I don’t suppose, Judy, that there’s any chance of you bouncing me on your knee?’

Judy’s face flushed the colour of her knee. Ronnie should have known better since there’s a chance that his weight on Judy’s knee is exactly what’s aggravated the problem in the first place. Again, it came down to Yours Truly to save the day. Once I’d bounced Ronnie on my knee for fifteen minutes he seemed happy. Visits by Judith Chalmers (she prophesised ‘good news in knees’) and Paul Daniels and Debbie McGee went without a hitch and Paul amused Judy by pulling a packet of ice cold baby carrots from behind her ear.

As for Judy, after nearly a week’s rest, cure, and frozen veg, she is feeling much better and is now beginning to get movement in the joint. Another seven days and she’ll be back working on the crazy paving, playing snooker at her local association, and sitting beside me on the Richard&Judy sofa. And for me: that’s when I might feel like writing something uplifting on a Monday morning.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Whistling The Planet Goodbye

The whistle of the Kärcher makes it easy to forget that the air is only just smelling like air again since all the barbeques and outdoor fuel heaters of the night before. The whistling hasn’t stopped for nearly three hours now. It’s an incessant tone like something dreamed up by the CIA for interrogating Iraqi shoe salesmen. I’m in the mood for talking. I’ll gladly tell them where the guns are buried if only to make that noise stop.

Not that the Kärcher is the only means of loosening my lips this fine hot Sunday morning in the middle of July. Babies scream, children shout, motorbikes are being revved by grease-smeared teenagers preparing for an off-road scramble across the local beauty spot. A guy across the road is fixing up his car, which is not so much a means of transport but a nuclear powered beat box with a bass unit in the back bigger than the engine in the front. It’s a strange inversion of purpose. He plays music light on lyrics but heavy in the amount of energy it pumps into the ground. The house’s foundations shake. I feel my teeth loosen. I grow a day older with each rhythmic intrusion. Judy is not happy.

The roads around here are thick with cars but the pavements are free of feet. Pedestrians are in the road, trying not to get clipped by the 4x4s. All the pavements are blocked off by Jeeps parked across the path. Woman push prams through the traffic because people with long empty drives don’t want to park their brand new cars in any spot other than where they close off the pavement. Straight across. Nose up to the garden gate. A six foot wall of selfishness, consumerism, and spite. A car completely blocks a mother’s path and I watch her push her pram across the verge, over the high kerb, and then down into the road to avoid the parked car. It’s her fault, I suppose, for choosing to walk, not having a car, or not having a 4x4 pram with beat box and intercontinental used nappy disposal unit.

As the sun begins to warm the day, tempers fray. A fight breaks out somewhere nearby. It comes to us on the light breeze like some black-winged butterfly bringing bad news. I welcome it as butterflies aren’t to be seen this year. All the gardeners have dug up their lawns and plants. They’ve cut down their trees. Gravel is this year’s grass and plants are twisted pieces of ironwork in the shape of a large heron bought from Homebase along with the patio heaters, the outdoor furniture, sleeping cherubs, decking, and solar lamps that burn throughout the night and deny me the darkness I need to see the stars. The world is being consumed by Homebase. It’s the name of the End. The Doom Bringer. The Destroyer of Worlds.

It’s coming up to noon and the trees now come into bloom; parasols in orange, green, gold. The neighbour comes out. His shirt is off, his large Christ tattoo indistinct against his brown tan of his sun lamped back. He climbs up to his decking with his can of lager, his oven-ready meal, his packet of cigarettes, and he takes command of his deckchair beneath his gold parasol. He mutters a few words about all the noise. ‘Terrible,’ he says. ‘You’d think people would think about their neighbours.’ He then fires up his radio to drown out the sound of the hundred others beneath their parasols and the Kärchers, the beat boxes, the babies, the bikers, the bad news butterflies.

England begins another selfish summer when you either join in or you suffer. The rule of the game is simple: make more noise that your neighbour, consume more power, burn more fuel, drive faster, drive further, park more erratically, shout more loudly, drink more, eat more, smoke more. Have fun as you whistle the planet goodbye.

Saturday, 26 July 2008

The Real Story of Judy’s Knee

The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, War and Peace, The History of the English Speaking Peoples, Jeffrey Archer’s Kane and Abel: it always takes time before all the great stories are told in a way that does them justice. Days have now passed since the news broke that, for at least a fortnight, I’ll be presenting the Richard&Judy show without the right side of the ampersand to keep my hormones in balance. Only now am I in a position to tell you the full tale of Judy’s knee and how this magnificent specimen of Dame Womanhood was brought (or, should I say, dragged down) to her one good knee and glorious shin.

As you probably know, Judy has had problems with her knee for some time. Years of climbing ladders with a hod of bricks on her back haven’t helped. Even after she’d finished building our house, the toil on her legs continued as she set about laying seven miles of crazy paving around our expansive estate here in our undisclosed location in the South East of England. Yet the decision to finally have the knee operated upon only came as late as last Sunday when I was blessed with a visit by Bill Oddie.

Sunday, as you know, is normally a day of rest in the Madeley household. By the early evening, the adventures of the previous week had caught up with me and I was dozing on the sofa ahead of my weekly chuckle at my old friend Clarkson on ‘Top Gear’. Such happy dreams I was having. Vanessa Feltz wore something light and breezy as she played air hockey with Jeremy Paxman who was getting thoroughly outclassed. I watched from on high, lounging in the umpire’s chair and laughing manically as I awarded every contentious decision to the woman in the see-through chiffon.
I didn’t, at first, hear the doorbell ring and when it did wake me, I arrived at the front door still thinking of air hockey. I was certainly not prepared to see Bill Oddie standing there carrying a large suitcase.

‘Bill? What you doing here at this hour?’ I asked.

‘Ha!’ said Bill as he dragged the suitcase into the hall and dumped it at my feet. He turned his back and went outside, only pausing on the doorstep to gaze back at me and say ‘ha!’ again.

He returned a moment later with another suitcase which was even bigger than the first.

‘Don’t worry,’ he said as he set the case down. ‘You’ll soon see what I’ve brought. This will all begin to make perfect sense in just a moment.’

‘Thank God for that,’ I replied. ‘I thought you were about to say “ha!” to me for no apparent reason.’

‘Ha!’ said Bill and with that he turned back to his car. I followed to watch him drag a third suitcase from the boot that was even bigger than the first two and probably exceeded the capacity of the word ‘suitcase’ and should more rightly be described as a ‘travel trunk’.

‘This is what you’ve been asking to see for nearly three years,’ said Bill. ‘And now is the moment when you get to see it.’

My heart soared over eighteen metres of beats like an Olympic standard triple jumper on methamphetamines.

‘You haven’t?’ I asked.

Bill smiled and it was that rarity in all men with beards: a smile full of grace and beneficence.

I helped him drag all three suitcases/trunks into the living room, though I wouldn’t have done this had I not known that Judy would be out until well after midnight. Bill knew it too since the local newspapers have been reporting nothing else but the East of England snooker tournament at Judy’s local Snooker & Billiards Association. Judy was due to play Barbara Winsor at eight in what was sure to be a nine frame thriller. I knew it would go on until late and I intended to make the most of my time along with Bill and his suitcases.

‘I don’t know what to say, Bill,’ I said as I watched him begin to push the sofa back so we’d have plenty of floor space. ‘This really is an honour.’

‘The honour is all mine,’ answered Oddie, now unlatching the smallest of the cases. ‘There aren’t many men who’d get to see this but you, Richard, you have always been good to me. You are one of the few celebrities to treat me with dignity and I appreciate that. I wouldn’t do this for Clarkson. Not after that business with the mask.’

‘I’m sure you wouldn’t,’ I said, trying to peer into the case.

Slowly the lid opened and I saw them all lying there in a heap. The case was packed with thousands upon thousands of glistening polly pockets. Now, for those of you without stationary experience (and, I assure you, I have plenty of that after my two day stint in Manchester), a poly pocket is a plastic envelope for A4 paper, usually punched along one edge for putting inside a ring folder. Only these poly pockets were loose inside the suitcase and inside each pocket was a sheet of A4 white card onto which Bill had attached a single feather. In the corner of each card, written in Bill’s neat if slightly florid hand, were the details of the bird that had donated the feather.

He pushed the suitcase to me. ‘The entire bird kingdom if yours for the night,’ he said.

Well, the next three hours were an education as we began to lay out Bill’s feather collection on the floor. The whole of the house was soon covered with poly pockets, spreading from the front door, around the living room, through the dining hall, round the back skirting the conservatory, through the utility rooms, past my office, into the kitchen and finishing at the back door. The whole thing was laid out in strict classification of birds across the globe. I was naturally in my element because, though not technically a bird watcher myself, I am a man who likes to collect knowledge and has an excessive facility for showing off .

‘I wish Nige were here now,’ I said as Bill lay the final few poly pocketed feathers around the potted plants in the front room and thereby closed the loop of plastic envelopes that now ran a full circuit around the house.

‘This is your moment,’ said Bill, finally standing up. ‘Nige will get his chance when the time’s right.’

I nodded as I wiped away a tear. ‘The Crested Sand Shrike has a distinctive whistle,’ I said, to cover my slight embarrassment at getting so emotional over a million feathers. ‘And did you know that the East European Potato Shrike has a whistle inspired Mozart to write the Magic Flute?’

‘Really?’ said Bill, impressed. ‘Amazing.’

I was about to tell him how the Shrike is a close relative to a chicken and has often been seen crossing roads for no other reason than getting to the other side but, at that moment, there was a rattle of keys in the door. I couldn’t understand it since it was not yet ten thirty.

‘Only me,’ shouted Judy from in the hall. ‘Barbara Windsor cancelled and I ended up playing Julie Walters. I didn’t stand a chance. She’s playing Jenifer Saunders in the final after Jennifer beat Joanna Lumley in the semi. I couldn’t bear to watch...’

That’s when I heard the fateful sound of Judy kicking off her shoes.

‘Hold it right there!’ I shouted, looking for a way to the hall that avoided the thousands of feathers on the floor. ‘There are bloody poly pockets everywhere,’ I said and thought I should explain just in case Judy was without the required stationary experience. ‘Poly pockets are plastic envelopes that protect pieces of paper up to A4 size. Or in this case, Bill’s feather collections.’

But it was too late. Through the door leading into the hall, I saw Judy pass by at approximately forty miles an hour and gathering speed as she slid in her slick silk stockings on a floor made lethal by a layer of polythene.

‘CCcccccciiiiiiiiiilllllllllllllllaaaaaaaaaaaaa....’ screamed Judy as she headed into the dining room and the Eastern European Swallowtails, round the back of the Chinese Mud Skippers skirting the conservatory, through the utility rooms full of North American eagles, past my office full of the tits of the Rockies, and finally into the kitchen where the South American songbirds ran up against the parrots at the back door.

We followed as quickly as we could, Bill the nimblest picking out the fastest route through the bird kingdom.

‘Best to avoid the peckers, said Bill, heading towards the kitchen. ‘We’ll take a short cut through the cuckoos.’

‘I’m following you,’ I replied, nearly coming a cropper on the tricky plume of a Great Reed Warbler.

We found Judy deep amongst the Amazonian parrots, groaning where she’d come to rest against the tumble dryer and the Crested Banana Macaw.

‘My leg,’ she said.

‘My purple eaglet wing!’ said Bill picking up a heavily battered feather wedged in the ruined stocking around Judy’s toes.

I lifted my wife to a seat at the breakfast bar and, other than a few bruises, I was relieved to see that she seemed perfectly well.

‘So, how was the snooker?’ I asked trying to keep her distracted as Bill set about picking up thousands of poly pockets.

‘Richard Madeley,’ said Judy, standing up. ‘If you think...’ She winced and sat back down again. ‘Ooh,’ she said, and lifted her leg onto the table. ‘It’s my knee. I’ve done my knee again!’

‘Hang on,’ I said and called Bill back into the room.

Bill was the model of professionalism as he slipped on the pair of reading glasses that always hang around his neck on a chain. He took a look at the leg and prodded the sort spot. ‘Ah,’ he said. ‘My vast experience examining sick and injured birds tells me that you’ve got twisted ligaments in your knee.’ He tried to bend the leg but unfortunately forgot that the human leg went the other way. Judy winced. I gave a cough. ‘Oh yes,’ said Bill. ‘Wrong species. Legs bend the other way. Always forget that...’

And without another word he took a roll of metal tape from his pocket and began to wrap it loosely once around Judy’s ankle. He fastened it with a pair of pliers from another of the many pockets in the world’s most ironically named ‘hunting vest’.

‘How’s that doing to help my knee?’ asked Judy.

He laughed as soon as Judy spoke.

‘So sorry,’ he said. ‘There I go again! Force of habit. I was ringing you just in case I run into you again. This way, I would see how far you’ve travelled.’

‘Get out,’ muttered Judy, who I could see was in some pain and not a little indignation. ‘Get out of this house now, Bill Oddie, or knee or no knee, I’ll throw you out myself.’

Bill paled and I gave him the old raised eyebrow signal that he probably should go and hide before things turned ugly.

I then helped Judy to the car and took her to the local A&E where doctors diagnosed twisted ligaments. I told them that Bill Oddie had already told us that but they didn’t seem too impressed. When we arrived back home, I got Judy straight to bed then returned downstairs to help Bill pick up his collection of feathers. The last I saw of him was in his old Citroën bobbing down the road with the suspension being worked hard back the boot packed with the world’s most comprehensive collection of feathers.

Last Monday was when the best London doctors agreed with Bill diagnosis and Judy agreed to have surgery on her leg. Bill reports that his poly pockets are back home in his hobbit hole, packed in the three suitcases of increasing size, and I have only just caught up with last week’s episode of Top Gear. Judy had had the operation and is now recovering, her knee improving with each passing day and with each bag of thawed vegetables thrown into the bin or the saucepan. If I eat another plate of garden peas, I will probably go green and make people flatulent. Naturally, Judy now refuses to even touch a poly pocket and I’ve had to tell the people at Cactus TV that any paperwork that comes to this house must be staples or bound by a paper clip.

Not that the media report any of this. They are so obsessed with Emma Bunton and, next week, Myleene Klass. I care for none of that celebrity tittle tattle. I care only for Judy’s well being and the state of Bill Oddie’s feather collection. The rest, as we say in showbiz, is greasepaint and curtain calls.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Normal Service Resumed

Friday night and I’m home, happy, and contenting myself with a quiet evening. I also wanted to come on here and apologise for my posting habits over the last couple of days. The blog has been hit and miss and as much a mess as the last few days have been non-stop. I’ve not even been keeping you up-to-date with developments in the area of Judy’s knee.

Well, we have five days together before I’m distracted by ‘Eye of the Storm’ and the full story of Judy’s knee is on its way. I hope to publish the unedited account over the weekend. My mood has also lightened considerably since two days ago when I was not looking forward a couple of days of shuttling up and down the country. That’s not even to mention all the trouble of keeping Judy supplied with frozen vegetables to wrap around her swollen joint. Apparently, frozen asparagus fingers are the best followed by peas. Prawns, she says, melt too quickly and leave her thighs smelling of seafood.

Anyway, just wanted to say that normal service will be resume tomorrow. I promise lots of Oddie and no rants or pretentious nonsense about apostrophes.

Not So Eager For Deaver

A hot stinking lunch break and the smell of grease defies gravity, rising from the Greek burger bar below the production offices here in the heart of the M1 postal district. It’s now that I make my move after a difficult morning working on ‘Eye of the Storm’. I’ve been ad libbing a voiceover for a thunderstorm; not an easy thing to do with that fork lightening which is so tricky to scan. It’s a relief to be making the ten minute dash into the centre of the city, all the time talking with Judy on the mobile. She’s at home, sitting with a bag of frozen king prawns wrapped around her swollen knee. She promises that they’ll be defrosted in time for tonight’s risotto. I can hardly wait.

W.H. Smiths is my target and the book signing is by Jeffrey Deaver, thriller writer and the man who took away Denzel Washington’s legs and made Angelina Jolie look sexy poking rat droppings in forensics gear. In my weaker moments, I can easily give in and pick up a hack-and-slash psychological thriller and Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme books were always a good read. That was until the last two which I thought were a matter of an author growing jaded with his characters, his storylines tired, a publisher demanding more of the same with the promise of a fat pay cheque. I swore that I wouldn’t buy another Deaver. I didn’t want to prolong the poor man’s misery.

It’s why I was thankful that the queue outside the shop was as off-putting as the Minotaurs disguised as security guards standing in the doorway. Beyond them was a wall of hardbacks, either the edge of King Minos’s labyrinth or the blunt end of the publisher’s mantra: pile them high, sell them cheap (unless the author’s in the store and then it’s RRP only). This would have been my first book signing had I not been offended by the very thought of waiting in line for a scribbled signature from the demonic man being photographed at the front of the store.

I think it was the beard that did it. As you know, I distrust men with beards and I distrust men with neatly trimmed beards even more. When he finally arrived, Deaver was nothing like the clean shaved guy on the dust jackets. He now looks every inch the professional writer; a depressing artifice of the publicist’s art, the nationwide book tour, the promotional interview. His clipped black beard looks like it could pen a few novels on its own. Everyone a best seller. Million pound movie rights.

The queue seem excited. I felt deflated and ready for lunch. But these were ‘real’ readers and I took a moment to take them in. It was sobering to see that they look just like me even without my disguise, my cheap black beret, my comedy pimple. In the end, it was all I could do to turn my back and head back to the office. Disillusioned, disappointed, hugely jealous. At moments like this, asking an author to sign a book feels so horribly dispiriting. I even forgot to take a photo.

Manchester: 8:22AM

This morning I lost a close friend under the wheels of a train. It was the button from the shoulder of my favourite casual jacket. It had got stuck under the strap of my bag which, I pulled the bag from my shoulder, went ping and merrily rolled along the platform before it disappeared under the wheels of the second carriage. It was something of a highpoint.

The train was packed. I found a spare seat next to an aspiring Jordan, her jacket and bag sitting in the chair.

‘Can I sit down, please?’ I ask.

She moves the jacket’s cuff all of one inch to make one third of the seat available to me. I’m not a man to make a scene – much as I would love to be – so I sat down as she made a tactical move for territory by taking up the whole of the table with her OK Magazine. This is how I came to I spend my journey from Manchester Airport reading Katie Andre’s column about ‘what a laugh we had at Club Slap which we got to at midnight but I needed to be up early the next day so I called it a night at around three and Pete wanted a shag...’ I have the luxury or reading the magazine because this delightful creature answers her phone (hands free) and I have to listen to her barking laughter in my ear for the next twenty minutes.

‘Life is so hard,’ she tells her friend. ‘How many holes are you going to play today?’

A Fragment From the Madeley Notebook: Thursday, 24th July, Lunchtime

I carry a notebook around with me at all times. Often, I can be found scribbling little pieces down, recording something that has happened to me in my day, or, as is the case here, writing something that means nothing to anybody but myself, yet perfect for posting to my blog to cover for the fact that I’m exhausted with travel, running around the house waiting on a woman with a gammy knee, and hosting a TV show on the day I traveled to Manchester to proofread scripts for ‘Eye of the Storm 7’.

So there he is: Madeley about town. A prime example of masculine real estate, untouched by portliness but dappled by the handsome. The bookshop is not unknown to him, nor he to it. In the doorway, He stares down at Himself; the latter detecting a trace of recognition in the former’s cardboard lips set at a pleased yet pleasing angle. Beside him, a woman browsing the Richard&Judy Book Club racks hitches up her blouse, her own rack a grocery bag with no handles. The only thing to grip is the g-string that sits that sits high on her hip where her sweatpants have run low. A ripple of cellulite reminds him of a beach after the tide.

She doesn’t recognise Madeley watching her from behind his thick sunglasses. His hair is swept across his forehead at a foreign angle, the large comedy pimple adequate disguise for this lunchtime in Manchester. Nobody would expect to see him here in Waterstone’s in the Arndale , dressed all in black, liberated from his fame. He browses the staff picks and wonders if any of the faces really match real flesh, blood and critical opinion. He wants to question them on their selection. Are the shelf-stackers and bar-code swipers any better judges of literary merit than he? He doubts it.

The cool of the shop is a mild salvation from the noonday sun and like a animal, hot from the chase but now scalded by the refrigerated air, he wanders the shelves, a mist of condensed sweat coming off his body like clouds from a mountain. He recognises the books of rivals and wonders what he must do to join these choired ranks for the great, the good, the chosen, the insufferingly lucky.

It’s all too much. He has a flight to catch. He leaves the shop empty handed. Perhaps he’ll buy something tomorrow when he again flies North. There was a F. Scott Fitzgerald that caught his eye, a Dostoyevsky for which he’s never had time, but then, Jeffery Deaver’s also in town in the morning. He might try his comedy pimple out in W.H. Smiths on the floor below. Stand in line with other desperate people hoping to breath in the stale but talented air of a real writer.

So there he is: Madeley about town. And nobody recognises him.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

A Question About Apostrophes

Don't think that the irony is lost on me. This morning I rant about would-be writers pestering me and this evening I'm asking a question that would-be writers might be able to answer. Alternatively, this one is for those with degrees in punctuation or jobs in editing and are willing to answer the question of an aging amateur hack.

Is there anybody out there who can explain the following?

I’m currently reading ‘London Fields’ by Martin Amis and at the beginning there’s a bit that has me confused. He writes:

“There followed some more information about the perfumes, ‘Scandal’, ‘Outrage’, and minor lines called Mirage, Disguise, Duplicity and Sting, and beneath, in double quotes, accompanied by an address and telephone number, with misplaced apostrophes: Keith’s the Name, Scent’s the Game.” (Martin Amis, ‘London Fields’, p. 12)

Now, I’ve been pondering this all day and I still haven’t figured it out but what ‘misplaced apostrophes’?

I thought an apostrophe indicates either possession or omission. Here, in both cases, doesn’t the apostrophe represent the missing ‘i’ of ‘is’? ‘Keith is the name, Scent is the Game’? Or have it all wrong and I must go back to basics and learn how to use an apostrophe?

Of course, there might be some super intelligent textual game the narrator or Amis is playing.

And while I’m about it: why are ‘Scandal’ and ‘Outrage’ enclosed in single inverted commas but Mirage, Disguise, Duplicity and String go unpunctuated?

New Authors Beware! A Madeley Rant

It’s Thursday. I’m in Manchester. And my mood is as filthy as the weather which is already hot and thunderous.

Later today I have to EasyJet my way back to London where I will film an episode of Richard&Judy without the right side of the ampersand who is currently recovering at home, her knee raised high on a cushion as she sits in front of the TV eating Ferrero Rocher and rewatching her Richard Gere DVD collection.

I am having a less pleasant time (or more pleasant if you feel the same way as I do about Richard Gere). So far, the midget population of the city has refused to come out to greet me and my Nanus Count stands at a fat but empty 0. However, there have been interesting developments around my groin. On Manchester Piccadilly Station, at approximately 7.49AM this morning, I was smacked in the testicles by St. George in bright green tweeds carrying a golfing umbrella long enough to slay a dragon, probably by smacking it around its testicles.

I have known better starts to my day.

It is in this mood of slightly bewildered misery that I have decided to introduce a new policy here at my Appreciation Society. It’s been a while that I’ve been thinking of doing this but I think that the time is now so ripe that it’s almost swollen. Some might call the following a rant but I like to think of it as a forthright expression of my incalculable rage.

From now on, any recently published writer emailing me to ask if I’ll promote their stunning new novel (‘it’s just so perfect for your club!’) will earn a special prize: I will post their email, in full, here on my blog so the world can see these insufferable bores for what they are. No flattering phrase or self-seeking hint will go unnoticed by the blogging community. Let their entrails be picked over by Nige’s owl until they are a laughing stock and one more miserable novel can be taken from the shelves to make room for more worthy authors such as men called Madeley.

Before I begin to purge the world of their kind, I’d like any eager young things wise enough to be reading my blog today a chance incur my considerable wrath. I know they are out these because yesterday I had three (yes, three!) different people emailing me to ask if I would help promote their books. Well, now I can help them. I have condensed all the begging letters I’ve received in the last year into one easy-to-use template which the budding writer need only copy, paste, and then enter in the details of their book and published name. This way, they too can get their name in lights. Or if not in lights, at least ridiculed on this blog.

Dear Richard, [The classic opening, though some people think it’s polite to skip the pleasantries]

Love your show... [But surely you love the book club more?]

I think you’re wonderful/witty/wise/gorgeous/kind... [Yes/undoubtedly/maybe/unbelievably/ often not always...]

I have a book about to be published... [Now there’s a surprise!]

by Unknown Press... [So it’s either vanity publishing or will be issued as an ebook... Damn you for your success!]

and my friends keep telling me... [get ready...]

that it would be perfect... [here it comes!]

for your book club. [BINGO! You win first prize and the million pounds!]

Cheers, [Indeed, I’m very cheery despite emails such as this one.]

Arthur Jalopy [A name to remember if not enter into the annals of literary greatness.]

You think I’m being harsh and you’re damn right. I am. I’m also in an indescribably foul mood this morning due to the unwarranted use of golfing umbrellas in city streets and a lack of manners in the nation’s undiscovered novelists. There are so many desperate hacks who want to have their work recognised that it’s wrong to mock them. However, too many of these people write to me after spending approximately three and a half seconds reading my blog. That’s how long it takes them to home in on my email address and send me their poxy little demands. They can’t be bothered to spend a minute to read what I’ve written but they want me to read and promote their bloody books! If they had cared to click on anything other than the button marked ‘Click Here So Richard Can Make You A Millionaire Novelist’ they might have read a few things that might save them the trouble of pestering me. They might, for example, know that I write the odd thing myself.

‘Heavens!’ they say. ‘You’re a writer? But what could that mean?’

‘It means,’ I reply, ‘that despite all my good looks, my way with words and huge influence in the world of UK publishing, I’ve had zero books published. In case you don’t believe me, let me just recount... Yep. Zero. Nil.’

‘Surely not, Richard!’ they say in return. ‘Not a man of your profound wisdom and considerable style and flair for comic prose! Even Rory McGrath has had a book published!’

‘But I am not Rory McGrath,’ I answer. ‘I came close this year. Two months before my novel was due to be published it was cancelled. Of course, I considered leaping from a tall crane. I didn’t but there you go. There’s never a tall crane around when you need one. I chose the coward’s way out and continued to write 250,000 words of blog posts in the last twelve months. But hey! Let’s not talk about my publishing woes. I was only writing comedy which nobody cares about these days or wants to publish. Please tell me more about your deathly little story about a woman with Parkinson’s having an affair with a man with a lisp whose daughter lives in Portugal who happens to be having dreams about a Turkish tobacconist who is the living reincarnation of Suleiman the Magnificent and how they all decide to go around the world in a yacht, only it’s not a yacht but a flying saucer and the whole thing is really a metaphor for the imperialist actions of American in Iraq.’

‘So... Any chance...’

‘Listen,’ I tell them. ‘It might just be the case that if I could influence the workings of the Richard&Judy Foundation, who decide on what books go into the book club, I might be a slight chance that I’d have had one of my own novels published by now... As it is, I write too much, promote myself too little, and remain unknown. Read into this what you like but I beg you to bother me no longer. Fear the owl!’

Only this is too much for these earnest young writers to expect or understand. Instead, they want to send me free copies of their novels about penniless paupers in Ireland, books about Churchill’s cigar maker and his miserable life as a Camden transvestite, or the biography of some nonentity whose only claim to fame was that he invented a new variety of tartan (which, I’m told, is sure to sell well in America where everybody is called ‘McSporran’).

If these people would care to read my blog, I might not feel so utterly repelled by their utterly lifeless prose, their unctuous resort to flattery, their bestial willingness to grovel before me and demand that I make them a millionaire. Theirs is a baseless hope that theworld joins up in easy patterns and that one new writer plus a man with a book club equals dreams made forever and ever. I hate to be the one to tell them this but: it doesn’t.

In future, I’m not going to write any more polite and encouraging replies where I explain that I’m unable to help them but I wish them well, despite the fact they haven’t bothered to read my blog. I will be forwarding all their posts to Elberry who I am now employing (on an ad hoc basis at £20 a letter) to write them replies more suited to their overactive imaginations, limited talents, and utterly craven desire for fame ahead of any kind of literary merit.

If they still don’t get the message, I’ll be hiring Nige to train his owl to seek them out and drop dead mice in their cafe lates as they sit in Starbucks and pose the pose of all undiscovered geniuses.

It’s about time somebody stood up to these people. They are giving new writers a bad name.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008


What did you think? I promised you that I looked good but I bet you never imagined that it would be a show with 'All the Richard without the Judy'.

Judy will be back in a few days after she's recovered from the operation on her knee. The doctor thinks she's been kneeling too long doing the plastering on the crazy paving in the back garden. Which is fine for him to say... I want to know who's going to finish the crazy paving?

Important News

NEWS FLASH: I've just caught sight of myself in the mirror and I think I'm looking pretty damn good. Make sure you tune in at five and see if you agree.

Must dash. Tonight's guests are already arriving.

Reaching Out

One of the most interesting things about writing a blog is to see how many people read me around the globe. I see regular visitors from the BBC, UK newspapers, the American government, and even from my own home (I suspect that Judy logs on to see what I’m saying about her). It often leads me to wonder what interesting lives other people live. How did they get to where they are? Do they find Stephen Fry’s cape appealing? And do they understand what Bill Oddie and Nige get up to with owls?

Yet as many of you know, I also live in constant fear of litigation. Being a man of forthright opinions and a certain ebullient willingness to speak my mind when the moment is right (and, let’s face it, I yet to find a moment that isn’t right), I’m might occasionally say something that might be construed, in a certain light, by people of a certain limited viewpoint, as being somehow ‘wrong’. I know. Hard to believe, isn’t it? Yet causally glancing through my dwindling readership statistics, I often notice that members of various legal establishments are taking a great deal of interest in my blog. Today I'm living in fear of a complaint by the UK Society of Bearded Gentlemen, who might have taken unkindly to my depiction, yesterday, of all men with beards as megalomaniacs and war criminals.

Paranoia and I are old friends and I might just be misreading the signs. So, if you are currently working for a law firm and happen to be browsing my blog for nothing more innocent than a few harmless insights into the world of celebrity, please drop me a line to say that I’m in the clear with the UK Society of Bearded Gentlemen. Otherwise, I will take your silence to mean that the battle lines are being drawn and that Charles Darwin, David Bellamy, and Rolf Harris will be the leading witnesses for the prosecution.

On Skipping

When Judy skipped into the kitchen for breakfast today, I knew that the mockery would not stop.

‘I would have thought that you’d have got tired of that by now,’ I said.

Judy’s lips did a fair impression of shocked. ‘Me grow tired of skipping? My dear Richard. So long as it give you great pleasure, I will continue to skip.’ And with that she skipped across the room to the fridge.

I’ve been suffering this teasing since last night’s show. After watching Meryl Streep skip through ‘Dancing Queen’ in the new film version of ‘Mamma Mia!’, I had said one totally innocuous line. I’ll quote it in full just to show you how innocent it was.

‘For a man,’ I said, ‘there is nothing nicer... and I mean pleasanter, for a man to see and admire in a woman or women, is when they skip, no matter how old they are. A skipping woman is a sweet sight.’

And I maintain that skipping is a sweet sight that fills a man with incalculable pleasures.

Now, I know I’m opening myself to scoffing here. There are some who might even say that skipping merely highlights the shifting contours of the female blouse as it goes bouncing around the room. And I agree. A buxom woman skipping wouldn’t be sweet at all if you look at like that. I merely meant to say that the pleasure of the skip reveals the innocent within us all. Happy go lucky, carefree, it is the child within all of us momentarily escaping the burdens of adulthood. Skipping is to be seven years old again when the greatest worry is whether your pet butterfly has died in the night. Skipping is coming home from school, the first day of the summer holidays. Skipping is going to the corner shop with twenty pence in your hand and knowing that you can buy a bar of chocolate and an ice cream with pennies to spare.

All of which I explained to Judy over breakfast.

‘Oh, Richard,’ she said, laying her hand on my arm. ‘I didn’t realise that you were such a sensitive soul.’

‘Well, I am,’ I answered. ‘And I hope this means you’ll end this horrible mockery of what was an innocent remark.’

She smiled and gathered the empty plates together. ‘Of course I won’t,’ she said and skipped off to the sink.

Some people just ruin skipping...

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

The Evils That Come of Crusty White Beards

It came as a surprise to neither Judy nor I that Radovan Karadzic has been hiding himself away all these years behind a large crusty white beard. While the talk in the serious press has been of underground rooms and secret hovels in villages sympathetic to Karadzic’s cause, I, on the other hand, have been busy sending countless letters from Cactus TV to those in the intelligence community, warning them that white beards posed a threat to national security. Now here I am, years on and justified in my fears. Yet it still saddens me that MI6 could have wrapped up this whole matter a long time ago with just a bowl of soapy water and a razor.

My suspicions were first raised by Fidel Castro, that great epitome of everything that’s un-Madeley about the world. With the example of this Bearded Satan in Cuba, was it any surprise that Saddam Hussein chose to hole himself away behind a couple of inches of thick whisker fashioned into a living chin-mullet of evil? As Archibald Flunk, my old teacher in the art of disguise once told me: ‘only vagabonds and thieves hide themselves away behind a beard’. He told the same to Cher but she made a song out of it and has never enjoyed an inconspicuous moment since.

Now that people are coming around to my way of thinking, we need to ask serious questions of those people with the means to make things happen in the world of facial topiary. Who else might be hiding behind the crusty white beards we don’t know about? What might we find behind the beards that we have already identified as potential threats? My own theory is that we need to look again at Uncle Albert from ‘Only Fools and Horses’, Harbottle from the Will Hay films, Santa Claus, Jimmy Hill and Noel Edmonds. If I had to put my money on their being a war criminal hiding behind a beard, it’s to these beards that I’d go with a large pitch fork and a willingness to prod. And if we don’t find anything, we should then move on search Brian Blessed, Kenny Rogers, and Ginger Spice, because, I don’t know about you, but I still get that tingle of excitement at the very thought of there being an arch-criminal behind one of their beards.

I know that many of you will be wondering if I’m overstating my case but I’d go so far as to say that growing a beard is morally wrong. In the immortal words of Gillette, subsequently ruined by marketing people, ‘a beard is the first admission of guilt a man can make’. I, myself, have never once considered growing a beard. But, then, I have nothing to hide, being a good-living man who has never harmed a soul in his life, so long as you don’t count Shakin’ Stevens, and, let’s face it, who does?

Beards are as alien to our being as an extra set of earlobes. They are abnormal extravagances that only guilty men grow. I warn you now: ulterior motives were behind every man grooming a small shrubbery between his upper lip and chin. Grizzly Adams had a large beard because he lived out there in the woods with his bear. But did nobody ever wonder why he was hiding? And why he wanted to live with a nine hundred pounds of slobbering snot and teeth? And what about Rasputin or Blackbeard? The only two* exceptions to the general rule that all men with beards are evil are Jesus and Kris Kristofferson, who both, in their ways, wrote songs about beating the devil. They clearly weren’t evil. They were just in hiding from Satan, who, when you think about it, also has a beard. And as Professor Flunk always said, ‘the art of disguise is to blend in.’ Which is another reason why beards are unnatural, immoral, and unholy.

Given that 98% of the world’s population is cleanly shaved (and, to some of us, that means both top and tails) how is growing a beard meant to hide a man’s identity? It’s only going to encourage people to stare, pass comment, or give it a tug. The bigger the beard, the more explicitly do you announce that you have something to hide. A beard should always rouse the curiosity of good, common, descent folk who would do well to drag it to a stake where it would be tested with a trial by fire.

And speaking of the devil, as we were, that style of chin whisker is the worst beard of all. The devil groomed his beard, no doubt with one of those vile razors with an attachment on the handle. Ask yourself: how many blades does a pitchfork have? Now compare that with the Wilkinson Quattro Titanium. You see, there’s the devil’s work in the well groomed beard. TV advertisements for beard trimmers have kept me awake on many a night (although, lately, it has been the Ladyboys of Bangkok on the Manchester leg of their tour). There is a repellent vanity in all men that cut their beards to neat edges. While they appear to have something to hide, they are teasing us you by revealing just enough of their face to keep us guessing. This is like lumping pre-mediated evil on top of some of some unmotivated crime.

The beard says they’re guilty. Shaving it admits that they simply don’t care. The utter fiends!

* There is, of course, a third exception and that's Bill Oddie. But Bill is technically in hiding. His beard hides him from the birds, so it's really a natural form of camouflage and has no greater significance.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Don't Go Dickinson With My Wonnacott

If I were to offer you a three hundred year old Wormwood buttering rack for ten pounds, you’d tell me to clear off and never besmirch your late Edwardian rat-hair doormat again. If, however, I offered you a three hundred year old Wormwood buttering rack for the better part of a thousand pounds, you’d break the bank and a few shins to get the bloody thing into your front room. It wouldn’t matter that Wormwood buttering racks went out with the ferreting needles that Queen Victoria used to pop her pubescent pimples. Nor, for that matter, would you care that European laws outlawed ‘buttering’ in the 1973 Milkmaid’s Charter and that the last man to be hung for the offence was actually incapable of committing the crime because he was lactose intolerant and deficient by two critical glands and a suitable buttering rack.

Of course, none of this enters into your squalid little thought processes when you think that there’s money to be made. You just see my three hundred year old Wormwood buttering rack and think it a bargain. And do you know what? I don’t blame you. Having just endured half an hour of the BBC’s afternoon output, I now realise that antiques are as sexy as an oiled midget and twice as exciting as Barbara Winsor with a cinnamon topping.

I’m constantly amazed by the success of shows that get misty eyed over common-or-garden tat. They encourage us to buy cheap and sell high and then demonstrate the futility of capitalism by awarding their contestants less than their bus fare back to Toffington-on-the-Snuff, Hampshire. I can’t deny that it’s absorbing to watch a middle-class account manager squander two hundred pounds of the BBC’s money on an ivory-handled tonsil scraper. It’s far more entertaining than any number of execs wasting millions trying to modernise the latest TV snore of Charles Dickens’ ‘Dumbledore House’ or ‘Dobby & Son’. It’s just a shame is that there aren’t more of these shows and that the BBC has already used up next year’s quota of men cursed by gypsies at birth who might host them.

First there was ‘Antiques Roadshow’ with Hugh Scully, who always reminded me of a badger that had voluntarily tried to euthanize itself by repeatedly running into a spade. Then came ‘Bargain Hunt’ which did more for the dandy population of Brighton than any show since ‘The Danny La Rue Extravaganza’ took the south coast from behind. We e must also never forget that ‘This Morning’ was the show that first introduced the world to David Dickinson, and David Dickinson to the world, even if ‘Bargain Hunt’ made him famous. Not only can he smell woodworm in French fluting from the cliffs of Dover but he has handled more wooden knobs than men called Elton with a thing for walnut dressers.

When David announced that he was quitting our screens, the BBC afternoon schedule could have creaked to an arthritic halt with ‘Quincy: QI’ and ‘Diagnosis Dick van Dyke’. Having achieved superstardom and with Stephen Spielberg knocking at his door, David Dickinson could have easily allowed his old show to be sold off without even meeting its reserve price. However, Dickinson was forward thinking and handed his auctioneer’s gavel to his equally gifted cousin, Tim Wonnacott.

Wonnacott is the sort of man to breeze through the heats of the Terry Thomas Lookalike Competition only to blow it in the final because he couldn’t play the cad with as much evil as he has panache. He’s so genial that fluffy hamsters called Mr. Squiggles have been known to find him twee and have penned scathing odes about him. Wonnacott was in charge this afternoon when I sat down to watch the red team outwit the blue in a closely fought contest that went to the wire and a set of wooden birthing stirrups. Luckily for the red team, there was somebody in Shipton Mallet who required a set of wooden birthing stirrups and the two pound profit on the initial ninety pound outlay carried them to victory. They beat the blue team by all of one pound, having only lost a meagre £187 on a suitcase full of worthless brick-a-brac.

Not that we should hold the blue team to account for their profligate losses. When all the lots are gone and the money counted, the people really to blame are the experts who are clearly nothing of the sort. They come in two sizes. The sad little men have delicate 1960s comb-overs and frayed cuffs where signs of repair will decrease their price at auction. The other team is usually assisted by a flirty young female, fashionably blonde, and definitely an ‘antique of the future’. They won’t get ‘all of their money’ today but you know that Timmy would be quite happy to turn them over and check for distinguishing marks on their bottoms. And as for Tim himself. He turns and pouts to camera. ‘Imagine!’ he says.

And it’s a take!

Another classic show goes into the BBC vault. And what’s more, it’s future proof. Ageless and never to be labelled an antique.

Oh... Before I go, I’d like to buy back that Wormwood buttering rack even if it means I have to throw in a mid-century sparrow mangle to clinch the deal.

Hung Over

The Limburger nibbles grated against the backs of my eyeballs have brought out the mice again. They are now frantically chewing at my temporal lobes from where this painful hangover seems to originate. It really is too much to type this morning but I expect most of you are feeling pretty much the same after last night’s party to mark the one year anniversary of this blog’s launch. How Judy kept it all a secret from me I don’t know, but I have to thank so many of you for making the long trip to see us. The evening was a gala of bacchanalian fun with the occasional comic moment. Bill Oddie says he won’t sit down for a week while Stephen Fry is promising a fifty pound reward to the person who returns his favourite green cape. It was good to see a few of you take time to go and say hello to Fred Talbot who has featured so regularly in this blog, as he has featured in my life, over the last twelve months. He is no longer feral and, as many you discovered, he can now converse quite happily about the weather without trying to bite you.

Friendships were made last night that may never be broken.

The only thing I believe I have to apologise about is that Jeremy Clarkson thought it appropriate to show a picture of his recent eye infection to people as they were eating. Judy took him to one side and, as you can see, confiscated the photograph so there should be no repeat performances of that grotesque sideshow. The main event, as you know, was as much fun as you can get when living near to David Dickinson. That he complained half a dozen times about the noise was no fault of mine and I hope you appreciated the efforts we made to keep the party going until four in the morning.

Today is a matter of recovering before I go off to film this afternoon’s show. Judy is in a fine mood and even seems relaxed about the Dennis situation. For my part, I have decided to take more of a hand’s on role with the captions. They will be written by me, so any mistakes are my own.

I’m sure you come for lots of exciting tales today but I’m really too hung over to type for too long. Each keystroke is like a particularly hungry rodent sinking its teeth into my brain.

Perhaps later...

Sunday, 20 July 2008

The McGowan Factor

There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, means that their wives will be extremely vexed with them come Sunday. I don’t know what it was that gave me a hint that all wasn’t well in the Madeley household this morning. The thought that my blog is a year old tomorrow perhaps made me anxious about my career plans but, otherwise, there wasn’t anything particularly ominous in the creak of the bed springs, my healthy ablutions, nor the suds and foam on my cheeks as I washed and shaved. Conversations began and ended as naturally as they should, yet there was still something in the air that was more than the smell of Mrs. Corbett spreading muck around her roses...

‘Having a good morning?’ asked Judy as I appeared at breakfast.

‘Indeed I am,’ I said. ‘My ablutions were quality from beginning to end. Happiness, they name is Fruit & Fiber twice a day.’

‘And the toilet flushed first time?’

‘How can you tell?’

Her eyes narrowed. ‘You seem perky.’

‘You’re a remarkable woman, Ms. Finnigan,’ I said. ‘One day I’ll marry you under the eyes of the Christian God and make you a Madeley.’

Judy smiled thinly and watched me as I began to cobble together my breakfast. Despite my outward appearance, I was feeling uneasy about something and I could tell that my wife wasn’t the normal vivacious Judy who is usually up at seven on a Sunday when there’s concrete to be mixed. Naturally, I was suspicious that she was still angry about the third mistake that out caption editor, Dennis Plumb, had made on Friday when he had misidentified another of our guests.

It was when I was finally prepared to depart for my snug around ten o’clock, Rivita and coffee in my hands, that Judy spoke and the whole twisted mess began to unravel.

‘Richard,’ she began, ‘have you read yesterday’s paper?’

‘No, Judy, I haven’t,’ I sighed, knowing what was coming next. ‘I’ve been rather busy.’

‘Busy?’ She began to finger her necklace nervously and I knew I was in for trouble.

‘We had the newsagents change papers twice because you said you didn’t enjoy reading “The Independent” or “The Telegraph”. Yet I haven’t seen you pick up “The Guardian” once this week. I don’t see why we’re paying nearly twenty pounds a month on papers you’re not even reading!’

I took a step back. Two steps back if the truth be told.

‘What is it, Jude?’ I asked. ‘You’re not really angry about the paper, are you? I’ve been thinking all morning that you seem to be in a mood about something.’

Asking my wife about her mood was my second mistake, equivalent to allowing the Germans to rearm.

‘Well, no, Richard. I’m not alright. If you want me to be perfectly honest, I’m disappointed that you’ve not sacked Dennis. And didn’t I warn you about what would happen if he was still in his job on Monday? I’ve gone on and on about this, Richard, and I’ve told you until I’m blue in the face and yet you still won’t listen to me despite every...’

She went on for some time. When Judy begins to list all the things wrong with me, she can sometimes talk for forty five or even sixty seconds, but this morning it was something special. She also began to list all the faults of my friends and that took the speech well into lunch.

‘... and I’ll say this one last time, Richard: if I ever catch Stephen Fry smoking his pipe next to my washing line, I’ll drag that cape over his head and beat him until he stops moving. I found scorch marks in my...’

I tried to close my ears to most of it.

‘... and if Nige thinks that he can come and leave his owl with us while he goes off to France every couple of months...’

Like I said, it went on for some time.

Eventually, there came a point when I noticed that it had ended. I looked up from the newspaper I’d managed to read from front to back and wondered if Judy would allow me to change it for ‘The Times’ on a Sunday.

‘Finished?’ I asked.

‘You have to sack Dennis,’ spluttered Judy.

Before she could start again, I waved my hand. ‘If this is about Friday,’ I said, ‘you don’t need to bother. I know all about McGowan.’

‘You do?’

I had to smile. Despite everything, Judy does her best to look out for me. She has a knack of berating me when all she’s trying to do is to save me from some of the harsher things that life throws my way. She had been trying to hide Dennis’ latest excess from me but I had learned about it yesterday afternoon.

‘I had Alistair on the phone,’ I explained. ‘He was gloating, as you can imagine, and he asked me if he’s allowed to quote it on his next DVD.’

‘He would,’ replied Judy. ‘Everybody wants us to endorse them but it doesn’t make it right. You’re much funnier than Alistair.’

‘You don’t need to tell me,’ I said. ‘I always said that Ronni Ancona carried those shows.’

‘Yes, well... You have one of those things for Roni Ancona.’

‘Things?’ I laughed though I knew that I shouldn’t.

‘It’s in your eyes, Richard... You begin to blink a lot whenever she comes on.’ I wanted to protest but Judy just shrugged. ‘Anyway, what matters is Alistair. He’s probably jealous because your Ali G impression is so much better than his.’

Music to my ears. ‘You’re telling me things I know already, Jude,’ I said.

‘Then sack Dennis and we can put this behind us.’

‘We can’t sack him. He’s a one armed man. We’d have an even number of limbs on the staff and that’s technically illegal under European rules.’

‘So what are you going to do?’

‘You’ll see,’ I said and gave Judy a wink. She smiled back and I stood up, planted a kiss of her brow, and then headed to my office where I was overcome with emotion.

The last time I felt like this was as a child when I was forced to give the family cat away. There must be somebody out there who has a use for a slightly unstable one-armed man with a Peter Manley fetish. He’s good with children and buries his mess in the garden. What more could you ask for?


A Year On

For a year, I’ve been sitting here sat at my keyboard, fashioning my thoughts into meaningful posts. Only today the words have dried up. Tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of the Richard Madeley Appreciation Society and I still haven’t had a single card.

A year older and 365 days wiser, I now look back on a year of wasted opportunities and failed ambitions. I intended to write the finest blog around but have failed miserably. The world may now have an official resource for people with two rectums and I have become a quoted authority on the history of custard creams, my own dreams remain unfulfilled. However, I don't want you to feel sorry for me. Instead, I want you all to do at least one thing tomorrow to make the day special. Whether that’s breaking out the bunting, wrapping yourself in the Union Jack, or having an underwear free day, please make the statement to the world that ‘Richard Madeley is a vital part of this nation’s culture and it would be wrong to send him off into the backwaters of satellite TV’.

After a year, I hope you’ve come to know me a little better. You’ve seen me on good days and bad. I’ve not hidden my occasional moods from you, nor the disappointments that have dogged me all year. You have come to know the real me. And the blog is also become a sizable chunk of prose. 250,000 words on, I feel like my job isn’t anywhere near complete. The Madeley name is not yet synonymous with wit and subtlety. My novel remains unpublished (technically, the term is ‘cancelled’) and my autobiography still isn’t complete. At 30,000 words, ‘Madeley: Summoned To Greatness’ is the publishing sensation yet to be finished, published, or a sensation. However, The Richard&Judy Foundation’s official publication of ‘Fathers&Sons’ will come out in the Autumn, written by a talented guy on the Richard&Judy payroll but not, unfortunately, by these fingers. I doubt if there are many laughs in it but I hope it does well.

Tomorrow is a new day and a new year on this blog. We'll have to do something special to celebrate.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

The Caption Composition

Like sex on a pogo stick, a one-armed caption writer is an interesting proposition but they probably fail due to a matter of balance.

Back in the Land of the South where all the good people dwell, I’m done with Manchester for another week. If I don’t see another brick chimney or stoat-fondling man wearing leather braces and bearing the countenance of a matchstick, it will be too soon. I might also say the same thing about Dennis Plumb, my erstwhile PA, darts fanatic, and man of letters (our captions department to be precise). I’ve spend a pretty torrid evening trying to defend a man who, I don’t mind admitting between the three of us, has clearly gone quite insane. Kurtz upriver getting metaphysical with the natives was never this bad. At least he never had a tea-time viewership well into the millions.

The full extent of the ‘horror’ became apparent tonight when I arrived home. Weary from the intercity and a couple of nights among the Ladyboys of Bangkok, I was looking forward to a relaxing evening with the Right Side of the Ampersand.

Only the Right Side was in no mood for cosy. Judy had promised that she would start bringing tapes of the recording home with her and she did just that tonight. After the incident the other day when Dennis slipped an extra ‘S’ into Wednesday, Judy has become paranoid that it’s an organised campaign by Paul O’Grady to destabilise the show. Personally, I think it’s just Dennis’ way of attracting more viewers in the hope that we might become cult viewing. I think it’s actually a great idea and would think that this is the now the only way to make Channel 4 see sense and keep us on terrestrial.

Only Judy doesn’t understand cult... Tonight my bags had barely settled on the hall floor before she emerges from the living room waving a VHS tape in one hand and her favourite claw hammer in the other.

‘Look what he’s done this time!’ she cried.

‘Welcome home Richard,’ I answered as I moved in for a kiss.

Judy was having none of it. No lips. No squeeze. Nothing.

‘Here,’ she said, thrusting the tape into hands already prepared for something more Judyesque. ‘Go on. Have a look!’

The hammer looked threatening so I thought it best not to argue. Wearily, I went into the living room and slid the tape into the video. Judy had already wound it to the right position and I recognised the beginning of tonight’s show. It was the start of our much celebrated interview with novelist Katie Price (known as ‘Jordan’ to the men of Bristol out there).

‘Look,’ said Judy and paused the tape seconds into the interview.

‘Oh,’ I replied. I could see the problem.

‘Oh? Is that all you can say? Oh?’ She stuck the hammer under my nose, claw raised. ‘I want Dennis fired this minute. Call him up and tell him that he needn’t come into work on Monday.’

‘But it’s an easy mistake to make,’ I told her. ‘You can’t sack a man for a small mistake.’

‘A small mistake? How on earth can you call it a small mistake, Richard? Katie Price looks nothing like Vincent Price.’

‘Well, it’s implied,’ I said. ‘Let’s face it, she’s very orange whereas Vincent was very pale. And she does look like one of the Brides of Frankenstein with her hair piled up like that. Plus, you can’t say that you weren’t frightened when she sat on the sofa. I know I’ll never be the same again and neither will the sofa. It’s a known fact that fake tan doesn’t come out of fake leather.’

‘Leatherette,’ said Judy. ‘Leatherette.’

‘Whatever you want to call it, Judy... You simply can’t sack a man for the tiniest mistake.’

Judy narrowed her eyes and poked me in the chest. Even if Katie Price was all Hammer Horror, it was the horror of the hammer in Judy’s hand that held my attention.

‘Dennis is gone before the next show,’ she said, ‘or I swear that I’ll announce to the world that our caption editor has gone mad and so has my husband.’

Judy should know that there's Iranian blood running in the Madeley line which means that I’m not a man who responds well to threats. That’s why I’m letting things settle down a bit tonight before I decide how I should act. Judy may have a point. A one-armed manic behind the controls of a caption machine is not something you want when broadcasting to the nation five days a week. However, this evening I’m tired and I want to wait to see what the weekend brings. I’ve published this here on my blog and perhaps Dennis will read it and reconsider his actions. As for me: I’m hitting the hay. Quite literally. Judy has locked the bedroom door and won’t let me in until I’ve sacked Dennis. So it’s the shed for me, lying on the bales of hay Judy stores there for her miniature horses. If you want me, you know where to find me. Just knock three times and whisper ‘Dick’.

Friday, 18 July 2008

To My Current Visitor

To the visitor currently browsing the site having arrived via Google using UKOnline, the answer to your question is: no, I'm damn well not!

And what sort of thing is that to type into a search engine?

Your Madeley in Manchester Time Check

I have to beg you to excuse me if I have a post of remarkably little depth this morning (or tonight, as I’m writing this at gone eleven at night). I’m stuck up here in my Manchester hotel from where I’m still enjoying the merry warbling of many a Ladyboy from the car-park across across the way. It’s also lashing it down and I’ve enjoyed one of those rare days when nothing went right.

After working late last night (that would be your Wednesday night), I set my alarm clock for five past six this morning. I rarely catch enough sleep and last night was no exception after a long journey up North. I woke up exhausted to the alarm’s bugle. It was a struggle to turn it off and an even bigger struggle to get out of bed. The morning was so dark and dreary... Anyway, I showered and shaved, dressed myself in my best casuals for a day working on ‘Eye of the Storm 4’. I even put in my best cufflinks, dolloped a dose of the old brylcreamed slap on the Madeley fringe, and topped off my morning routine by slipping on my watch which keeps time by picking up the signal of the national atomic clock and glows green when in close proximity to Iranian scientists.

It was only at this last stage of the proceedings that I noticed that my super accurate wristwatch was saying that it wasn’t six o’clock in the morning. It was actually five minutes to five and, by some strange miscalculation, the time of my travel alarm had jumped forward by an hour and a half. The morning was dark and dreary because it was not morning at all but the middle of the night. To make matters worse, I was ready for the day, albeit a tad sleepy. In the end, I had to get undressed and get back into bed. It’s not easy trying to get some shuteye with the smell of fresh aftershave still bleaching the insides of your nostrils.

To make matters worse, I was trying to keep my head down due to the broadcast of the Richard&Judy show we taped earlier in the week. We were plugging Jordan’s latest novel and I think the least I say about that the better. Graham Greene she isn’t. She’s not even Sarah Greene. Or even Camberwick Green...

As you can see, I’m slightly losing the plot and I should really go and get some sleep. Normal service will be resumed once I get back to London.

For those who are keeping a track of these things: this week’s midget report is a rather disappointing count of one. Manchester is not living up to its reputation as the midget capital of the North West. I’m hoping for better nanus news tomorrow.

[Update: having read this is the cool light of day, I notice that my typing and general elan were disappearing the closer I got to midnight. Forgive me. Humanity is a bit of a burden for those of us blessed with a dose of divinity.]

Thursday, 17 July 2008

John Cleese and Colin the Lemur

As much as I feel humbled (and not a little belittled) by the two days I’m about to spend up in Manchester, there are other times when I realise how unique it is to be me. Last night’s show, for instance, was an absolute screamer. One for the archives. It was the sort of show that Judy tapes to VHS, wraps in ribbons, and then stuffs at the back of her sock drawer. By the time we’d finished recording, I felt about ten years younger and a fluid ounce lighter. An hour spent in the company of John Cleese is like a year with any other man. He’s a riot and an absolute hero of mine. He also had me laughing so hard that I don’t mind admitting that I wet myself. And I don’t mean just a little bit wet. I mean wet enough for two grown men.

‘Is that it?’ asked John as the camera’s red light dimmed and we went off air.

‘That’s it,’ I said, wiping away the few remaining tears from my ankles. ‘Listen, that was one of the best interviews we’ve ever done. It’s not often that we do these shows live but you were an absolute pro.’

‘So what do I do now?’

‘Now you go home, John,’ I said.

‘Must I? Can’t I come home with you and Judy? I can make a fantastic omelette.’

‘You want to come home with us?’

‘Couldn’t I? I’d be no trouble. And what’s more, I’ll be just as funny as I was on air. But if you let me out of here now, I’ll be totally irresponsible. I guarantee I’ll be married again before midnight unless you save me from myself.’

I looked at Judy and Judy looked at me. Invisible signs were passed between us that only bats would have picked up.

‘Oh, okay,’ I said, ‘come home with us, John. But before we go, we just have to check the tape.’

For every show that we do live, we always go to the side of the stage where all the monitors are located and have a quick look to see how the show appeared to our viewers. Last night, with John in tow, everything was looking fine until the first ad break. That's when Judy noticed the mistake.

On the show’s credits some goon had written ‘Wednessday 16th July’. It was just the sort of mistake that Judy finds unforgivable. She just went berserk. She began cursing and screaming and lashing out. She tore a monitor from the stand and sent it crashing into a cameraman. John was rigid with shock while I could only strip off my jacket and try to calm down my wife, who I knew wouldn’t rest until the guilty person was found and punished.

‘Come on, love,’ I said. ‘Nobody will have noticed. It’s been proved that 92% of the British public can’t even spell “Wednesday”.’

It was slightly deceitful of me, I know, but I couldn’t bring myself to tell her that I’ve been employing my old PA Dennis to work on the show’s graphics. The man has suffered enough and I feared for his remaining arm should Judy have discovered that he was to blame for the typo.

‘That’s not the point if most people are too dim to spot it,’ screamed Judy. ‘It made us look like rank bloody amateurs. It is most unprofe...’

At which point she tripped over John’s abnormally large feet.

For the first two steps, she looked like she would recover but on the third she completely lost balance and went stumbling into Rob the Zookeeper who, as you probably know, had been on the show to help John demonstrate how a lemur eats grapes and generally do his little bit to Help Save the Lemur.

I needn’t tell you that it’s generally not a good idea to go stumbling into a zoo keeper, especially when the zoo keeper is trying to coax a male lemur into its cage. Judy hit him around the ribs and Rob fell forward. What followed was a matter of angles. The way he’d been holding the animal and the direction he was falling... It’s probably easier and more polite to say that he goosed the lemur. Unfortunately, the lemur happened to be called Colin and like 82% of males called Colin, he didn’t like where the zoo keeper put his thumb. This made the lemur quite mad but he didn’t turn on Rob but turned on Judy.

Judy tried to bat Colin away but the lemur had his tail around her throat before she could deploy her highly trained fists to fend it away. John, in the meantime, being much closer, leapt straight into the fight and tried to pull the lemur off Judy’s face. Having claimed live on air that they are a very docile creature, he was clearly not prepared for the snarling teeth of a prosimian who have been violated by a zoo keeper's thumb.

‘Bloody things are supposed to be docile,’ shouted John as he examined his finger.

I had no thought for John’s finger or the zoo keeper’s thumb. Judy was turning a deeper shade of purple as the lemur tightened its grip on her throat.

‘Docile?’ I cried. ‘I’ll show you docile!’ And with that I cracked Colin across the snout with a copy of my forthcoming book, ‘Fathers and Sons’, which I just happened to have on my person and will be available at all good bookshops in the Autumn.

‘Gosh,’ said John. ‘I haven’t seen a man kill a lemur with a three hundred page hardback in years. You see. That’s why I miss the UK. You don’t get this in Santa Barbara. What else can you kill? Can we get a squirrel in here? I’ve always wanted to stun a squirrel. I could use my shoe if you’re all out of books.’

I let John witter way. With Judy now able to breathe, the four of us stood over the body of Colin.

‘I think you’ve killed him,’ said Rob the zoo keeper.

‘No,’ said John. ‘I think it’s still breathing.’ He moved to slip off his loafer. ‘Do you want me to finish him, Dick? Want me to give him the coup de grace?’

I was in no mood for John's sarcasm. I could see that the animal was indeed taking small gasps.

‘Perhaps mouth to mouth,’ suggested Judy whose had recovered enough composure to be back to her caring self.

Rob didn’t hesitate. He knelt down and began to administer artificial respiration, which, I can assure you, isn’t easy with an animal with a narrow snout.

‘I can’t do it,’ he said after a couple of attempts. ‘My mouth is still dry from the studio lights. I’m not getting an airtight seal.’

‘Look here,’ I said, ‘why don’t you let me have a go? I’ve probably got the healthiest lungs here and I’ve got more than enough saliva.’

‘Yes,’ said John. ‘Let Dick have a go. After all, he’s the one that nearly killed Colin.’

John may be a comic genius but he can be so distracting in situations involving lemurs battling for their lives. To be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to giving the kiss of life to a lemur. Rather filthy looking animals, if I’m to be honest. I closed my eyes and steeled myself as I took a couple of deep breaths before I grabbed Colin and quickly gave him as much air as I could manage in one go.

This, I suppose, was the moment when it all became too much for Judy. She gave a scream and then fainted.

‘Looks like you’re blowing into the wrong end, old boy,’ said John in that rather know-it-all way he has. ‘I’d say that if Colin does ever recover from the mortal touch of your forthcoming bestseller, then he’s going to be an extremely flatulent lemur for the next few days. What on earth possessed you to blow there?’

Naturally, I had no answer except to say that I didn’t know one end of a lemur from the other. I don’t suppose many men do. There certainly aren’t many TV talk show hosts who can claim to have give artificial respiration to the wrong end of a half-dead primate in the company of one of the nation’s most well respected funny men.

But then again: that was just the thing about yesterday. It was just so unique being me.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

The Jeremy Clarkson Mask

There have been so many people visiting the blog looking for a Jeremy Clarkson mask, I thought I'd make one available to my blog's readers along with something a little more respectable for wearing in the office.

Simply click on the images below, print in colour to quality card, and then carefully cut around the lines and add a piece of elastic or string.

If you love Bill Oddie, you'll wear these masks with pride for the rest of the day.

[UPDATE: I'm getting so many hits (and now emails and comments) from people searching for a Bill Oddie mask that I've decided to add one to honour this blog’s dearest friend. However, if you do decide to wear Bill’s face, remember that this isn’t some 'Top Gear' bandwagon we're jumping on. This is a protest against the BBC’s humiliation of their greatest asset. Unlike Clarkson, I want you to wear Oddie’s face with pride. But remember: never near owls. We’re trying to get them to naturally land on the real thing and it would only confuse them.]

[Update 2: And for Bertas... I imagine Fry fanatics could excite themselves with these masks in ways that aren't technically legal in certain parts of America and east of Swindon.]

The Kate Silverton Project

My love affair with BBC News 24 continues like some misjudged passion between star-crossed siblings. What began with my stumbling across 'Click Online' has now developed into a full scale admiration for the whole news operation. Can a man find any greater happiness than when he's hearing bad news from an attractive face? I know that I bless the day when I first set eyes on Kate Silverton. Her eyes alone are worth an ice cap or two.

Last night, Judy and I decided to enjoy the fare at a little restaurant not far from our home while we discussed future projects. Through the starter, Judy outlined her plans for my solo career. She intends to go off and become the new Dick Francis, only she’ll be writing novels set around the world of miniature show ponies. I held my peace, knowing that writing isn’t as easy as she makes it sound. I also had more important things to discuss.

Just as the main course was arriving at the table, the subject turned to Kate Silverton’s appearance on 'Top Gear' and that’s when I made my suggestion.

‘Do you suppose Kate might be interested in my gnome project?’ I asked.

Judy looked at me. Her chewing slowed before she reached for a glass of water and took a larger than normal sip. Then she dabbed her mouth with her napkin.

‘Richard,’ she began, her voice so low it was beneath the table. ‘How many times must I say it? Nobody is interested in your gnome project.’

‘But lots of people own garden gnomes,’ I protested. ‘If even one out of every ten gnome owner watched the show, our ratings would be through the roof.’

Now Judy sipped her wine. I could tell that she was disappointed. Lack of vision, you see. She’s always had it or failed to have it, if you get my meaning. Put her in a familiar surroundings and there’s nobody better at asking difficult questions of amiable guests. But in the modern world where we media types have to act quickly, often fighting with guerrilla tactics to take our audience by surprise, she’s about as much use as the Pipes of the Blackwatch. The opposition hear her bagpipes coming a mile away.

‘I don’t see why anybody would want to watch you on a show about gnomes.’

‘But there’s so much more to it than gnomes,’ I said. ‘Kate would understand.’

‘Okay,’ said Judy, taking out her mobile. ‘Let’s ring her and find out.’

Now there are very few things I don’t know but that Judy is friends with Kate is one of them. Another is that Kate is friends with Judy.

‘Hello Kate. Judy here,’ said Judy. ‘Richard wants to have a word with you.’
And just like that, right over her lamb casserole, Judy handed me the phone.

‘Hi Kate,’ I said. ‘Richard here. Left side of the ampersand?’

‘Hello Richard,’ said Kate. ‘Judy’s always talking about you. So nice to speak with you at least.’

‘I’m sure it is,’ I said. ‘But let’s cut the small talk. I’m here with Judy talking about an exciting new solo project and I would like you to come onboard.’

‘Really? And what is it? Current affairs?’

‘Not quite,’ I replied. ‘It’s gnomes.’


‘Garden gnomes. Imagine life size models of Bill Oddie posed with fishing rods or little red wheelbarrows. People often put them around ponds to frighten away ducks.’

‘Yes, I know what a gnome is, Richard. I have three myself. I’m just wondering how this is an exciting new solo project.’

‘Because it’s never been done before, Kate. Which is partly why it’s so exciting. What I have in mind is a game show where each week we kidnap a gnome from somebody’s garden. We spare no expense. Guys in black balaclavas drive up to somebody’s house, trample their garden and drag the gnome into a black van that speeds off. The gnome’s owner then has to follow a series of fiendish clues to locate the gnome which I’ll have hidden somewhere within the UK. They have 24 hours to find the gnome with your help. If they win, Bill Oddie agrees to stand in their garden for a week. If they fail, we destroy the gnome in some imaginative but highly amusing way.’

‘And what’s the name of this show?’

‘At the moment it’s my Untitled Gnome Project, which I think happens to be a good title but I’m open to suggestions. I had thought about The Great Gnome Kidnap With Richard Madeley. I’d be the guy in the balaclava, in case you were wondering.’

‘I’ll have a talk to my agent,’ said Kate.

‘Well, don’t talk too long,’ I said and gave Judy a wink. ‘Half of the BBC wants to be involved. I was talking with Kate Russell yesterday and I think she’d be almost as perfect as you, Kate.’

‘My agent,’ said Kate again. ‘Now, could you hand me back to Judy. I’d just like to chat with her for a second.’

‘Sure thing, Kate,’ I said. ‘Hope to speak with you soon about gnomes.’
I handed the phone to Judy.

‘Hi Kate... Yes, I know. Hmmmm. No, no. Quite serious... I had thought about that but it’s getting him to agree to see one. No, Kate, I know... I thought some sort of medication. Just to take the edge off. Well, to be honest, I don’t know. I think it’s getting worse. I’m afraid to leave him alone in the house. Well, if you send me the address. If he managed to calm Daniel Corbett down I’m sure he’d be able to do something. Okay. Well speak soon. No, no. Don’t worry. Dead in the water. Bye.’

‘What was that about?’ I asked as Judy slipped her phone in her handbag.

‘Oh, she wanted to know if we could mind her cat for her when she goes away on holiday.’

‘A cat?’ I winced. ‘I don’t want a cat in the house.’

‘But you’re happy to have a beaver in the garden.’

I shrugged. There are places for beavers and places for cats. And somewhere in between there are places for gnomes. It's something that Judy just fails to understand.