Judy may have threatened me with a pot of yoghurt but there are some principles I simply will not compromise.
‘I don’t give a tuppenny f***,’ I told her. ‘I’m not wearing a kilt and if you don’t give me time off to see Sir Clive James then I’ll refuse to go.’
Even Crunchy Nut Cornflakes failed to mask the silence that fell across the breakfast table. This wasn’t your average family dispute. It was much more profound. The future of UK broadcasting lay in the balance. Not to mention the fate of one half of a grapefruit.
I had not reacted well to the news that Judy had booked us in to lead a discussion at this year’s Edinburgh Television Festival. It was enough to make me wish for another season of Grumpy Old Men and an episode dedicated to the headache of contractual negotiations involving a tanned man and his yoghurt-wielding spouse.
While I’m not averse to occasionally swinging my tonsils in the direction of an opinion or two, I do draw a line when our careers get in the way of my more academic pursuits. First I wasn’t allowed to take the job at Harvard teaching practical criticism. Then I’m told that our schedule doesn’t leave me enough time to develop my new SCRAM jet for bicycles. Now it would appear that I won’t be allowed to blog live from this year’s Edinburgh Festival. A straw had been definitely been loaded too hastily onto the back of this brittle-boned camel.
The Edinburgh Festival was to have been my awakening. I would attend it as the Richard on one half of a hugely successful ampersand but I would emerge a Madeley in my own right. The news that Sir Clive James would be appearing nightly at the Queen's Hall had sent me into such paroxysms of joy that Judy had called for an ambulance.
I suspect that knowing about my plans had given rise to her sudden wish to turn Edinburgh into a professional date involving a kilt. Even the offer to donate my right wingnut to any charitable cause of her choosing hadn’t been enough to get me up to Edinburgh to see Sir Clive Live.
‘We’re going to attend our debate and that’s it,’ said Judy again waving her yogurt at me. ‘You know that we can’t have you lounging around the Fringe and making comments that haven’t been vetted by The Richard&Judy Foundation.’
‘Damn you and your foundation,’ I replied and developed a sulk as cultured as any dairy product. ‘This is Sir Clive James I’m talking about. You know how I intend to follow in his footsteps when I go solo...’
‘And how many times have I told you, Richard? You are not following in the footsteps of Clive James. You’re following in the footsteps of Hughie Green and that’s the end of it. I’m not going to have another argument about this when it’s all been decided.’
‘What is there to argue about?’ I asked. ‘I’m simply making the point that if I could get out of the studio setting, I’d stretch my wings. This idea you have of my hosting “Double Your Money” is never going to give me my big break. I want to show people that I can develop programmes just as edgy as anything by Louis Theroux but also as intelligent and witty as Sir Clive at his best.’ I stood up and walked to the refrigerator where my list of future projects was pinned next to the list of groceries. ‘Listen to this and tell me that I’m not onto something. Madeley Goes Eskimo. Madeley On A Bike. Madeley Meets The Quakers. Madeley Meets The Mormons. Madeley Meets The Munchkins. Madeley Meets Morrissey. Madeley Meets The Muppets. Madeley On Mogodon. Madeley Meets The Mongols. Madeley Does Manchester...’
‘Don’t you think it might get a little repetitive?’ asked Judy, now peeling back the foil from her tub of strawberry yoghurt as though the argument were already won.
‘Repetition is good,’ I explained. ‘It’s a staple of the broadcaster’s art. Doing it this way, I will become a national institution. My blog has already proved that I’m developing into a cult figure. The country is crying out for a new Alan Whicker, Jude. I could be that man. I’ll be the twenty first century’s version of Sir Clive James.’
Judy slammed her spoon onto the table. She hadn’t even tasted her yoghurt.
‘Sir Clive! Sir Clive! Sir Clive! All I bloody hear about is Sir bloody Clive James and the man isn’t even knighted.’
‘I’m working on it,’ I replied. ‘Powerful people read my blog and I know that if they get it into their mind, a knighthood for Sir Clive is marmalade.’
‘I’m also getting worried about all these strange phrases you’ve started to use, Richard. How can Sir Clive be marmalade?’
I wasn’t going to allow her to get away so easily. ‘Ha! See!’ I laughed. ‘You just said “Sir Clive”! I told you that once people start to hear it they’ll begin to like it. Catching, isn’t it?’
There’s one thing that Judy does not like and that’s losing an argument.
‘Richard Madeley,’ she said, her voice turning breathy like an aspirating python. ‘You are nowhere near as talented as Clive James. He’s a published poet and essayist. He studied at Cambridge and is now considered a national treasure. Can you say the same?’
I stood up and looked at my wife. She was of course right in nearly everything she said but I had to prove to her, once and for all, that I had it in me to become a success on my own. I might lack Sir Clive’s education but I had more than enough pluck. After all, mine was a spirit forged in the red heat of Granada Reports.
The Australian accent was the best I could do at short notice but I had Sir Clive’s nasal pinch about perfect.
‘In the Madeley kitchen, the aroma of fresh morning strawberry yoghurt is enough to make even the neighbour’s cat frisky. In the olden days, when frisky neighbours had docile cats, they said that a strawberry yoghurt was simply good for you. Now that the cat is friskier than its owners, they say yoghurt is the key to longevity. I say if this is what probiotic bacteria can do for you, I’m sticking with my Crunchy Nut Cornflakes and bugger the frisky cat. Judy has been eating yogurts for years so I thought I’d ask her for some tips...’
‘What exactly are you doing Richard?’
‘She had too much to say but that’s the thing about yoghurts. Everybody has too much to say. Especially the cats...’
‘You sound nothing like Clive James,’ she said. ‘You’re much more like Hughie Green...’
‘Judy said I’m more like Hughie Green. I say bugger Hughie Green.’
‘I’m not impressed Richard...’
‘"Double Your Money" was a show in which people won neither cats nor yoghurt. People also didn’t get to bugger Hughie Green. Which was a pity. But then Hughie wasn’t the kind of man you’d bugger. And that’s the thing about yogurt. No matter how frisky it made you, you’d never feel like buggering Hughie Green, his frisky neighbours, or his cat.’
‘Is that it?’ asked Judy.
I sank into my chair. ‘Well?’ I asked, exhausted but spiritually revitalised after living the dream, for no matter how short a time. ‘You've got to say that it was pure Sir Clive.’
‘It’s pure something,’ she answered and picked up her yoghurt before walking off into the conservatory.
I smiled as I watched her make a retreat before I turned back to my ever trusty Crunchy Nuts and half a grapefruit. A battle was won but the war had a long way to go.