‘Richard!’ screamed Judy. ‘Moles!’
Slippers be damned, I thought. Underwear too. I jumped out of bed and grabbed the mallet that I’d hung from my tie rack the night before. Moles had dug their last hole in the lawn of Richard Percival Madeley or my name wasn’t Richard Percival Madeley.
Sprinting like a serious case of the steroids, I ran down the stairs, out through the kitchen, and my bare feet hit the lawn by the time I’d taken my third lungful of the fresh morning air. Then it was all me and my mallet. I swung it to every point of the compass and then a few more for good measure. Each time a mole stuck his head out of a hole... WHACK... The wooden head smashed a good six inches into the lawn and, I hoped, the sweet-spot of another of the blind little buggers that have been making Judy’s life such a misery and ripping up our quality turf.
After half an hour, I fell back on the decimated lawn. Sweat coursed over my naked body and I was flecked with mole but otherwise feeling pretty good about myself.
‘I’ll have myself a mole-skin hat out of this,’ I promised my wife who had been watching nervously from the patio.
‘Do you think you got them all?’ asked Judy.
I didn’t doubt that I had. ‘Every mole this side of the Corbetts,’ I promised her and gave a wave up to the rear window the next door house. Ronnie was standing there, his spectacles peering over the window ledge, his sleeping hat still on his head. I knew he wouldn’t be happy, what with him being a mole-loving man, but these moles had strayed into our garden and were hostage to fortune, to speak nothing of a very large wooden mallet.
Judy helped me up and I stumbled back into the house for a quick debrief. Half an hour later, I was recovered enough to return to the scene of my latest victory. Showered and fully dressed, I took my morning glass of fresh orange juice out onto the lawn where I walked the battlefield and examined the many hundred holes that I’d made.
‘You know, Judy. Some might say that I’ve done more damage to this lawn than an army of Iraqi moles could make in a lifetime but I say it’s the principal that counts. Ronnie can breed them if he likes but I’m going to smash them if they come onto my land.’
Only Judy wasn’t listening. I watched her as she lifted a bag of cement onto her shoulder, carried it across the garden, and then dumped it into the mixer that was churning away next to the hole she’d already dug for our new ornamental pond. I’ve lost count of the number of Sundays that Judy has spent building rockeries, laying paths, or making her life-sized concrete statues of our celebrity friends. Our arboretum on the northern edge of the Madeley estate is now a no-go area on account of the Ainsley Harriott statue that Judy cast from the man’s actual body. It’s not his naked body that I find particularly gruesome but the fact that it has nearly taken my eye out on more than a couple of occasions. I’ve asked her to file a few inches from his tongue but Judy won’t listen to reason.
As I walked around the garden, I realised how little I get to spend with nature. I examined a few of the shrubs and then wandered away from the beaten lawn, so to speak, and found myself taking the path down to Lake Talbot. Perhaps I was feeling in a generous mood but it came to my mind that I’d go and see if I could coax Fred from out of his tree.
Since Rory McGrath made the discovery that Fred the Weather had gone feral in the trees bordering the lake, putting an end to the myth that he’d gone down with the ‘This Morning’ map which I had scuttled many summers ago, we have been doing our best to get Fred to return to civilisation. I’d had a shed put in under the branches, complete with dry clothes, a camp bed, and some of Fred’s favourite dark chocolate digestives. So far, he’s failed to abandon his feral life for something more fitting for the nation’s favourite weatherman.
‘Fred?’ I shouted as I walked into the small copse of woodland. ‘Fred?’
I shrugged and walked down to the shed whose door was open but the bed untouched.
Even Fred’s favourite digestives were still in their packet. It didn’t even look like the poor man had even come to sit in the shed.
The cot squeaked as I sat down on it and sipped my orange juice. After an unusually busy week, I’ve been sleeping longer hours than normal but still felt somewhat tired. I put my drink to one side and thought I’d have a lie down, just to lie there listening to the sound of the wind through the trees. I don’t know how it happened but I was soon in a deep sleep.
The dream was more vivid than any ITV quiz show you could imagine. I was stood on Blackpool Beach, directing Eric Sykes as he drove an earth mover constructing tidal defences. Each time we got the sand stacked high enough, Eric would drive a hole right through the wall and we would have to start again. I was berating him for the third time when I noticed that the digger had dug up something that glistened under the hot Blackpool sun. On closer inspection, they were golden doubloons struck with the face of Lenny Bennett. I woke up not knowing where I was but obsessed with the idea of not letting Bennett in on the booty.
You might say I was confused. I didn’t even think it odd when I sat up and saw Fred standing in the doorway.
‘Fred!’ I whispered.
He gave a snort and turned his head as though examining me. His nostrils flared as he took in my musk, which was half man and half mole. How he had changed! His muscles stood out like nylon cords against his small TV friendly frame, built exactly to the same scale as all the other models on the ‘This Morning’ map. His glasses were still balanced on his nose but they were caked with filth, as was the rest of his body. The only shed of clothing was the last of a once-brightly coloured knitted jumper that was now a tangle of knitting around his neck and upper right arm.
‘Don’t you know me, Fred? It’s Richard. Richard Madeley. You know... The guy who first suggested that you fall in the Albert Dock...’
Fred bared his teeth and pawed out into the space between us. I knew I had to take care. Men of Fred’s delicate character go feral more often than not when they leave showbiz. Noel Edmonds once had a shin bitten clean through by an employee who had gone savage after spending a year in the Mr. Blobby outfit.
I reached slowly out and picked up the pack of digestives. My hands were shaking but I managed to open the wrapping at one end. I held the biscuits out to Fred and gave the packet a shake until a couple of digestives fell out onto the floor. Fred dropped to his knees and began to sniff the chocolate. It was a start, I thought, so I picked up my glass of orange juice and tried to push it towards him.
It was a mistake any beginner might make when trying to tame a feral weatherman. He lashed out and his teeth took a chunk from my elbow.
I screamed in agony. It was pain like I hadn't known since I was once kneed in the testicles on live TV by a hyperactive Shakin' Stevens.
‘Richard?’ came a voice in reply. It was Judy.
‘Don’t move!’ I shouted as Judy appeared in the doorway. Fred was standing again and looking menacingly towards the woman who had so often handed over to him from the studios.
‘He’s just bitten my elbow,’ I explained as I examined the wound. His teeth had gone clean through to the bone.
‘Are you okay?’ asked Judy.
‘I’m okay but you mustn’t come any closer. Run down the street and bring Palin. And ring Stephen. Ask him to bring his tranquillizer gun.’
‘Does he have one?’
‘Of course he has one,’ I snapped. ‘How on earth do you think he manages to get so many guests on QI? Half of them are out of their brains on tranquilizer darts. You don’t honestly think that Bill Bailey always looks like that?’
There are rare moments when Judy doesn’t do as I suggest and she goes on to surprise me. This was one of those moments.
‘Oh Richard,’ she said. ‘This is ridiculous. It’s Fred. Our old weatherman. Fred Talbot. He’s not going to harm me.’ And with that she took a step towards Fred who backed away, worryingly towards my other elbow. ‘Come on Fred,’ she soothed. ‘You’re not going to harm old Judy, are you?’
What happened next was remarkable. Fred’s body began to shake and a sob broke from his throat.
‘Juuu,’ he managed to say.
‘Oh, Fred,’ said Judy still coming forward. ‘What have you done to yourself?’
Judy knelt down and picked up the glass of juice I’d set on the floor. She took a sip and then held it out for Fred who paused and then moved towards her. It was a sight to see Fred begin to lap orange from the glass as Judy began to stroke his head. His whole body seemed to wilt and the creature of the wilderness become a man once again. Judy shed a tear.
‘There, there,’ she said, ever so kindly as Fred began to nuzzle against her waist, sipping from the glass.
What could I say? In my wife's hands, orange was suddenly the right sort of juice. I gave Judy a wink as if to say well done. She could be sure that I knew how to handle things from here.
Fred didn’t know what had hit him. I had landed hard on his back and had him down on the floor before he could turn his teeth on us. He gave a groan as I twisted his arms behind his back and pinned him down but I was determined that I'd show no mercy.
‘Grab my belt and tie up his feet,’ I said to Judy who was standing there holding juice and digestives and looking quite shocked.
‘Oh Richard, what are you doing? Get off Fred at once.’
‘No time for your empathy now, Jude,’ I said. ‘This isn’t some tea-time chat with weight-watchers sitting on our cosy sofa. This is a feral ‘C’ list celebrity and he’s already bitten off my elbow. This is the only way we can be certain. Now, go and find a large rock and we’ll see about knocking him out. And if you can’t find a rock, bring Ainsley Harriott’s concrete tongue.’
‘You’ll kill him with that,’ said Judy.
‘That’s a risk I’m willing to take, Jude,’ I replied. ‘Now go and fetch me that tongue!’