Friday, 22 August 2008

Mixed Nuts

That excitable woodland sprite we all know as B. Appleyard was in an uncompromising mood on Tuesday night; his brow savaged by heavy thoughts and greasepaint. Sparks of consciousness have rarely come as bright. Nor have they ever breezed so supremely into the Madeley salon after their stint on the R&J sofa, demanding to stick their fingers in my extra large tub of face cream.

‘I wore cowboy boots so your makeup girl might remember to leave me pale and wan like some mid-Victorian poet on a laudanum bender,’ he declared as he began to scrub his cheeks clear of their pseudo tan. ‘Now look at me! This make-up makes me feel like some heavily bloomered dame in pantomime.’

‘You did exceedingly well on the show,’ I replied, thinking a compliment might pacify the only reason why a sane man takes The Times on a Sunday.

Bryan growled. ‘I did well? I don’t see how. I failed to get my point across.’

‘Nonsense. Judy said that you explained the stone age diet as though you were a real Neanderthal. Or if not Neanderthal, then at least half-Dutch...’

I could see by the look on the old boy’s face that Bryan had missed my crude attempt at a joke.

‘She was that impressed?’

‘More than impressed, Bryan. You could have cudgelled her around the ear and dragged her to your cave to feed her honey and nuts. I doubt if you would have heard a squeak of protest over the sound of her breaking Brazils.’

Bryan growled again. Two growls in so many minutes are not a good sign. I could see that I was faced with a man whose tonsils needed immediate immersion in something topping the scale in percentage points.

‘Scrub up, Bryan,’ I said. ‘I’m off for a quick jar. Fancy coming along? Ricky Gervais says he might pop in a bit later, once he’s finished autographing the make-up girls.’ I didn’t think it good to say that I didn’t for one moment believe that Ricky would make it. I know Gervais and I know the makeup girls. A good combination they certainly do not make.

‘Well, I could do with a tankard of natural mead,’ replied Bryan, finally calming down. ‘This whole experience has taught me the wisdom of controlling your medium. The daytime sofa is clearly not my natural habitat. I need something sturdier for my manly posture.’

He had a point. Some of us are bred for the sofa and there’s a degree of softness about the Madeley being that women find comforting. This, they say to themselves, is a man made to ingratiate himself with a snuggle; a large beanie doll of manhood, fashioned for frolic and with the stuff of fluff and frivolity hanging about his collar. To put it more succinctly: there’s not a hair on my head that hasn’t been slapped with the squeeze from the bottle labelled ‘Gentleness’.

I think it’s important to labour this point before I tell you the remainder of this tale. My weekly jaunt to Manchester has prevented me from telling you the truth of Tuesday night, so if I do emerge from the narrative sounding like a callous man, then that’s merely a problem with the delay; a glitch in the story-telling process that I hope to cure with the above example of my sentimental nature. The same might be said about my intelligence, which might also suffer from its portrayal in the following account.

I was in a state of some nervousness by the time the clock did the splits around the six o’clock mark and a dangerous build-up of genius was threatening to bust asunder the tank surrounding the Appleyard cauliflower. His brain had been working at its usual one hundred and ten percent but Judy had stuck her thumb up his outlet valve. There’s no chance to ask a chap about the lyricism of Marilynne Robinson’s prose when Judy is busy asking him to name his top three beans. By the time he cornered me in my dressing room, the poor fellow was a veritable top on a stick, a whirling powder keg of mixed metaphors and twisted similes. I’d had half a mind to stick him in a taxi with an instruction to the driver to spare no horses and deliver him back to Chez Appleyard so he might explode before his keyboard in a literary puff of a hundred thousand words.

Only, guilt is a snorting donkey of a ride. No sooner had I thought to pack him off than my conscience gave me a kick as if to remind me that I was to blame for his condition. I couldn’t leave him and inviting him for a sneeze in the local wine bar seemed the right thing to do. It’s how I ended up escorting this dangerous load though central London and getting him sandbagged behind my favourite snug.

‘Well, here we are at last,’ I said as I placed the first round of the evening down on the table.

Bryan has ‘journalist’ stitched into his underwear. He downed his first glass of mead before the long hand on my watch had hopped across to the adjacent minute. Bryan wiped his mouth and looked imploring towards me as though I might provide another. After another trip to the bar, I finally sat myself down and began the slow process of deprogramming the brain that had been so woefully underused over the previous two hours.

Twenty minutes later, Bryan was beginning to explain the similarities between nuclear fusion and herringbone tweed when the snug’s door opened and a familiar beard came into view. It was Bill Oddie, dressed in green, and looking like one of Robin Hood’s men; merry, to be sure, but a touch wheezy when it comes to shinning up an oak. He’s more like the loafer they’d leave in the clearing stirring some pot of medieval broth lest Marion bust a nail stirring the brewing hoof of some deer. I was pleased to see him, though less enamoured with the cardboard box under his arm.

‘Sorry about this,’ he said, sitting down next to Bryan. ‘I’m on my way to see a vet and thought I’d drop in for a quick gargle.’

‘That’s not a cat in there, is it?’ asked Bryan, looking anxiously at the box which Bill had parked between the two of them.

‘No, not a cat,’ said Bill. ‘It’s a squirrel. Found the poor little fellow in the back garden. Not looking too well so I thought I’d crate him up and get him checked out. Run him through a full squirrel medical on my BUPA.’

‘A squirrel,’ laughed Bryan returning to his pint of nature’s finest. ‘My good friend Nige once told me a rather ribald story about a squirrel, a nun and a large bag of sucking sherbets.’ He then proceeded to tell the aforementioned ribald story but, though I smiled, I could see that Bill was not impressed.

Pushing his pint aside, Bill proceeded to tell his own story about a squirrel, a nun and a large bag of sucking sherbets which was touching in its significant parts. Had I know that Bill’s experiences with squirrels and nuns ran to such tragic lengths, I might have stopped Bryan upsetting the fellow with all that cruel talk about sucking sherbets and heavy breathing. However, the damage was done and it was left to me to lighten things up by recalling an anecdote of my own involving a Volvo and Christopher Biggins. I was on safe ground with Volvos, which are built by Swedes to be boring, and the earth beneath my feet was like concrete when it came to Biggins. At the end of my tale, I looked to Bryan, hoping to see a few amused creases about his eyes.

Damn it now, I thought. What have I said?

The poor man was wincing. Not just a little wince. This wince had hair on it and was known to its friends as ‘Barry’. A large tear had gathered at the side of Bryan’s eye and ran the length of his face as he tried to utter something. I heard only a gasp.

‘You’ve not had a bad related incident involving a Volvo, have you Bryan?’ I asked. ‘Didn’t mean to offend, you know? Fancy another pint of fermented honey?’

‘Ahhaaaaa!’ said Bryan who I now realised was in some pretty significant pain. Another tear followed the first down the track of his cheek in gold medal winning time.

I looked at Bill and Bill looked at me. I was about to call for help when Bryan’s paralysis broke and he shot up in his seat, sending the table crashing. It was then that I saw his problem.

‘Squirrel!’ I shouted and pointed at the tail end of a big red rodent hanging out of Bryan’s pocket.

Has ever a Sunday Times journalist suffered at the teeth of a squirrel and a stone age diet? It was immediately obvious what had happened. Bryan had packed his pockets with mixed nuts and their close proximity to the cardboard box had revived the squirrel which had gnawed through the box and dove into Bryan’s pocket with a dreadful intent.

I can only credit Bill for having leapt forward to recover the squirrel and save Bryan’s dietary requirement of a nut in each pocket.

‘It’s alright, no need to panic,’ said Bill as the animal came clear. That’s when the squirrel tried to take a nip out of Bill’s finger and, as any chap might do when nearly bitten by squirrel, he threw it to one side. The squirrel landed on all four of its paws and turned to face us looking, as they say, unwilling to take criticism.

‘Do they always foam at the mouth like that?’ I asked.

‘Rabid squirrel!’ cried Bryan, who despite everything was still the sharpest among us, if you didn’t count the red fellow’s teeth. Indeed, Bryan knows about many things to which I’m an amateur and if he was saying it was a rabid squirrel, I was not a man to argue semantics when there were chairs I might leap onto. Bryan and Bill followed my lead and the three of us were soon balancing on chairs as we watched a feverish squirrel patrol the floor near the snug’s only exit.

It didn’t take me long before I realised that my two companions were waiting for me to do something. Natural leadership, I always say, emerges in a crisis. People look to the strong types when their gizzards are hanging in the fire, or, in this case, over a frothing member of the family sciuridae.

‘I’m not standing for this,’ I said. ‘Three grown men standing on a chair should have enough firepower to defeat a squirrel.’

‘What are you going to do?’ asked Bill. ‘That’s a wild and dangerous animal.’

‘It’s a squirrel,’ I replied and I slipped off my desert boot. ‘I’ve faced worse.’ And with that, I jumped to the ground and lashed out. The heel of my boot caught the squirrel firmly under the chin. The chin barely flinched as the book flopped back.

‘Damn soft-soled shoes,’ I cried as I retreated to my chair.

‘Stand back,’ said Bryan, who had recovered enough sense and was slipping off one of his cowboy boots.

His aim was true. One moment there was a squirrel hopping cockily around the legs of my chair; the next, there was just a red stain the shape of a Cuban heel.

There was a moment of silence in which hearts eased off the throttle and two men jumped to the ground.

‘You’ve killed my squirrel!’ said Bill, still stood in shock atop his chair.

‘I’ve killed your rabid squirrel,’ corrected Bryan.

Bill teared up and I knew I had to say something to settle him. The last thing I wanted to see was a red stain the shape of the other of Bryan’s Cuban heels on the spot where the nation’s favourite Oddie had once stood.

‘Bryan did what was necessary,’ I told Bill as I lifted him down from the chair. Bryan went off to recover his boot as I began to stroke Bill’s beard. ‘Any sign of the squirrel?’ I shouted.

Bryan waved me over from the corner where his bloodied heel lay.

‘Squirrel meat,’ he said, nodding sadly to the remains of one arrogant rodent in the corner. ‘Such a waste. High in protean, low in carbs, makes splendid sausages.’

I gave him one of my more rueful looks. Renaissance Man looks on Stone Age Man. Two specimens of the human race. Two differing ideas about what sits well on a sandwich.


Nige said...


Anonymous said...

i feel this dangerous character should appear more often, killing things with his boots. To quote the armless police chief from Sholay (who is armless having had said upper limbs hacked off by machete-wielding bandits): "I do not need arms to trample a snake."

Selena Dreamy said...

Thanks for the video. Everything is much clearer now!

Particularly the connection between celery and Bryan’s melancoptin receptors, i.e. the nerves involved in sexual arousal. I noticed Judy laughed a lot. Evidently, trials have begun already on a type of celery that works directly on the pleasure zones of a woman’s brain...

...for God’s sake, keep us posted!

Dick Madeley said...

Nige, many thanks. I am rather magnificent!

Elberry, that dangerous character should write a blog of his own in which he details ways to disarm assailants with shoes.

Selena, you're most welcome. It's a terrible thing to admit but I'd forgotten all about the business of the celery until you just mentioned it. I should write about it at more length. Or, I think Bryan should. In fact, we should all over there and demand an answer.

Selena Dreamy said...

Well, the obvious answer must be that while drugs for male sexual dysfunction usually work by chemical stimulation of the sexual organs, the celery treatment being devised for Bryan directly activates the cerebellum - hence, I surmise, his grateful reference to “a large brain and a small stomach”!?

Anonymous said...

Interesting, Dick, how persistent you were about Bryan's phallic force, was there just a touch of homosexual yearning there? i note he dealt with your homosexual advances very adroitly, by pretending he didn't notice them.

All Shook Up said...

Well, who'd have thunk it... eating nothing but fruit, veg and protein keeps you slim, eh? Whatever will they think of next. Well done for making him sound interesting apres show, Richard.

Any more blogger interviews coming up on your new Exciting Digital Platform? Selena's idea of female stimulation with a stick of celery sounds a sure-fire winner while she's explaining the meaning of the Universe to your viewers.

Barbara said...

Lol, great squirrel story.

I think the diet was explained just fine, and it makes sense. Too bad bread is just about my favorite food. I'm waiting for someone to come up with the all-carb-all-the-time diet.

Black Cat said...

I hope that no squirrels were hurt in the writing of this blog... erm... :) xxx

Lola said...

I just thought of a squirrel!!

Lola said...

Oh no, it was chickens, wasn't it

Nige said...

Richard - I hope we're going to get the inside track on why you didn't join in that Full Monty on the last show. I bet Celery Man was up for it...

Bryan Appleyard said...

I am.... speechless.

Dick Madeley said...

Bryan, I'm just glad you recovered. A man of your stature, slim though it now might be, should not be seen in public wearing squirrel.

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