Judy poked me in the ribs yesterday. Not unusual, you might think, nor unwarranted, but we were standing in the middle of the local Borders where I’d been examining the nostril of a large cardboard me that dominated the scene.
‘Hey!’ I cried as the elbow hit. ‘That was nearly kidney.’
‘I don’t care,’ said Judy. ‘Look at this.’
She held up a book.
‘Being A Scot,’ I read. ‘By Sean Connery.’
‘What do you think?’
‘I think somebody has a damn cheek. Have you seen what they’ve done to my right nostril with a felt tip pen. They’ve made it look like I encourage nasal hair growth.’
‘Oh, you and your nostril hairs! Richard, I’m asking you about this book. What do you think Sean’s thinking, publishing a book like this?’
‘He’s probably thinking that people don’t know how to be a Scot and that he has all the answers.’
‘Well I think we’ve missed a gap in the market,’ said Judy, tutting as she flicked through the pages covered with pictures of hairy knees and instructions on how to groom a sporran. She looked up at me. ‘I think it’s time for you to write another book.’
‘I’m already writing another book,’ I answered. ‘Didn’t I tell you how I made a drastic thirty thousand word cut yesterday, all in the name of plot?’
‘I mean a real book,’ said Judy. ‘One sanctioned by the official Richard&Judy Foundation.’
‘Oh,’ I muttered. ‘One of those books...’
‘“How to be English” by Richard Madeley,’ she said, writing the title in the air with a finger. The words hung there a moment before disappearing and I thought a moment about getting Judy a finger with a more indelible ink.
Once the spell was broke, it was my turn to issue a groan, officially sanctioned by the left hand of the ampersand. ‘Why on earth would I want to write a book like that?’ I asked. ‘Here I am. Six foot something of manhood widely considered the spiritual heir to Nabokov, Conrad, Wodehouse and Alan Whicker, but you insist on demoting me to the level of Jilly Cooper on horse tranquilizers.’
‘Nabokov,’ snorted Judy with much derision. ‘More like “turn-your-head-and-cough”.’
‘Besides, Jude,’ I added, deciding to ignore the cruel taunts. ‘What do I know about being English?’
‘Everything,’ she replied. ‘You’ve been English all you life and you must have a few tips and tricks to pass on.’
She had a good point. Being English comes quite natural to me. There’s rarely a day goes by when I’m not English from dawn to dusk and then for a few hours tacked on at the end. I doubt if there are many people who are as English as me. Cut me in half and I’d read ‘Romford’ through my middle.
‘You know,’ I said, ‘there might be some mileage in this.’
‘I’m sure there is,’ said Judy, putting Sean’s book back on the shelf.
Moved by this episode, I sat down last night at the Madeley Typing Machine and began to write a brief outline of my book.
How to be English by Richard Madeley
'Gareth Hunt is a euphemism for a handful of coffee beans. Dick Emery dressed as a women but wasn’t one of those men that likes to dress as women. Never make friends with a Bulgarian. Don’t perform a Morris Dance after eating beans. Don’t get shot in the gut: it’s a bad way to go...
In this wide ranging book, Richard Madeley (TV host and 1992’s Housewife Magazine’s Man of the Year) introduces you to the world of the English and provides vital tips on how to survive as an Englishman. He explains his own approach to being English with contributions from other famous Englishmen, including Stephen Fry, Bill Oddie, and Sir Clive James. Richard shows you how to make a fire by rubbing two house bricks together, how to cripple a camel using only a toothpick, and why custard is so important to the proper singing the national anthem.
If you’ve ever wondered what it means to be English, this book has all the answers.
God save Richard Madeley! And if God has a few minutes spare, perhaps he can stop off and save the Queen too!'
‘There,’ I said, presenting it to Judy at the breakfast table this morning. ‘Tell me that isn’t top advertising copy.’
She slipped on her reading glasses and went through it twice, nodding as she went.
‘That’s perfect,’ she said. ‘Now get upstairs and start work on the book. I’ll expect it to be finished this evening. I’ll arrange a nationwide tour for next week.’
‘Hang on,’ I said. ‘I haven’t even thought about a plot, a subtext, or even if it’s going to be first person and third.’
Now she slipped off her glasses. ‘Plot? After all these years and you’re suddenly bothering about plot. It’s never stopped you before.’
And there I leave it. The injustice written for all to see.