Monday, 1 September 2008


‘Dick? It’s Stephen. Listen here, old chum. I’ve been getting a little worried.’

‘Worried?’ I replied, almost as a scoff. ‘Why worried? You’ve not agreed to narrate the next Harry Potter, have you? Your doctors warned you about that. Bad prose isn’t good for your health.’

‘Not worried about me,’ replied the Great Fry. ‘I’m worried about you. I’ve been observing your blog from afar and I have detected a note of misery about it.’

‘Oh, that’s not misery,’ I answer. ‘That was a touch of depression; a real cupful of melancholy with a snort of the blues.’

‘Snorting the blues is not your thing, Dick. Snorting the blues is not our way.’

‘Indeed it’s not,’ I answered, ‘but I’m having a tough time lately and I’m finding it rather difficult to maintain my normal chirp. Bill Oddie was round at the weekend and he compared my mood to that of a languid crow.’

Fry cleared his throat, clearly getting emotional at the mention of Oddie. ‘We are celebrities,’ he said, ‘and our world is one of rainbows and carnival wheels.’

‘Carnival wheels are all well and good for a man with nineteen book contracts, three series on TV, and a lifelong membership card to the panel of any Radio 4 quiz show. I, on the other hand, have got to make do with my upcoming show on satellite and whatever jobs I can find in the meantime. If I can make money teaching, then teaching it shall be. You know I’d much rather do something creative...’

Stephen fell silent as I knew he would. Being so successful, he often forgets what it’s like to struggle. And the last week has been a struggle. My mood had lapsed over the weekend to the point at which I had considered joining a BCA bookclub, buying three books for fifty pence on the promise that I’d have to buy six other full priced books in my first year of membership. I needn’t tell you, my friends, that there’s no surer sign that a chap is in a bad way than wanting to join a BCA book club.

‘Your problem,’ said Fry, after a few moments of high level cogitation, ‘is that you are not a box man.’

‘I’m not?’

‘You’re clearly not. You see, you have failed to tick all the requisite boxes that make you an attractive candidate for the better class of jobs. Take it from me, Richard, that ticking boxes is the way you must go if you wish to succeed in ordinary life.’

I hadn’t thought of it like that. Yet Fry was so clearly right.

‘Box ticking? You know, I think that is my problem. I’m an individual with unique skills and an excess of charm. Yet where on your standard job application does it ask about your sense of humour or ability to knock out two thousand words a day while presenting the nation’s favourite tea time talk show?’

‘Precisely,’ replied Stephen. ‘You are unique, Richard, and you mustn’t forget that.’

‘I won’t,’ I said, wiping a tear of relief from my eyes. ‘I am unique. I am special. I am a Madeley.’

‘That’s the ticket. Now, you get back to working on your failing novels and I’ll return to penning my next chart topper. And remember, Dick, that nothing ventured nothing gained.’

I hung up feeling a little better about the world. Not being a box man suddenly felt so good and I resolved to allow all my boxes remain unticked.


Black Cat said...

Stephen is right. Cheer up (says one who is sitting here wiping tears from her eyes). It's that time of year when there's nothing to look forward to except the run up to Christmas... Oh no, pass the tissues please... You'll be fine on your satellite show and people like you and Judy will never lack for interesting offers. I thought your book is to be published, by the way? xxx

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