Sunday, 7 September 2008

Too Many Glass Chins

I woke up feeling a little more smug than is usual for a Sunday. I’ve always said that Amir Khan hits canvas quicker than Rolf Harris on a watercolour binge and last night he proved it. Judy was all tears at the breakfast table. Being a fan of British boxing, she’d been shocked to see her favourite fighter counted out within a minute of her pressing the red button on Sky Box Office.

‘Another Frank Warren masterstroke,’ I said as I laid into my toast with a left uppercut loaded with marmalade. ‘And well worth fifteen quid of anybody’s money.’

‘I can’t believe the lad’s got a glass jaw,’ she replied.

‘Not just a glass jaw, Jude. I’d guess he’s got a glass upper lip, a glass ear and probably a couple of glass knees. About the only thing of substance is his bank account. I’ve been telling your for years that he’s been promoted beyond his talent. But that’s what comes of turning boxing into a popularity contest. It’s fine promoting these young fighters but, at some stage, they have to get into the ring with men who can punch.’

‘It wasn’t like that in my day,’ sighed Judy.

Which was true. There were no easy fights when Judy helped establish female amateur boxing by becoming Manchester’s Amateur Middleweight Champion. I suppose that’s what made the defeat so hard for her to bear, so I left Judy ‘Firestorm’ Finnigan stirring her coffee and I went to catch some Sunday morning TV.

Or I would have had I not been disturbed by an unexpected repercussion of yesterday’s blog post. No sooner had I turned on ‘Mythbusters’ than a delegation of neighbours led by Graham Norton arrived demanding action about local security. Though they weren’t waving pitchforks and holding aloft burning torches, they were still as close to a rabid mob as a celebrity-rich neighbourhood gets in these image conscious days.

I was in no mood for their petition. Sundays are observed religiously in the Madeley home. I rise late, wear a thigh-high dressing gown all day, and do nothing more strenuous than watch the football or, when it’s in season, sit down with ‘Top Gear’ and plan my revenge on Clarkson. Sunday is a day of rest and definitely the one day of the week when I’m in no mood for David Dickinson talking about tripwires.

‘These bloody prowling buggers are everywhere,’ said David, fifteen minutes later as he sat there in the living room with one of Judy’s best china cups in his hands. ‘We need to organise a Neighbourhood Watch or the bloody yobs will rob us bloody blind. I say booby trap our bloody patios so the buggers will lose a leg if they come sniffing about my Chipendale.’

‘Ha! That’s right,’ said Ronnie Corbett, who was also in on this appeal, speaking on behalf people below five feet. ‘Just the other day I had to tell off my wife for leaving the house wide open. I came home at midnight and walked through an unlocked back door. I told her she should have locked it but she didn’t think Mr. Tiddles would know how to use the key to his cat flap.”’

‘So, you see,’ said Graham, as indifferent as the rest of us to Ronnie’s latest monologue. ‘I’m not the only one worried about prowlers.’

I looked around the room at the lot of them. I expected this sort of behaviour from Norton but not Felicity Kendal, Nigel Havers, or Michael Parkinson. Graham had clearly been round the neighbourhood hammering on the doors to rouse these local luminaries from their private lives.

‘Look here,’ I replied to the lot of them. ‘Can’t you see that this is just Graham’s personal vendetta against Bill Oddie? And I’m not going to be involved in anything that puts that man in any harm. Bill’s still traumatised after spending so long under Graham’s buttocks. I don’t think he’ll ever recover.’

‘Oh, that’s bloody it then!’ piped up Dickinson. ‘The bloody vandals have bloody won!’

‘No they haven’t,’ replied Ronnie. ‘Richard might still lead us. Come on, Dick. We need a man of courage and conviction.’ He turned to Graham. ‘No offence.’

‘None taken,’ replied Norton but I think he was still sniffy about my buttock remark.

I just couldn’t believe my ears. ‘A neighbourhood watch scheme is the most depressing thing I’ve ever heard,’ I explained. ‘You don’t really think I’m going to spend my nights walking outside your houses with a torch and a flask. You all need to learn to stand up for yourselves. Get a chin and stop being cowards. Isn’t that right Judy?’

Judy just shrugged. ‘If you say so, Richard.’

It wasn’t the affirmation I’d hoped for but it was enough to dismiss the gathering. I saw Norton off the premises and returned to my normal scheduled activities until around two o’clock when the doorbell rang. This time I approached it less cautiously. Two shadows were loitering on the other side but one of them looked distinctly familiar around the nose.

‘Ah! ’Tis I, Fry,’ said the undervalued Stephen, ‘and I am here with the latest in home security devices, as reviewed in my next Dork Talk featurette for The Guardian on a Saturday.’

He was also there with another figure who smiled at me somewhat embarrassingly.

‘Hello, Dick,’ said Sir Clive James. ‘I heard about your trouble with thieving rats, so I’ve come to help Stephen Fry lay some deadly traps.’

As you know, I worship the ground that Sir Clive inhabits but there are times when I find it hard to listen to a man who speaks entirely in rhyme. Nor, if I’m honest, was I much of a mood for Stephen, whose intentions can be good but whose enthusiasms lend themselves to excess.

‘But I don’t want any traps,’ I said. ‘We didn’t have a thief. We had a prowler. And it wasn't a prowler. It was just Bill Oddie.’

Clive held up a finger. ‘Ah, Bill Oddie’s a man who loiters in shrubs, where he watches sparrows feed on beetles and grubs.’

‘Dear god!’ I muttered before I gave in to a sigh. ‘Look you two. I don’t know why you think we need security but...’

Just then, Judy arrived.

‘Ah, Stephen!’ she said, running up to plant a kiss on his cheek. ‘So glad you could come. You too, Clive. Brought the stuff?’

‘All here,’ said Stephen, depositing a large duffle bag on the hall rug.

Judy clapped her hands with excitement. ‘Excellent. I’ll just go and get changed into my overalls and then I’ll help you install them.’

By now, I felt like I’d gone fifty four seconds with a Columbian lightweight bruiser. ‘What exactly is going on, Jude?’

My wife looked at me as though confusion is her usual habit for a weekend. ‘I thought we’d agreed to beef up the security.’

There had been no such agreement and I’m sure that she knew it. ‘I might have said that we need something to keep Graham Norton away,’ I answered, ‘but I was thinking more about a pipe smoking scarecrow dressed in tweed and holding something by Alistair MacLean while we play the Dambusters March. Can’t get anything more anti-Graham Norton than that.’

Judy shrugged. ‘Well, a few extra alarms wouldn’t do any harm.’

‘I agree,’ said Sir Clive.

We all looked at him, waiting for him to finish the rhyme.

His brows closed ranks. ‘With Judy?’ he added.

‘Shabby,’ I replied.

Sir Clive just shrugged. ‘It’s a terrible affliction, this rhyming addiction...’

What more is there to say? I just left them to get on with it. By four o’clock, the house was brimming with security devices and personalised alarms.

‘Remember: three hoots and it’s Oddie,’ said Stephen as he packed away his tools, ‘anything else you can shoot first and ask questions later.’

‘What about Norton?’ I asked, thinking it important to establish the real threat alerts.

Sir Clive bristled up, proudly. ‘When the cymbals clash, there’s something brash, loitering outside your room. But when a trumpet call, echoes down your hall, then Dickinson is your doom.’

I gave a cold shiver. ‘Clive,’ I said, ‘now that is real poetry. Keats never said anything prettier.’

Sir Clive beamed, Stephen looked on proudly, and Judy punched the air. The air was out for the count.


Welsh Girl said...

A thigh high dressing gown. Really? Any chance of a signed photo of you modelling it????

Dick Madeley said...

There is a picture of that on my blog somewhere but I can't, at the moment, remember where. I do remember posing for it, holding up a glass of champagne. It's a red silk dressing gown. I'll have to hunt it out for you.

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