My father, who was a male nurse, called pneumonia ‘the patient’s friend’. It makes it touching, I suppose, that pneumonia made friends with him on Wednesday and that their friendship lasted until noon today, when my father quietly passed away in his sleep.
I don’t know why I write this now, except I’ve been writing something like this in my mind for the last twelve weeks. Writing, as I’ve said before, is the only way I know to channel my emotions, even as I sit here in my chair, wet with tears and trembling with such profound sadness that I really find it hard to know how life ever goes on. I don’t know how I will go on.
The irony has never been lost to me that as one successful Richard promoted a book about fathers that this unsuccessful Richard such be living out the worse twelve weeks of his life. Yet the greatest support throughout this difficult time has been my father. His wisdom, his words, his laughter and his spirit: they all made the difficult times much easier to bear.
For nearly three months, we’ve lived with the situation of his illness. From the moment he suffered a sub-arachnoid haemorrhage back in June – the hottest day in the year – there hasn’t been a day which hasn’t been filled with anxiety, sadness, and great pity. Yet there had always been hope. The haemorrhage left him without speech but over the last few weeks he had been making progress. It was progress we hoped would see him escape the hospital before the flu season. In that time, I have seen him smile and laugh. He said important things to us, even if the words didn’t come and all we had was the imploring look of love in his bright blue eyes. I can still feel his lips on my cheek from the first kiss he had given me since I was a child. If there is a single significant event in my life, it was that moment when I felt him stretch up from his hospital bed and kiss my cheek.
Yet even as we thought things would get better, it was as though he knew what was coming. All his life he was susceptible to chest infections and, two weeks ago, I think he knew what was in his future. I was sitting by his bedside, my mother on the other side, when he took my hand and hers, and placed the two together. I didn’t want to believe what he was telling me. But my father knew better. He understood what it means to be in a NHS hospital in winter. My greatest guilt is that my ridiculous hopes of being a writer meant that I never had the money to get him private medical care. I will carry that guilt with me forever.
It makes it all feel so wrong that it was a chest infection has now taken him from us. I want to say things about the NHS, the superb treatment he received at one hospital, the deficiencies of another, the wonderful staff we met at both, but now isn’t the time.
I suppose I just wanted to write one last post and bring my blogging career to an end as I face an unknowable future. I now have people to support and idle dreams are suddenly so selfish given this new reality. Yet everything I have ever written or tried to write, I wrote to honour my father, Frank. He was the kindest, gentlest, most humble man I have ever had the privilege to know. I will miss him more than these frail and ridiculous words can ever hope to convey.
Saturday, 25 October 2008
My father, who was a male nurse, called pneumonia ‘the patient’s friend’. It makes it touching, I suppose, that pneumonia made friends with him on Wednesday and that their friendship lasted until noon today, when my father quietly passed away in his sleep.
Wednesday, 22 October 2008
I was sitting alone beside a bed in the local hospital, lost in my thoughts, when a representative of the Church of England wandered by. Good looking in a ‘Christian virtue give me good skin’ kind of way, he went to an adjacent bed where he began to talk tennis with the family gathered there. I listened as small talk developed, made all the more comforting by this skilfully upbeat representative of God, before I became vaguely aware that I was next on his list of people to cheer up.
Now, being largely agnostic with heavy leanings towards atheism, I was perhaps not the ideal candidate for Bible talk. Given that I’m not much of an Andy Murray fan either, I was not really suited to discussing the merits of a good backhand. The situation seemed rather desperate and I searched in my bag for the copy of ‘Enderby’, one of my few current solaces, which I duly hid behind.
Yet, as I sat there, wondering if the book would allow me to politely avoid chatting with the vicar, I realised that I felt some degree of sympathy for the man. One might question the motives that led him to spend a Tuesday afternoon walking around a stroke unit, but there was also something very selfless about his line of work. He was trying to do some good by making unhappy people feel just a little better. His rewards are probably so few that I really couldn’t find it in me to be rude and tell him that I wasn’t in the mood for talking drop shots. Luckily, a nurse came to my rescue. As she worked at the patient in the bed, the vicar strolled past with nothing for me more imposing than a smile.
I thought no more about him until, later on, I was walking home when I was nearly chopped in half on a crossing by a BMW Z4 hardtop. One of my secret vices is that I love this car, even if it always looks so small when I see it on the road. I find the sculpted lines of the front end an aesthetic perfection. I don’t own one myself and this one was driven by some heavily muscled eyebrow who was doing his best to resemble a drug dealer: shaved head, gold tooth, loud gangster rap, cannabis sticker in the back window. It was probably the large tattoo of a Celtic cross on his arm that made me think of the vicar and realise the very obvious point that priests rarely drive good cars.
Final anecdote. I arrived home to find an email sitting in my inbox. It was a from a friend I sometimes work with on projects. They are currently working for a company and had run into some difficulty with their software. They asked me if I could fix it. I said that I would. I mentioned this to a relative tonight and they told me off for being a fool. Why should I do work which I’m normally paid to do? I reply that it was for a friend. They reply that my friend is working for a company who normally pay me for my time. They go on to point out that the company bill their customers for every minute of work they do, so why should I be any different?
And I reply that it’s for a friend and that people help each other out.
I’ve said it before but I have never come to terms with the notion of paid work. So much of my time is now spent travelling between home and the hospital that I feel continually disappointed that I have so little time to write my blogs, my novels, my short stories. They still give me pleasure when I do work on them and I still feel like I’m doing something worthwhile with my time. I have only ever tried to make strangers smile and a few strangers have been good enough to tell me that they occasionally laugh. I make nothing from it but that’s been the case for the last few years. It’s even been worth all the disappointment of the abusive emails, the sly digs, and the strange requests. It's probably why I couldn't say a bad word agoinst the vicar in the stroke unit. And perhaps blogging is like doing a favour for a friend. It’s thankless but it gives me satisfaction. And it also means that I’ll never get to drive a good car.
Monday, 20 October 2008
I begin with an apology. I feel no small degree of shame for the excesses of my weekend. Not only was I not myself, I wasn’t even Richard Nixon. The whole episode was regrettable and I know that I’ve disappointed many of you who had intended to vote for me in November. I know that Nige was especially anguished that I’d publishing the photograph he’d entrusted to my keeping. It was very bad form. All I can say in my defence is that two days on the Sudafed had turned me into a creature of excess. Things came to a head when Judy discovered me in the larder, at half past four this morning, trying to organise the mice into a labour union. If I hadn’t agreed to appear on ‘Loose Women’ this afternoon, I don’t know how I would have pulled myself together, though the Madeley mice would now be fully unionised.
As to my day. Much more pleasant things to report. I appeared on ‘Loose Women’ this afternoon where I was my charming best. Given that they’re pretty relaxed about these things on ITV, I decided to wear a small lapel badge of Nixon. The majority of the show’s viewers wouldn’t have understood its meaning but those of you who follow my Appreciation Society will have spotted my way of telling you that it was indeed me. The visit was made complete when I was making my way out of the studio. I managed to have a word with the show’s producer and explained how I hate to see goldfish put in those glass bowls. He agreed to release their prop goldfish into my care, so I arrived home, ten minutes ago, complete with a new pet for my office. Which is where I now sit, preparing to answer all my fan mail.
One in particular demands my attention. It was written by a fan with a rather delightful request.
'I have started on a series of cross-stitches of a quirky nature – the sort of thing you might hang on the wall of the loo. I am currently making one in green which begins 'Richard and Judy'. It has a pink gingham heart underneath, with tiny pearl beads round the border. Underneath I want to write something else.'
The ‘something else’ naturally perks my interest. Now I’m back to my normal self, I’m drawn to this ‘something else’ and believe that the most important job of my afternoon is to get this motto right.
After plenty of contemplation, ringing around celebrity friends, and checking them all with Judy, I’ve decided that any of the following would make such a wall hanging into the perfect gift. My question to you is: do you have any better suggestions before I decide to have these made in their millions for the Christmas market?
‘Richard & Judy. We still have the scars.’
‘Richard & Judy. We never bombed Cambodia.’
‘Richard & Judy. Stitch on friendly.’
‘Richard & Judy. Better than penicillin.’
‘Richard & Judy. Bill Oddie gives us onions.’
‘Richard & Judy. None of it was scripted.’
‘Richard & Judy. With added friction burns.’
‘Richard & Judy. We took testicles to tea time.’
‘Richard & Judy. Room for one more.’
‘Richard & Judy. Patrons of the ampersand.’
‘Richard & Judy. We chatted with the best.’
‘Richard & Judy. The other Chuckle Brothers.’
‘Richard & Judy. We did it Oprah’s way.’
‘Richard & Judy. Students and hippies love us.’
‘Richard & Judy. Student sand hippies love us.’ (Yes, it was originally a typo but I like it)
‘Richard & Judy. Stephen Fry’s other home.’
‘Richard & Judy. Devoid of all reason.’
‘Richard & Judy. Never been to Standish.’
‘Richard & Judy. We’ve had better years.’
‘Richard & Judy. This Morning’s minions.’
‘Richard & Judy. Now from Outer Space.’
‘Richard & Judy. Where the smart money goes.’
‘Richard & Judy. Try our heat rub.’
‘Richard & Judy. Better than a poke in the eye.’
‘Richard & Judy. Like Oprah but with merkin.’
‘Richard & Judy. The mild taste sensation.’
‘Richard & Judy. Harpsichord repairs a speciality.’
‘Richard & Judy. One careful owner.’
‘Richard & Judy. Made from sunflowers.’
‘Richard & Judy. Chimp friendly TV.’
Sunday, 19 October 2008
After two days on the Sudafed, the plaster angels are singing to me. This is some weird decongestive drip, one crazy mucous trip, but I can’t be the first President of the United States to announce that his decorating has formed a close harmony choir. They’ve been singing me Pink Floyd hits all night. Of course, the same thing happened to Truman but people forget about that because of that business with prune juice and the Guatemalans. The angel choir is just a Nixon thing, they media will say. Blame it all on Nixon. He was out of his head on cough syrup when he ordered the US fleet up the Thames to capture Channel 4 headquarters. Judy says that it will be seen as blatant aggression on foreign soil but I say that we were there for ten years. I can promise you that the next series of ‘The Richard & Judy Show’ won’t be like the last. I won’t be happy until we’ve rid London of the Red Chinese. And Castro. Don’t even get me started about Castro. And if I have to send the marines out to take down Jamie Oliver I’ll do it.
Who can I trust? That’s the question we have to bring to the Oval office. Who beyond these walls has Nixon’s best interests at heart? When I go signing my book, they all look at me as though I’m some kind of freak. They keep calling me Madeley. I can’t get them to stop. I wouldn’t mind if they called me ‘Tricky’, like the good old days, but they’re all out to get me. Except Nige. I love Nige. He reminds me of Spiro Agnew, which is why I made him my Vice President. Nige will know what to do, even if that means calling out the National Guard like he did that time to protect the moths.
Damn. I’ve drained another one. And I’ve lost my plastic measuring spoon. The last I saw of it was when it was stuck to Kissinger’s elbow after we met about the Fern Britton problem.
It seems pointless bothering measuring the stuff when my lips fit so snugly around the bottle. Great stuff, this Sudafed. All my flu symptoms have gone, though I can’t feel my right leg below the thigh and I’m sure that I’m developing breasts. Nothing pendulous. Just pert. Pert breasts are Nixon thing, they’ll say, and I’ll tell them that they’re damn right they are.
I’d ask Judy to have a look at them but she hasn’t forgiven me for calling her on my mobile this evening. I hadn’t known that I had until I found my phone in my trouser pocket with a fifty eight minute call still ongoing. Apparently her mobile phone had gone off sometime after seven. She’d picked it up midway through a meal with Dame Patrick Stewart and Helena Bonham Carter, only to hear me enjoying my nightly ablutions to a rousing rendition of Pink Floyd’s Money, terminating with a rhythmically perfect yanking of the chain.
Can I trust other bloggers? This is the key question. There was a time when I was added to blogrolls. Now I’m routinely deleted. They’re all out to get Nixon. I know it. Fry won’t answer any of my calls. He’s gone to Africa when Nixon wants him in Washington. I swear he's in league with the Red Chinese.
Can’t trust anybody. Except Nige who’d call out the National Guard for me. And the moths. Or maybe they're angels...
Saturday, 18 October 2008
Having adopted the guise of the thirty seventh president of the United States, I have received a welcome boost in the form of the significant reduction in the number of people emailing to ask if I’m really me. Thankfully, there hasn’t been a subsequent rise in the number of people asking me if I’m really Richard Nixon, which just proves that the role of TV talk show host is really much more important than the top seat in the White House. The only thing that Judy and I lack is a nuclear deterrent but I hope to rectify that in the coming weeks. Stephen Fry has told me that he knows where to put his hands on some fissionable material and Bill Oddie says that the old incubator he uses to hatch eggs will make an excellent fuselage. Strapped to a couple of owls, we’ll have a weapon that can evade any radar system in the world. How the Red Chinese will react is our only real concern given their history for breeding terrain hugging bats. Yet it’s a price we think it’s worth paying if small UK satellite channels are to sleep soundly in their beds.
All of which reminds me to tell you that last night I had a dream in which I turned on Gloria Hunniford for stealing my Mint Imperials. It is a strange thing to be dreaming given that I’m largely indifferent to mints and consider Gloria to be the Queen of daytime TV.
Friends have suggested that the unusual nature of these dreams (bouncing eggs at Ted Danson from off an inflatable castle was one of the strangest) is related to my Nixon fixation, which I say isn’t a fixation as much as a means of concealing my true identity, which everybody doubts given that they can’t believe somebody with so much talent can write a blog which is so irrelevant. One person was good enough to email me this week to describe my blog as ‘piffle’. I couldn’t say that I agreed with him. I didn’t have time to agree. I’ve been in Manchester for the past two days on presidential duties.
During my half an hour break for lunch between book signings yesterday, I got trapped in Market Street. I was stuck behind a fat man carrying cushions. There’s nothing more inconveniencing that a fat man carrying cushions in a crowded city street. It’s a metaphor for my life. In each hand he held plastic bags stuffed with cushions in purple fabric. He must have measured fifteen feet across and not a person could get past him. All we could do was nestle up against his buttocks and wait for him to turn into Deansgate.
Today I’m home and wrapped up against the autumnal chill. My flu is now down a few DefCon levels. It’s now a heavy cold and the Sudafed is working in unexpected ways. I feel rather chatty and my mind can’t settle on any one topic. Does anybody know how many spoonfuls of Sudafed a man should take in an hour? I’ve always confused teaspoons with tablespoons. I think I might have overdone my morning dose.
Judy was very vex with me when she discovered that I’d deconstructed her new bamboo patio furniture. I had a mind to build myself a large water powered clock from the bamboo. I was then distracted by ‘Soccer’ AM on Sky One. Does anybody find those ‘comedy sketches’ funny? Helen Chamberlain and Max Rushden are personable enough but they don’t understand the physics of the sofa. Their body language was all wrong and I’d suggest they watch some of our old ‘This Morning’ shows from 1998 if they want to see how it’s done.
I’ve finally come to the conclusion that I do enjoy liquorice but not when it’s shaped like a bear.
I’m going to sit down this afternoon a sketch out a plan for a new book. ‘Fathers & Sons’ is a huge hit but my tour of the nation’s bookshops has convinced me that people are crying out for a book about those little black power supplies that come with every electronic gadget but never seem to work on anything else. Judy has a Tesco’s carrier bag filled with the things. I know we’ll never need them but I can never bring myself to throw one away.
And why is the letter ‘Y’ in the middle of a keyboard but the ‘a’ is tucked away under the little finger of my left hand? Why are the important vowels on the left when I’d want on them on the right? And why do I have a key for the ‘¬’ symbol when I don’t even know what the ‘¬’ symbol is for.
Oh look! A squirrel in the garden! I wonder how a squirrel would react if I fed it Sudafed...
Friday, 17 October 2008
Wednesday, 15 October 2008
Minutes into my second day as Richard Nixon it became apparent that the country was crying out for a series of measures to solve some of the problems brought about by mismanagement. This is why I’m issuing the following Executive Orders. Not only do they offer you a taste of things to come but they are the kind of governance you voted for. And there’s not a thing here that people who voted for George McGovern would criticise.
All men who work two days a week in Manchester will be elevated to the peerage.
Anybody caught tucking a trouser into a sock will face a £50 fine unless they are in possess of a bicycle. Coincidentally, anybody caught trousering a sock will face a £1000 fine. My administration will be tough on all sock crime.
The word ‘carvery’ is now banned from our roadsides. Call me irrational but I really do dislike the word.
All dancers must apply for official permits to tap.
Bus travel will be made free for all who pass our new cleanliness tests.
Companies that make handsome laptops will be encouraged to donate free machines to handsome bloggers with identity problems.
Richard Stilgoe is to write a new national anthem which will include the word ‘debonair’.
Facelifts are now banned from the BBC.
Clive James will become the new head of the BBC and the license fee will be reduced if you can quote Milton.
Jonathan Ross is to be demoted to caretaker in the BBC canteen but he will be given a new mop worth no less than £17.
Thorntons take note. The word ‘chocolatier’ will now be spelt ‘chocolateer’.
There must be a unified cartridge across all makes and models of inkjet printers.
Road widening schemes are to be scrapped in favour of a new programme of car narrowing.
And in our first wave of forced emigration to the Isle of Wight will be limited to anybody who has ever sang or dance in an advertisement for the Halifax.
Judy woke me with a prod this morning. I was surprised that the secret service had allowed her to get so close as to do me harm.
‘Richard,’ she snapped, ‘have you been recording our telephone conversations?’
I rolled over, rubbed a hand over my face, and then yawned in a most presidential way.
‘Judy,’ I said, ‘I cannot tell a lie. I’ve been making covert recordings of everything that’s been said in this house.’
Her face felt the effect of gravity. ‘Everything?’
I could see that this was the time for a little reassurance, if not some détente and realpolitik. ‘Calm yourself, Jude. You have to trust me. There will come a time when we’ll need to prove what was said in order to be vindicated by history.’
‘History? What’s all this about history?’ Her cheeks flushed in that way that always reminds me of Kissinger watching West Germany beat the Netherlands in the 1974 World Cup. ‘Why does history need to know everything that I’ve been told in confidence by Cilla Black? You know that she trusts me.’
‘Cilla needn’t worry,’ I assured her as I swung my legs out of bed and aimed my toenails towards my slippers, decorated with the crest of the United States. ‘My tape recordings are safely locked away and will only be placed into the Richard Madeley Library when the time is right.’
The room fell silent for a few moments, as I’m sure the tapes will prove.
‘Richard?’ asked Judy as she watched me dress myself in my new dressing gown.
‘Yes, my love?’
‘Can I ask you a question?’
‘Of course you can. It’s one of the privileges of being my First Lady.’
‘And you won’t be angry?’
‘Me? I’m a model of good temper.’
She bit her lip and then let fly. ‘Why are you pretending to be Richard Nixon?’
‘Pretending? This is no pretence, my love. I’ve decided that if people are going to doubt that I’m really me, then I’m going to be somebody else. Somebody I really admire.’
‘You admire Nixon?’
‘Richard Milhous Nixon brought the Vietnam War to an end. He also negotiated peace with the Chinese and provided the name for Bart Simpson’s best friend.’
She nodded. ‘Admirable,’ she admitted, ‘but didn’t he also sign the orders that banned Cilla from performing on American soil during the 1970s?’
‘And that’s another fact that has been forgotten by history. Doesn’t that just show what happens when there are gaps in the official recordings? When historians look back and wonder why a voice like Cilla’s never conquered the greatest nation, they will have my recordings to thank for your explanation.’
That fact did not bring about the warming of relations that I’d expected. It was like I’d ordered the bombing of Cambodia.
‘You’re not recording this conversation, are you Richard?’ she asked. ‘You’re not actually recording what’s said in our bedroom?’
‘I am,’ I admitted as I walked do the bedroom door. ‘Ever since Monday morning when Stephen Fry came around when you were at snooker and we write the whole house for sound. There’s not a peep that isn’t picked up. There will be no gaps in my recording. People will understand everything about my administration. There will be no secrets about Richard Percival Madeley.’ And with that I gave her my best victory salute, both arms high and twin ‘V’s balanced on the end of my knuckles, before I headed for a presidential breakfast.
Tuesday, 14 October 2008
‘By Ricky Gervais’ glorious buttocks!’ I cried as I sat and watched ‘The One Show’ on BBC1 tonight. ‘I can’t believe what I’m hearing!’
Judy looked up from her Dick Francis and I’m sure I felt the BBC shiver. It was like the Eye of Sauron looking towards the West.
‘He’s selling a book,’ she said before she calmly licked a finger and turned a page. ‘He needs to say those things to get attention.’
I wasn’t so sure. A man desperate for people to offload cash into his bank account is liable to make all kinds of trouble for a man of my celebrity. More to the point: I’m meant to be attending a RSPB bash this weekend and Bill Oddie will be there to name an owl after me. This kind of bad publicity plays right into the hands of a man like Michael Aspel who has been angling for the owl honours for some time.
I’ve been on thin ice ever since I made that unguarded remark about Phillip Schofield’s interest in mallards. Yet the sad part of this whole debacle is that I don’t honestly know what I’ve done to deserve such trouble. What began on the radio had moved over to prime-time BBC where a guy – undoubtedly handsome, charming, and sporting a natty line in jackets – was bad mouthing ‘The Appreciation Society’ to Adrian Chiles.
‘It’s a sad day when Adrian Chiles tuts disapprovingly at your life’s work,’ I told Judy.
Only Judy didn’t respond and I was forced to sit there listening as the undeniably handsome fellow went on to tell Chiles that there are malign forces at work. As far as I could tell, he was implying that there were men loitering behind bathroom curtains with notebooks in their hands, jotting down his activities and then writing them up in some kind of informal weblog. The whole thing sounded as shady as it did vulgar, and without even a dash of élan or educated wit. It got worse when Chiles did a bit more tutting.
I rewound the Sky+ and watched the interview a second time from the beginning, just to get my bearings and to count up the number of tuts. If I could prove that he’d tutted more times than is allowed by the BBC Charter, I’d have something to hold over Chiles...
Only, as I reached the early teens, I was suddenly caught off guard by something the handsome blighter said.
‘Did he just say that the blog is a bit rude?’ I asked.
Judy sighed and lowed her Dick Francis for a second time. ‘He did,’ she answered, ‘and I think he’s absolutely right to do so. That adorable and simply divine young man is talking a lot of sense, Dick, and the sooner you hear what he says, the sooner you might stop wasting your time being filthy for strangers.’
‘Rude! Filthy!’ If I hadn’t had them surgically hosed clean of wax last week, I wouldn’t have believed my ears. ‘My Appreciation Society is the most tasteful blog on the web! It was commended in “The Guardian”.’
‘The Guardian,’ muttered Judy as the Dick Francis came down for a third time and felt the weight of her elbow as she broke its spine over the arm of her chair. ‘Dick, I think it’s time that you faced a few facts. You have a very juvenile attitude towards the human body and an unnatural obsession with Vanessa Feltz’s cleavage. Over the last year, I’ve watched you write 300,000 words of witty but unpublishable prose, poems to Stephen Fry and Jeremy Paxman, limericks and letters to Sir Clive James, and a few dubious tales about David Dickinson’s crotch. You have discussed chafing in sensitive areas, mentioned your nipples on countless occasions, and also insist on telling strangers about every instance when you’ve been hit in the genitals.’
‘It was once and it was a golfing umbrella!’ I protested. ‘I think I have a right to make valid points about the abundance of dangerous sports related accessories on our city streets.’
‘And what about all the things you said about midgets?’
‘What can I say? I love the little fellows.’
Her eyebrows arched but she had to allow me that point. I chalked one up to the left-hand side of the ampersand and felt more determined than ever that I wouldn’t give way on any of her demands.
‘But what about the post you wrote about bulldog clips?’ she asked. ‘I thought that was in very dubious taste.’
‘But it was a factual account of something that happened to me last week.’
‘And the time you blamed mimes for damaging your knee?’
‘Another true episode in my glittering life.’
‘And the time you fell asleep in the bath?’
‘Absolutely true. My buttocks did inflate and I was rescued by Ronnie Corbett.’
‘But that story was hardly suitably for public consumption, was it?’ She removed her glasses and began to rub her eyes, unbelieving like the time she first saw the feral form of Fred The Weather swinging through the trees in our garden. ‘Dick, you can’t go around blaming mimes for your failure. You have to learn that Bill Oddie is not the greatest comedian that has ever lived and Stephen Fry does not know the meaning of life. If you want my opinion, this is the time to quit writing your blog and close your Appreciation Society. You are a failed novelist. Why can’t you face the truth? You’re a failed blogger too...’
I scoffed at the very notion. ‘Quit? Never! Dick Madeley is immortal! Dick Madeley never ages! He is hung from history’s peg, a casual archetype of all that’s brave, witty, and manly. He’s the Alpha Male dressed in loose fitting slacks, sauntering through life sans underwear. You could erase his identity as easily as you could remove Galileo from the annals of the past, deny Newton his rightful place at Fame’s table, or cast aside the names Churchill, Henry the Fifth, or Nicholas Parsons.’
Judy replaced her glasses and returned to her book.
‘Well, you asked for my advice and I gave it,’ she said as simple and elegant as one of her characteristic links into a commercial break.
It wasn’t long before she retired to bed and left me rewinding the show and watching it again from the beginning.
‘Immortal,’ I whispered as, for a third time, Chiles introduced the lightly whiskered chap, glittering like TV gold on the end of ‘The One Show’ sofa. ‘Immortal...’
Monday, 13 October 2008
The moustache leered at me from beneath the dripping edge of a sou'wester.
‘Could you make it out to Denise?’ it wheezed. ‘And can you write that she looked better as a man?’
The pen made a staggered leap across the page leaving an awkward ‘Madeley’ in its wake. I would have thought it had got used to the odd requests I’ve been receiving during my book signing tour of the country’s bookshops. In Durham, a man carrying a shih tzu in a pink tutu had asked me to make the book out to ‘Bill’. I was happy to oblige. ‘Oh, wonderful!’ he exclaimed, holding his copy at arm’s length and showing my signature off to the dog. ‘Can you see this, Bill? The kind Mr. Madeley has signed a book for you. And after all the horrible things you’ve said about him.’
In Birmingham, I’d been asked to sign a book for a man’s mother. ‘Her name is Beryl,’ he explained. ‘And it would be great if you added something about her pickled onions.’
‘Pickled onions?’ I repeated. ‘What on earth am I supposed to say about her pickled onions?’
The man looked at me as though I were the one wearing the hand knitted cardigan portraying the Life of Judy in a dozen types of stitch.
‘Don’t tell me you didn’t get them!’ he screamed, his face reddening before it headed towards the blue end of the Dulux colour chart. ‘We sent those onions by first class mail! First class mail!’
My pen hesitated over the page. It’s always difficult when a fan has sent me a gift that the production office failed to pass on. It’s even more difficult when the fan has a tattoo on his neck that resembles your own wife. I cast a look to the right arm of his cardigan where Judy was also reading the news in her Granada Reports glory. I had been worn down to a hole which revealed a series of biceps you wouldn’t want to annoy.
‘To Beryl,’ I wrote. ‘Your pickled onions were the finest we’ve ever tasted.’
He took the book from me and slowly scanned my penmanship, which isn’t just easy on the eye but has been praised by Rolf Harris as an model of calligraphy. Finally, the man turned to look at me, a tear taking a slow route down his cheek. ‘Oh, that’s wonderful,’ he said, beaming proudly. ‘Mother will be so happy. She’ll be the proudest girl on E Wing!’ The last I saw of him was a shape running off across a Birmingham car park, sequins forming a large ampersand fading into the night.
This book tour has left me with so little time to write that all these examples crowd for space in this hurried post as I make my way to Rotherham. There was the man in Liverpool who told me he was channelling the spirit of the late Russell Harty.
‘Could you sign it for Russell?’ he asked. ‘He’s your biggest fan on the other side.’
‘I have a wide appeal,’ I said, trying my best to humour him.
‘There’s no need to be smug,’ he replied. ‘Otto von Bismarck thinks you’re a git.’
I fixed him with a stare. ‘But that’s only because we never did agree about the outcome of the Austro-Prussian War,’ I replied as I scribbled my name on his copy of the book and moved on to the next person in the line.
Things were no more normal north of the Border. In Edinburgh’s Waterstones, I met a man who claimed to be the modern Pétomane and told me that he’d be perfect for the show. I didn’t know what he meant until the tune of ‘Scotland the Brave’ began to emanate from beneath his kilt. The first few bars were fine but they were followed by the aroma of partially digested haggis. I quickly scribbled my name on his copy of the book and took a break from signing while the room was ventilated. When I got back, I was entertained by a woman who could play her dentures like castanets whilst her husband danced the flamenco. Both of them bought copies so I was forced to sit through the complete routine. I said nothing when an incisor came loose and bounced from my forehead.
I arrived home tonight. The slight bruising above my right eye has almost disappeared and only the faintest outline of a tooth remains. I found my blog silent, a few emails from outraged fans demanding that I explain my gaff on the Chris Moyles show, and a few are from non-fans who want me to disappear forever.
‘Blog no more, you filthy imposter!’ say some.
‘Write another book!’ say others.
‘Do you want us to send more pickled onions?’ asks one odd man from the Midlands.
Friday, 10 October 2008
You might say that being a best-selling author is all glitz and book signings but let me tell you about the significant chafing around my right buttock which is making it difficult to type tonight. Not only is it typical of the things they fail to mention when you sign your publishing deal but I’m also having flashbacks of the time when Judy and I rode a camel across Southport beach for Granada Reports. Judy thrashed our Bactrian one too many times and I slipped from the second hump. This went out live to the North West and I suffered a terrible wound caused by an impacted mollusk.
This time, the damage was inflicted over a long morning sitting on a PVC chair in a hot Radio One studio while Chris Moyle interviewed me over his breakfast of Sugar Puffs and scintillating wit. It was the latest part of the press junket for my book, ‘Fathers and Sons’ and I continued to rack up the mistakes.
Last week, I told a woman from 'The Guardian' that sherbet was poisonous to tadpoles (it isn’t, I was confusing it with tapioca), and only yesterday I told a crowd of shoppers at a W.H. Smiths book signing that earwigs are the only insect to have an odd number of elbows (they don’t, I was thinking of the Slovakian cockroach). This time, I went and let slip about my blog. Judy thinks it was a stroke of genius. I say it was something much more significant.
It came about because the early viewing figures from ‘Watch’ are only respectable. The pale somewhat beside the figures for the Appreciation Society which is clearly where all the Madeley action is to be found. With readership numbers peaking in the high hundred thousands, it’s here that the hard core Madeley fan comes to smell my musk. And a powerful agent it most certainly is. Moyles was soon under the spell of my aroma. With a large kernel of puffed wheat hanging from his second or third chin, he asked me if I hate Channel 4. It was an unscripted question and I made a glib comment about my blog. You can hear it here (thanks to David over at The Spine for bringing the recording to my attention) or here (about 1h 57m 20seconds) where the BBC have the full show.
‘Brilliant!’ said Moyles.
Well, it was like steaming custard poured on the large pudding of my satisfaction. And as soon as the skin thickened, I set this official recommendation in the middle of a line and pointed at it, thus:
‘Brilliant’ -- Chris Moyles
I came off the show happy but concerned by the damage done to my right buttock by the PVC chair. We Madeleys have always perspired heavily around the flanks but this flood had spread to outlying regions that normally favour dry conditions. The chafing was more toxic that a North American housing market. Yet even as I applied a soothing balm I’d fashioned from the coconut from a dark chocolate bounty mixed with a can of diet Tango (thank you Ray Mears!), I was already having doubts. ‘Well you’ve done it now, Dick!' I thought. 'Your postmodern game of hide and seek has gone too far. This time you’ve locked yourself in the coal cellar and the latch has fallen outside. This is a darkness from which you might not escape. People will never believe in your now...’
Which is why I have to post tonight without a care about the damage I’m doing to the right lower side of the left-hand of the ampersand. I just wanted to let you know that I’m as real as I sit here in my grey flannel trousers, smelling quite manly but vaguely like a taste of paradise. Sorry for what I said and I’ll try to be on my best behaviour tomorrow when I’m off to sign copies of my book for the people of Monken Hadley. Be sure to pop across to Chingford in the afternoon when, buttocks permitted, I’ll be joining other celebrities as we shin up palm trees in aid of the local West Indian community.
[UPDATE: Link now fixed]
Tuesday, 7 October 2008
By the time ‘Dr Who’ finished, Judy was positively twitchy with excitement. The last of her cheese Whatsits had exploded between her fingers and the atmosphere in the room was infused with an orange glow before our gathered celebrity friends inhaled the dust and filtered it through their pristine lungs. The masculine side of the ampersand, wearing his new kangaroo pouch slippers, barely had time to do one final circuit around the room, topping up glasses with Ronnie Corbett’s nettle wine, before the feminine side was clapping her hands together and demanding our attention for the broadcast of the show that we'd recorded earlier yesterday.
‘Okay, quiet everybody! It’s coming on! Richard, sit down. You’re blocking Sir Clive’s view.’
I gave Sir Clive James an apologetic wave but I think he was too busy finding rhymes for ‘Watch’ to notice. I just propped myself on the edge of a chair where Cilla Black was cradling her half pint of mild.
‘You’ll like this,’ I said to her. She smiled. The poor thing could hardly do otherwise.
From then on it was all about our ‘New Position’. As soon as the theme music began, there was a collective gasp.
‘It’s like being at the first night of Mozart’s Magic Flute,’ said Stephen Fry from near the fireplace.
‘Reminds me of the opening of Star Wars,’ added Patrick Moore who had been one of my surprise guests of the evening. I’d sent him a special invitation after he’d provided a xylophone solo which had been dropped from the theme song.
Our guests got quite excited when they caught their first glimpse of our new set. We had gone with the red after I’d noticed how the glow of Bill Oddie's cheeks made Judy happy during our recent walking tour of the Lake District. What really made the set, however, was the large ampersand which I’d been insistent about having in a prominent place.
I think the guests on the first show were the best we could have hoped for. Samuel L. Jackson is one of my favourite film stars but later on I did bring him to task about his choice of hat. A flat cap in black leather is not for public consumption and certainly not for Channel 109 on Satellite. Conservative politicians have been caught in Soho whipping parlours wearing items significantly less kinky.
Better dressed but hardly a better guest, David Walliams came on the show as Judy’s pick. Despite her paroxysms of flattery about ‘Little Britain’ (and, being the loyal husband, I simply had to join in) I was less sure about David’s contribution to the show. Dribbling water from his mouth was not the way I wanted the show to begin. Dribbing is hardly the message for a show meant to be vibrant and reaching out to an edgy audience. I was similarly disturbed by the game of spot the transvestite, though I hadn’t the heart to tell Judy this at the production meeting .Once she and Rufus Hound (yes, I know!!) get their heads together, there’s not a thing I can do about it. I’d come up with the idea of having him jump from a very great height but Judy had insisted on the introduction of an air bag between him and the concrete pavement.
In the end, I thought it a good beginning and it’s sure to get better. In the coming weeks, I hope to break a few taboos. I’d like our show to be the first to demonstrate the aerodynamics of moles by firing them from Jeremy Clarkson’s new air canon (all, I might add, without air bags). I’d also like to be the first TV show to have its own self-defence class, ending with some celebrity cage fighting for the series finale. But, as I say, they are only ideas at this stage and I’ve yet to see if I’ll be given the chance to challenge myself creatively.
Well, tonight’s the night! I hope you’ve all had your satellites installed, your dishes aligned, your fibre optics buried. Judy has taken her best knees out of storage and expects the evening to be a huge success. As for the humblest man in the room: I’ve memorised a thousand new facts and had my tonsils scraped for the occasion. I fully expect to regale David Walliams with trivia as exciting as the fact that the Ancient Egyptians invented yogurt and that sardines are the national fish of the Netherlands.
Remember to watch Watch at 8pm tonight. If you like shiny knees and polished tonsils, you will not be disappointed.
Monday, 6 October 2008
I was standing in the middle of an Essex wildlife sanctuary on Saturday, posing with a copy of my new book, ‘Fathers & Sons’, as a flock of migrating herons few over and broke my concentration.
‘Camera, Richard! Camera! Stop looking at the birdies!’
So shouted the guy 'The Guardian' had sent to photograph me. He was standing on a hide constructed from old railway sleepers and hardened clay. It gave him the proper elevation to photograph me spread out on the sandy bank, the sunlight catching the Vaseline he’d smeared onto my nipples so as to make the shoot feel like a hot summer's day.
‘So sorry,’ I replied, sitting up. ‘It’s just that I’m so used to being with Bill Oddie that I can’t let a heron pass by without my trying to see if it’s been tagged by Katie Humble.’
The cameraman lowered his lens and aimed a pair of wider angles my way. ‘You’re nothing like you are on the telly,’ he said as he jumped down from his perch and wandered over.
‘That’s because we’re two different entities,’ I told him. ‘Don’t let the Vaseline on my nipples mislead you. I’m the Richard Madeley who scoffs at everything I’ve become in the name of fizzing tea-time sofa sex. I’m not just a perfect body trapped within a pair of casual slacks and with a grin that can melt a cushion. I have ambitions to better myself as an artist. I want to transcend the daytime schedules and achieve a blogging omnipotence.’
‘Oh, I have a blog,’ he replied, the statement so flat that it slipped out like a pancake slick with syrup.
He grew shy. ‘If you can keep a secret,’ he said, ‘I’ll tell you all about it.’
I threw my book to one side and turned my back on the herons.
‘My word is my 007,’ I said. ‘Tell me all...’
He blushed a little. It reminded me a female Tufted Dabchick during courtship and I half expected him to squawk and adopt a pose indicating his willingness to receive the male.
‘The thing is,’ he began, ‘I pretend to be a sexually active young woman from Dagenham. My blog is a series of explicit posts in which I relate the intimate details of my latest conquests. I have quite the readership and a book due out next summer based upon my sultry adventures.’
‘I bet you do,’ I said. ‘I’ve heard things about Dagenham which lead me to think that you’d be highly successful in what you do. You’re certain to top the charts.’
‘Oh, I’m certainly successful. I’ve had quite a few marriage proposals and a gentleman from Humberside recently offered to pay for a holiday in Copenhagen. Of course, I had to refuse. He was already married and I don’t think he had the money to keep me in the luxury to which I’ve become accustomed.’
‘As good a reason as any,’ I agreed, ‘though, if you don’t mind my being so blunt, I would have thought that the biggest hurdle to a freebie holiday like that is the fact that you’re not actually a sexually active young woman from Dagenham. Not unless appearances deceive...’
He dropped the big lens into his bag. I took it as the sign that the shoot had come to an end.
‘That’s just it,’ he said. ‘When I’m writing my blog, I do feel like a sexually active young woman from Daggernam. It’s always a disappointment to look in the mirror each morning and realise that I’m just a balding photographer who occasionally gets a nice celebrity gig from a mate I know at The Guardian.’
‘I face similar problems,’ I told him as I began to wipe the oily residue from my chest. The sensation was not unpleasant, though not exactly the sort of pleasure you want to be caught enjoying in an Essex wildlife sanctuary. ‘Woman are continually writing to me, offering me their bodies in exchange for a stab at the celebrity lifestyle. It’s hard to explain that I’m really after something much more meaningful.’
‘Ah,’ he nodded. ‘You mean love!’
‘I was actually thinking of something more like a publishing contract for my comedy. In exchange for that, the right person could have my body two weekends a month and any three bank holidays of their choosing.’
‘A decent offer,’ he nodded.
‘More than generous,’ I said as I began to put on my shirt. ‘But that’s the problem with the world. Nobody wants me for my wits. They just want me to break their hearts with stories from my unfortunate upbringing and tales of the strap. My new book will be a chart success, of course, but it’s hardly going to make people feel like they’ve just wandered through a ray of sunshine. And that’s all I really want. I want people to associate my name with laughter and feeling good about the world.’ I sighed as I finished buttoning up my shirt. ‘But enough about me... Show me these photographs you’ve taken.’
He played with the back of his camera a moment and then broke out into a smile. ‘Would you look at that!’ he declared.
I examined the back of his Nikon. ‘That’s typical of the heron,’ I explained. ‘Bill Oddie once told me why they fly in such a tight formation but I’ve forgotten the details.’
‘But it’s such a fortunate coincidence how they form a natural halo above your head,’ he laughed.
‘Quite fitting,’ I said. ‘But then, the heron is a perceptive creature. They see things hidden from the human eye.’
And this is why A.A. Gill is on my blogroll. Rarely have I read so much sense so early in the week.
'Speaking of nation dubbing truth unto nation, I returned to Little Britain USA. I should begin by admitting I’ve never been much of a Little Britain fan. The characters are unengaging and uninteresting, the situations tortuous, repetitive and predictable, and the performances am-dram and awkward. It is an idea that went straight from the screen to the back of the school bus without ever troubling the grown-ups, and it’s never been within hailing distance of a laugh.'
Thursday, 2 October 2008
Number 927: send him a bill for $598 for hosting his various websites for the next two years. This isn't so much a worry since I don't have $598. It's just annoying. Dozens of websites will suddenly disappear and nobody will understand why...
Number 928: ensure that Barclaycard’s online payment system hasn't worked since he was last paid, just to be sure that he now begins to panic about late fines.
Number 929: lock him away in an office, alone, for eight hours, just so his worry and paranoia are that much more pronounced.
Subject: Ukranian Brides
Date of birth: 1977-09-28
Height: 166 cm (5'5")
Body type: Cuddly
Hair Color: Blond
Many thanks for the email and the attached photograph. I’m just sorry that I’m no longer in the market for a strapping Ukrainian girlfriend otherwise your name would certainly be at the top of the list. In fact, if I were still in the market for somebody to act as my personal bodyguard and apply tyre irons to the skulls of my competitors, you too would also lead the field. Your wrists seem extremely well developed and I really can’t commend you highly enough for your willingness to advertise your services.
On the subject of your photograph: my wife Judy asks if you dye your eyebrow but I maintain that it’s normal in the Ukraine for a young woman to grow her pubic hair so long. On that account, your photograph is admirably graphic and I confess that I was a little shocked when I opened your email and saw you from that angle. I really didn’t recognise you and thought it was something from Bill Oddie. We’re getting quite use to him sending photographs of bald hatchling sparrows and, in certain details, the resemblance is uncanny. You might consider another tattoo, perhaps one that reads ‘This is not a bald hatching sparrow’ next to the skull that reads ‘Sergi’.
Before I go, I thought I better pass on one word of advice. Here in the West, prospective husbands do not look kindly on future brides who include photographs of their former boyfriends. I’m sure you ex-partner is as forgiving as he is talented, double jointed, and his buttocks heavily tattooed with the insignia of the Russian mafia, but, in future, you chances of matrimony would be drastically improved if you edited him out of the photograph. Simply pasting a black strip over his eyes is simply not good enough. He’s very recognisable. As is his Alsatian.
So, again, I thank you for the offer and regretfully decline your invitation to wed.