The new banner and associated desktop need some explaining. What began as an exercise in decorating the bedroom ended up as a philosophical enquiry into how nature invidiously includes Rory McGrath in every significant event. The man is perennial and I don’t mean the year long sprouting of his body hair. He just gets everywhere.
You see, during my absence from your computer screens, I took the opportunity to enroll at the local community college where I thought a course of Home Improvement classes would inspire me to greater things in the bedroom. The ceiling has needed Duluxing for some time but I thought it high time that I put something up there that would be an improvement over woodchip and a slap of white emulsion.
Mr. Ketterick was the teacher who welcomed me to the ‘Beginners Painting and Decorating’ class three weeks ago and it was eight o’clock in the evening when I sat myself in the room filled with other men middle aged looking for leadership in the act of hanging wallpaper.
‘The key to success with home decorating is patience,’ declared Mr. Ketterick from the front of the class. He was wearing white overalls and a poor quality toupee. More than patience, I thought a tab of wallpaper paste was clearly the key to the latter remaining on his sloping brow. 'Yes gentlemen, it's patience that you will learn in this class. Patience which will help you hang wallpaper the right way. Patience that will help you apply a coat of paint in the correct manner...'
I looked at my watch and realised that at the pace he was setting, it would be months before we’d get to the nitty gritty of mixing crushed horse bones in large plastic buckets. I decided it was time for some of the inquisitorial skills that have made me millions.
‘But don’t you have any tips that you can pass on in a minute or two?’ I shouted from the back of the room.
‘Ah, Mr. Madeley,’ said Mr. Ketterick. ‘Gentlemen, we have a real life celebrity with us tonight.’
‘Indeed,’ I said, ‘but to hurry you on... Any tips?’
‘For painting a ceiling? It’s just I want to get cracking with it, you see.’
He thought for a moment longer than I’d normally allow on the show but this was real life and there weren’t any ad breaks coming up in my rearview mirrors.
‘Tips...’ He pondered for a moment longer. ‘I’d say don’t stand directly under the brush and never load it with too much paint.’
I jotted down these two gems in my notebook. ‘Excellent,’ I said, as I stood up and headed for the door.
‘You’re not staying?’
‘It’s something I’ve learned from years of meeting men and women who achieved greatness,’ I replied. ‘They don’t wait around learning the detail. We’re people of broad brushstrokes and that’s especially true when it comes to making brush strokes. You’ve given me all the help I needed. I’m sure I can pick up the rest as I’m going...’
And with that, I walked out of the classroom.
The next day I was armed with my two tips along with a set of step ladders and a wife nervously looking into the bedroom from the landing.
‘Are you sure you know what you’re doing Richard?’
Judy normally does all the DIY jobs in Madeley Mansions but when it comes to anything requiring finesse, it’s left to the only person in the house that doesn’t wear underpants.
‘I know exactly what I’m doing,’ I replied. ‘You forget that I’ve taken a college course. And with what I've learned, I’m going to decorate our ceiling in a way that’s sympathetic to the bedding but also a little more inspiring when you lay down for sleep at night.’
Judy frowned in that we she has when she’s not sure that I’m totally right but she ten minutes later she appeared at the door with her outdoors coat on. ‘I’m going to see Cilla,’ she announced. ‘The poor thing has got a problem with her gas central heating and I want to be there when the man from the gas board comes around.’
I waved her away. ‘Don’t worry about me,’ I said. ‘I’ll be busy most of the day.’
She left me but I didn’t hear her drive away. I was too busy with a paint brush clamped between my teeth as I used a thumb dipped in ‘Harvest Tint’ to outline figures on the ceiling.
Now, to cut a long blog post short, I have to ask you to fast forward the action by seven or eight hours. In the dying light of the day, I was putting the finishing touches to my masterpiece. I’d just dotted a spot of light in the last eye when Judy walked in the room.
‘How was Cilla’s gas?’ I asked and thought immediately of a funny quip. Only, one look at Judy told me to store the quip for a better day when we can all laugh at Cilla’s gas. ‘What’s wrong?’
‘Who the bloody hell is that?’ asked my darling wife, the art critic.
I looked up at the manly figure stretched across the ceiling.
‘That’s a neo-classical Bill Oddie,’ I replied.
‘Neo-classical? It looks more like Rory McGrath!’
And here, you see, we have the point of this little narrative of mine. I looked again and, sure enough, I could see that Judy was right.
‘Bloody hell,’ I said. ‘How on earth did that happen?’
‘I’m not lying in bed looking up at Rory McGrath,’ she declared. I was sure she meant it.
‘It’s uncanny,’ I agreed.
‘It’s enough to give me nightmares.’
Judy’s eyes went around the ceiling to where Jeremy Clarkson, Jonathan Ross, Keith Chegwin, and Alan Titchmarsh all looked down at us in their naked glory.
‘And I’m not happy with what you’ve done with Keith Chegwin’s winkle,’ she said. ‘And why have you made it point to my side of the bed?’
‘I know what it needs,’ I said. ‘An owl sitting on the end of it.’
Judy looked at me. ‘An owl doing what?’
‘If I put an owl on Bill Oddie’s finger, you’ll no longer think of Rory McGrath. It’s the lack of an owl that’s causing all the problem. With an owl, there’d be no mistaking Bill Oddie.’
‘Richard, I was talking about Keith Chegwin’s winkle. What are you going to do about that?’
‘Perhaps another owl?’ I suggested.
Judy looked up to the ceiling. ‘Perhaps a sparrow,’ she said. It was the last helpful contribution she made to the debate. I was left to work late into the evening, rendering sparrows on the ceiling.
And there you have it. In all its glory and ready for your desktop: the story of how a sparrow came to sit on the end of Keith Chegwin’s winkle. I know it was a bit of a lengthy explanation but I think I owe you the full story for when somebody peers over your shoulder and asks why there’s a picture of a naked Keith Chegwin with a sparrow sitting on his winkle. And then perhap's you'll explain why my own manhood is obscured by an American Bald Eagle.