Thursday, 28 February 2008
Yet over the course of the last few years, I've begun to think that Life is all swings, or indeed, all Crunchies. There's just far too much Yang in the world. Kerry Katona's face mocks me from the advertising hoardings as I trudge through the waking city centre each morning at dawn. Her down-the-nose sneer is the confirmation of my own hubris. Kerry gets yet another new series while 'Arrested Development', one of the best comedies to come out of America in the last decade, was cancelled part way through the third series. Chaplin is dead. So are Stan Laurel, W.C. Fields, Groucho. Hunter S. Thompson has knocked back his final whisky and P.G. Wodehouse has wore his last spat. It's dangerous having me as a fan. Look at my dear friend Stephen recently run over by a marauding manatee.
Today was another day when the swings won. Yang is laughing at me for believing that at some point, my luck will change, that I will begin to feel good about myself. But what's that you say? “Ah, Richard, don't harp on about how tough things are when the world is full of famine, illness, and people born without elbows.” And you would indeed be right. Statistics would prove that there is a worldwide shortage of elbows and that Yang laughs at other people far more often than it mocks me. But the truth is that I'm too tired to question the self-evident truth that I have really made a mess of things. Judy might land us a new deal after the Channel 4 contract runs out but in the meantime, I'm getting up at six o'clock and getting home twelve hours later after doing some anonymous voiceover work for a cracker company that's only famous in China. Today it was pointed out that I'm not very good at my job. This might well be true. How can any competent man make a mess of the line: 'it's the crazy crisp of the crunchy Chinese corn cracker'?
Tomorrow is another day. Think of me and pray for Yin.
Wednesday, 27 February 2008
'You know Bill,' I said as I pumped a few more shells into the breach. 'This is so goddamn right after a long week of feeling sorry for myself. Those bastards at Channel 4 don't appreciate me. The craven heathen pigf****rs.'
'Fire away,' said Bill, 'I was told me that it would calm you down after your battle against your black dog.'
'It's been more like a charcoal grey dog,' I said, reaching for my now underweight bottle. 'But it had rabid bloodshot eyes and drool that could eat a hole through sheet metal.' My lips snatched more whisky before I realised what Bill had said. 'Who told you this would cheer me up?' I asked.
'Oh, this was all Stephen's idea,' said Bill.
'Stephen? Stephen?' I repeated, the whisky having dulled my senses as well as my self-pity.
'He rang me this morning from America where he's filming his documentaries. He told me where to find his old shotgun and he said that I'm to let you fire every last shell if it makes you feel better.'
'That beautiful yet crazy son-of-a-bitch,' I said as I turned the weapon on Judy's ornamental garden and took the head off my least favourite dwarf. 'Die you miserable pot bellied dwarf bastard,' I cried as the air filled with plaster dust.
Bill looked hurt.
'No, no, Bill,' I said, taking my bottle from the floor. 'No offence meant. I was talking to the other pot bellied dwarf.'
'None taken,' said Bill but I could see that my words had hurt him where he lives. His face had that same torn expression it had the time I'd accused him of destroying his reputation inside the BBC by selling his cheap plastic herons.
'The thing is, Bill,' I said, resting the shotgun on my hip as I prepared to oil my temper with more liquor. 'I want to do something wild. I want to prove that I'm more than the man tied to a desk or making small talk between five and six every weekday evening. I think we should take a trip.'
'A trip?' asked Bill. 'A trip where?'
'A road trip. A road trip to Blackpool.'
His eyes lit up. 'There's a fantastic RSPB sanctuary up there on the Fylde Coast. This time of year, we might be able to spot a few of the early migratory waders.'
'I'm not looking to go birdwatching,' I said and lowered the gun ready to menace one of the oil cans that had been foolish enough to resurface. 'I'm talking about us having ourselves a wild weekend of excess in the spirit of gonzo. What do you say, Bill? Are you up for “Fear and Loathing in Blackpool”?'
'Does that mean we'll have to take drugs?'
The gun kicked. The can sang its death note.
'Drugs? Sex? Alcohol? I prefer not to name the vices that work for me,' I said. 'But I do know that I don't need illegal drugs to be reckless and slightly insane. My brain chemistry is a rare mutation of genius.'
Bill sank to the floor and picked up a can of Red Bull. There's nothing more wretched than a caffeine addict swollen with that heinous delusion that they are all powerful. The Greeks worshipped Dionysus for a reason. They didn't have the god of the Genus Coffea in their Rolodex.
'We'll need a car,' he said eagerly.
Luckily, I had it covered. 'Terry Gilliam is a good friend. He still has the Caddy from the film. Convertible in bright red. He'll let us use that. We'll hang a flag from the back.'
'The RSPB crest?' suggested Bill.
'The Stars and Stripes,' I yelled. 'It's the only way to go. From this moment, you call me Richard Duke. You can be my faithful assistant, Dr. Oddzo. I won't be happy until we've got ourselves a hotel suite and smuggled a monkey and a midget into our room and pumped them full of Toilet Duck.'
Dr. Oddzo ran a hand through his beard, his eyes now fully dilated as the Red Bull kicked in.
'I'm with you,' he said and pushed himself to his feet. 'We'll tear Blackpool apart!'
I pushed another shell into the gun, preparing to fire it into the lake, but before I could get my finger around the trigger, Dr. Oddzo had snatched the gun from my hands. That crazy bastard. The spirit of his age: a worn down stump of high living on BBC expense accounts yet a beautiful last hymn to the Sixties.
'Head down, Corbett!' he scream as he fired shells into the neighbour's bedroom window. Glass shattered. The shreds of net curtains floated down like confetti.
'Gonzo!' cried Dr. Oddzo, that twisted version of the human prototype as he ran back up to the house.
'Too crazy to live, to rare to die,' I muttered as I followed after him.
Tuesday, 26 February 2008
You might have noticed my silence on the blog and the less-than-stellar performances I've been putting into the afternoon show. I'm finding it difficult to blog. I lack the usual spark. Does it have something to do with the ongoing problems of my one-handed assistant? Oddly enough, I don't think it does. Is it Stephen's absence from my life or the solitary habits of Oddie when spring approaches? I think it more likely. But I also suspect that my 7AM starts are destroying me. 'Eye of the Storm 2' has the mendacity of a flesh eating virus. I find that I struggle through days caring less and less about the world around me. There's a grim satisfaction in climbing in bed at night, so tired that my worries won't keep me awake and happy that the virus has left me with my limbs.
I suppose there's no disguising the indignity of the work, of the place where my talents have brought me. I want to get back to being the old Richard, writing too much and telling you all about my days spent in celebrity adventure. I really do. Instead, I've taken to secluding myself at night in the garage where I've started to hatch plans. I'm slowly turning into Elberry but without the intellectual vigour to accompany my moods. This work breeds solitary men with grievances who bookmark the addresses of mail order retailers who sell hunting knives and crossbows.
Sunday, 24 February 2008
instance I might say that the good friend we have all come to know and love had finally lost his marbles, gone cuckoo, drifted beyond the land of sanity and found himself shipwrecked on the Isle of Potty.
Not that anybody has missed me (well, perhaps a few of you) but the reason I've been so quiet for the last week is that I've been busy caring for Denis. It's the very least I could do given that the man has no family. I also felt a little to blame for the incidents that led up to his being institutionalised.
I should have acted on my suspicions. My Madeley Sense began to tingle when Denis first told me that his greatest ambition in life was to sail around the world single handed.
'Have you any other choice?' I asked.
He took my quip in his usual good spirits. Judy later claimed that she'd found him weeping in the stationary cupboard but I happen to know he sneaks in their for a quick snort from his hip flask. I suspected that what to Judy sounded like sobbing was merely a man gargling throat tonic.
'Does Denis seem okay to you, Richard?' she asked two days later.
I admitted that I thought he was just a little temperamental.
'But he's never shown a sign of being interested in sailing,' she said. 'He asked me this morning if I knew any good yacht clubs.'
I told Judy that I wasn't going to question Denis' interests. Anything that distracted him from his darts obsession was good with me.
Then, early last week, Judy again found him in the stationary cupboard.
'He's spending a lot of time in there,' she told me as we ate lunch that night.
'Let's not complain,' I answered. 'He obviously feels comfortable in there. It's rare that a man finds somewhere where he feels at home.'
Judy was adamant that something was wrong. 'He was looking at maps of sea lanes,' she said.
'So long as he wasn't reading the Peter Manley newsletter, I really don't care,' was my reply.
Half past ten on Tuesday morning, we had a phone call from the police. Apparently, Denis had put to sea on a raft built from cardboard tubes made seaworthy by numerous wrappings of brown masking tape. They'd traced Denis back to us because he'd used a large cardboard cut out of my lofty self as a mast. It's no idle boast but he'd been picked up adrift off the coast of Spain.
'You should have seen this coming,' said Judy as we drove to the hospital.
'I should have seen this inevitable lull in my blog ,' I replied. 'I haven't got time for Denis and my readers. One or the other of them will have to suffer.'
And unfortunately for you, Denis has been my priority for the last week. I'll be keeping an eye on Denis but I'll try to fit this blog between trips to the hospital and my ongoing work on 'Eye of the Storm 2'.
Wednesday, 20 February 2008
I'm now bound to a different kind of desk; one piled high with good books and assorted manuscripts of my own terribly overactive imagination. To tell you the truth, I'm feeling quite relieved this morning that friends haven't exposed confidences. I've just chuckled my way through the first of Stephen Fry's podcasts. Not that I found his quite obvious pain funny. I was merely relieved that our adventures together had been compressed down to his confession that he 'spent time with friends'. I'd been sent a warning earlier in the week that the podcast would be appearing but my work commitments stopped me writing about it as I normally would. If my first thought was a quite selfish one about exposed confidences, my second was the worry that there would be many more contradictions from the version of the Great Man's story I'd already published. In the end, I think our two narratives join neatly together. Indeed, as neatly as two pieces of bone held together by screws and plates. The only point where our stories diverge is in the moment of the accident. Naturally, Stephen displays Stephen's usual forgiving nature and lays no blame at the hand or flipper of the manatee. I think we all know different and should continue to show our support for the man by continuing our reverse boycott, by buying all goods made from the manatee.
Listening to Stephen has also given me new ambitions. The last two days of hard work pales when one considers Stephen's schedule. I would offer to take some of his duties from him but I fear he's protective of the little niche he's made for himself as the nation's most ubiquitous fitting, suitably for schedules both evening and daytime; bathrooms and kitchens too, I imagine.
All of which has inspired me – if that's the right phrase – to be more productive. There's nothing like a spell of toil to stiffen the resolve. That's why this is a shorter than normal post from me today. I have something much larger I want to work on. You may get to see it in good time. You might not. I might release it anonymously to the underground and let it become a cult classic among bikers and university drop-outs. Do I hear you ask me about a title? Well isn't that obvious?
'This is no life for a monkey.'
Tuesday, 19 February 2008
With so little time, I have no chance to detail my day's discoveries beyond saying that my false nose and black beret continued to confuse commuters as to my real identity when I mixed with them on the 7.35 train this morning. They also failed to recognise me on the 5.34 train home. Unfortunately, I fell asleep in the armchair when I got in and Judy also failed to recognise me. Or that's what I suppose is the reason why she laid into me with one of her golf clubs.
My next stint as a commuter is eight days away. I guess you'll just have to suffer my being around. Tomorrow, I'll be up bright and early and hope to write you something to make up for my two days absence.
Monday, 18 February 2008
Why this particular show should involve my staring at Word documents for eight solid hours and fixing other people's grammar and typing mistakes is too long and arduous to go into here. Let's just say that it's part of the magical mystery of television that you viewers rarely get to see. That the documents have more to do with the Leisure industry of North East England is similarly confusing. However, the day has been one that has blessed me with much in the way of new knowledge.
I have discovered that:
* The average wedding the UK costs over £18,000 and has approximately 106 guests.
* A man is foolish should he try to sail his yacht into any harbour of North East Scotland when there is a strong wind blowing from off the sea.
* A 5% rise in the seasonal visitors to a certain holiday camp in East Anglia would produce a sewage problem should there be an unseasonable amount of rainfall.
Other remarkable discoveries I've made today include the fact that all six feet and two inches of the Madeley frame are not suited to life hunched over a keyboard for eight hours. It explains why I've just had Judy walk barefoot over my back to iron of the kinks. It also came as something of a surprise to learn that in the course of negotiating my contract with the producers, I'd failed to establish that my eight hour working day didn't include lunch. My day is really nine hours, or eight and a half if I can ram a pickled sandwich down my throat in the Starbucks across the road from the production offices.
I must finally say a word about the nation's railways. When they next decide to cancel an eight AM train, could they give me more warning? Having gone to the trouble of wearing my false nose and beret, it's galling to have to spend an extra half hour on the platform worrying that people might recognise me from the TV.
I'm now getting to bed. I have to be at the offices tomorrow for eight o'clock to ensure that I can beat the rush hour traffic at the other end of the day. A false nose and beret are hardly adequate protection against flailing elbows of rival commuters and tonight's train was so crammed, I found a businessman's sweat stained armpit placed conveniently under the end of my nose. I can't be sure that my plastic proboscis didn't begin to run and my beret droop.
Sunday, 17 February 2008
I do know that I'm very busy preparing myself for two tough days of voice-over work. Unless I can hammer out a few words when I get home late tomorrow night, you shouldn't expect to hear from me until Wednesday. This is the price we must pay for ensuring that crusts are earned, nests feathered, livings made. I might get Denis to write something in my absence but, after his first attempt, I'm wary about giving him the blog's password.
If gnats, transvestites and one-armed assistants aren't odd enough for your Sunday, I've had an email to ask that I help promote the campaign to award Petula Clark a damehood. Although I don't own any of her records, I do know that she recorded a few of Serge Gainsbourg's songs and, by doing so, helped promote the work of my hero and role model. For this reason alone I think she deserves recognition, though you might want to recognise her for founding one of the best high street shoe shops.
While I was on the Downing Street website I tried to register a new campaign to reward Stephen Fry with a knighthood only to discover that a petition already exists.
I wouldn't mind but I'd already had my local graphic design company produce a logo for my campaign. I must now reconsider whether I should work to endorse the existing petition or start one of my own to have Bill Oddie recognised for the work he does on behalf of owls. While I'm away, I want you to give this some thought. I like the idea of making Bill this year's charitable cause but I fear that, although he's a bigger celebrity than Stephen inside the UK, Oddie would not reach out to an audience in the wider blogging community. I'm tempted to offer Jeremy Clarkson as a compromise candidate. What do you think?
Saturday, 16 February 2008
Tips to get a good tan
After you've covered yourself in sun cream, smear yourself with real butter. David Dickinson taught me this one so you can imagine it's as top a tanning tip as tanning tips can get.
Is Louie Walsh rich?
Yes. He's the richest man in Ireland. In fact, he's so rich he doesn't keep all his money in the bank. He plants little bags of coin beneath mushroom rings across the county of Tipperary.
Richard Madeley impressionist
I'd sue if there ever was one. Not that I don't see the appeal of pretending to be me. You would be loved by woman and feared by children and old people.
Dennies Richards nude [sic]
The spelling mistake makes this a tough one to call. There was a time when any red-blooded man would search for Dennise Richards before retiring to bed every night. Then she married Charlie Sheen and she lost her sexy. However, if you were searching for Denis Richards nude, that's a different matter. There was a historian called Denis Richards but I don't think he ever posed in the nude except for the cover photo of his 1945 biography of Thoreau.
The French they are a curious race
France is full of some of my favourite people, though many of them lost their sexy after they married Charlie Sheen.
Tunisian word for 'whore'
The word you're looking for is 'qattous', which, roughly translated, means 'everybody loses their sexy after marrying Charlie Sheen'.
Richard and Judy cushion
You wouldn't believe the number of times I've been asked if we have any cushions in our range of Richard&Judy merchandise. It's easy to see why some of you would only feel happy sitting on my face.
Richard Madeley is annoying
Guilty as charged but I like to think of it as a nice version of 'annoying', easy to warm to like my slight eccentricities like keeping a wild Bill Oddie in the house and my incessant need to promote the blog of a man much greater than myself.
Sexy Vanessa Feltz
Well, that's it then. The End of the World as predicted in The Book of Richard. When those three words comes together to form a complex statement like that, Doomsday can't be far behind. It's been nice knowing you. Do you think they have blogs in heaven? And do you think everybody will still read Iain Dale? And if so, why so?
Potted history of custard
Ah, the delights of a Daily Mail-type pun! What do you want to know about custard? Invented by the Romans, it was not until the discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus that custard was flavoured with vanilla. In 2007 it finally eclipsed rice, becoming the world's most consumed food.
Robert Madeley Appreciation Society
One thing you can't deny about Robert Madeley is that he's not humble. Imagine creating an appreciation society to honour yourself!
Haemorrhoid Cream Sandra Bullock
Are we to read into this that Sandra Bullock has haemarrhoids as well as a comical last name? Are we to believe that this complaint might run throughout all the Bullocks? And might there not be a Bullock cream to alleviate the suffering? I would like to know.
Vintage Lawnmower Appreciation Society
Appreciate those vintage lawnmowers, appreciate them!
When are weekends in Tunisia?
Bloody good question. I rang the embassy and they tell me it's all day Tuesdays and Thursday afternoons after 2.
A.A. Gill Starbucks Cappuccino
Mr. Gill's annual report into the Starbucks' Cappuccinos is one of the most eagerly awaited reviews of the gastronomic year. 'Bloody awful' he declared in 2006. 'Somewhat milky' was his opinion a year later. This year's lucid commentary is 'frothy'. I can hardly wait until 2009.
Was Dennis Wilson circumsized?
I imagine at least one man called Dennis Wilson was.
Are prunes good for singing?
Yes. They increase your vocal range by doubling the number of orifices through which you can produce notes.
Why is Chuck Norris always happy?
Because he's one kick happy guy!
It's true. To mark his retirement, Michael Parkinson is launching his own range of chocolate, specially designed for people who can't chew sticky foods.
Jamie Oliver black eye
Poetry. Pure poetry.
Eric Clapton dentures
Sure you're not confusing him with Chuck Norris?
Is a man wearing a skirt wrong?
I should say it bloody well is!
Dave Dickinson paint jobs
This was news to me so I went down the road to ask him. I can now confirm it. David Dickinson has started his open painting and decorating services. His rates are reasonable so I've asked him to do our dining room. If you ring him, mention my name. He'll do you a 10% discount.
Friday, 15 February 2008
The Geoffrey Pinfrock Agency
14 Duntcare Road, London, L1 7RF
Contact: Geoffrey Pinfrock, Harry Grebe (historical and biography), Andrew Tinkle (fiction).
Insider Info: We specialise in fiction and non-fiction. We are on the lookout for bright undiscovered writers. Although we are renowned for taking raw talent and helping them to reach the next stage of their publishing career, we would much rather head-hunt a few established writers from other agencies whose percentages we are happy to undercut by a few points.
* Geoffry Pinfrock became a literary agent after a long career as a successful novelist, penning three books set around the Swahili Swamp Fever epidemic of 1873. Our agency is proud of its reputation as a relaxed environment where Geoffrey takes a hands-on approach with all new female clients. Charges of sexual misconduct and serial groping are routinely dismissed before our famously long liquid lunches.
Non-fiction: Considers anything with a celebrity face on the cover. No academic books unless it is accompanied by its own series on the BBC. No nature books unless your surname is Oddie. No books about poetry unless your name is Fry.
Fiction: Considers action/adventure, humour (not satire), mystery, romance (no pornography), thrillers, contemporary fiction (but nothing set in Ireland involving peat). We are actively seeking new novels about the angst of simple middle class London folk who work in a creative field such a publishing and turn to the booze and drugs as a form of escape.
Submission guidelines: Do not send manuscripts. Do not contact us via email, post, or carrier pigeon. Approach us in the first instance through a friend connected with the industry or an established name. We will not reply to you unless you're already known to us. Do not approach us in person. We own a bloody big dog who has a taste for human blood.
Clients: Victor Occram Jnr., Horace Tadpole, the estate of Sir. Henry Sellinger Pfnnar.
Tips: No unsolicited submissions, letters, or emails. To make yourself known to us, you should be either be a published author who we already represent or related to a published author who we already represent. People know to us are welcome to make themselves more known to us. The rest of you can just hop it. And yes: that includes you.
Please note: we are not accepting submissions at this time. All manuscripts will be burned on our open log fire while we sit around cackling as we warm ourselves by the heat of your fading chances of publication.
'I forgive you. I just thought you should know that.'
'Yes but you've forgiven me for what?'
'Forget about it. I've forgiven you and that's all you need to know.'
The man looked at me square in the face.
'But I don't want your forgiveness,' he said.
'But you have it. We Madeley men are a forgiving breed. You can't take it away from us. Forgiveness is in our blood.'
'So you forgive people even when they don't need your forgiveness?'
I smiled in a way meant to assure him that whatever he could do, I would still forgive him.
'Look,' he said, his now face flushing hot red. 'I knocked on your door and asked you if you wanted double glazing...'
'And you said, “no thanks, we're not interested”.'
'And just as I was turning away, you said what exactly?'
'I said that I forgive you.'
'So you're forgiving me for knocking on your door?'
'I can forgive you for that as well if you like,' I offered, cheerfully.
'I really don't care,' he said, perspiration breaking out on his brow. 'I just want to know what I'd originally did to warrant your forgiveness.'
'Does it matter now that I've forgiven you? You should just feel relieved.'
'But I've done nothing to you!'
'That's the spirit,' I cried and began to shake him by the hand. 'Forgiveness cleans the soul. Doesn't it make you feel whole again?'
He grabbed his bag and turned his back on me. 'Absolutely mad!' he cried as he reached the garden gate. 'You're absolutely mad!'
'Don't worry,' I shouted after him. 'I forgive you for that too.'
With that, I closed the door and began to luxuriate in that feeling of undeniable pleasure that comes from forgiving people. But if you doubt me, that's alright. I forgive you too... No, no... I really really do forgive you.
Thursday, 14 February 2008
'I think you should go back to bed,' said Judy at eight o'clock this morning. I'd just fallen face first into a bowl of cornflakes and only the years Judy spent as a life-guard saved me from the milk I'd sucked into my lungs.
'No, no,' I replied, 'I'll be quite fine. I can't feel as tired as this all day. I just need a little fresh air.'
'You're going to look a mess for this afternoon's show.'
I couldn't deny that but I was in mood for giving up. Madeley will need to be heading into the city at seven thirty on Monday and I want to be doing so after more than a couple of hours sleep.
With that in mind, I resolved to ensure that I would wide awake for five o'clock this afternoon but physically tired when it came time for me to retire to bed an hour earlier tonight. I changed into my tracksuit and went out the front door, fully intending to jog five miles down the road and back again.
The enterprise began quite well. I turned right at the front gate, ran down past David Dickinson's place, and then peered up Michael Palin's drive in the hope of seeing him, despite the rumour that he's currently walking barefoot across Australia for the BBC. Then I was skipping past Trevor McDonald's house and then gave a wave to Clive James who was washing his car. I then carried on down to the cheaper end of the street. It's rare that I go that far on foot. The problem of living in a strictly hierarchical neighbourhood such as ours is that there are always people on the lower levels who demand something from those at the top.
Today was no exception. I'd just run past the house owned by the neighbourhood recluse who used to be Shakin' Stevens when I heard a voice shouting me.
'Richard?' squealed a scouse accent. 'Hey! Richard? It's me!'
I turned around in time to see Keith Chegwin leap a low privet hedge and come running after me.
I might be prone to rushes of serotonin to the brain but I was not without certain emergency functions. Before I could consciously issue instructions to my legs, I was running the other way.
'Richard! Stop!' came another appeal. 'It's me. Cheggers!'
If you know anything, you'll know that Madeley hates men who refer to themselves in the third person. I looked over my shoulder to find that Cheggers was pursuing me but I was relieved to see that he wasn't gaining.
'What do you want?' I shouted but not lessening my stride.
'Any... chance... for five... minutes... on... your show?' he asked.
'Not a chance,' I shouted.
'But Cheggers has got... a... new... computer game... coming out...' was the rather breathless reply.
'A computer game?'
'A... showbiz... trivia... game...'
For a moment, I thought about stopping to learn more but then I remembered that chatting with Cheggers usually involves him telling you the story about when he presented a show nude on Channel Five.
'Haven't got time, Keith,' I shouted as the thought of Keith's shrivelled genitals encouraged me to pedal my knees faster.
'But it's on the Wii...' shouted Cheggers, the last syllable draining out into the silence of my eventual getaway.
Deciding not to risk another encounter with Swap Shop's scouse siren, I took the long route home, cutting through the estate where most of the Radio 4 lot live. I was quite relieved when I spotted John Humphrys who allowed me to take a short cut through his garden and to climb the wall that separates his apple orchard from the bottom of the Madeley estate.
When I get into the house, I mentioned what Cheggers had told me about his computer game.
'I think we're missing a trick here, Judy,' I said. 'Here we are spending time with our clubs for books, wine, cheese, and nuts, but we're catering to a vanishing audience. We need to start appealing to younger viewers.'
'We're not having a video game club,' she replied.
'No,' I said, 'but I thought we could easily have a Richard&Judy video game.' I looked towards the Xbox 360 that Stephen Fry had bought me for Christmas and I wondered if 'Zorg the Destroyer' would have any advice about my idea of making the jump into the virtual world.
'I'll ring Stephen this afternoon and see if he can think of any genre of game that would suit us,' I said as I sat down on the sofa and pulled off a shoe. 'I think a first person shooter based on the Richard&Judy formula would rocket to the top of the video games charts.'
Judy might have answered. I really can't remember and I haven't got time to go and ask her to repeat herself. I only woke up ten minutes ago with one trainer still on my foot and the other propped beneath my head as a pillow. I must now go and wash and change. I also have to get rid of the large Nike logo that's now embossed on my cheek.
You can't believe how strict they are at Channel 4 about produce placement and advertising.
As you might know, I'm mid way through a week long programme designed to change my sleeping hours. Work begins on 'Eye of the Storm 2' at 8am on Monday morning. I need to be ready for the new hours but it is leaving me with the confusion of the truly sleep deprived. It's now midnight and I feel enormously tired when I would normally feel like working. I'll get to bed shortly in the hope that eight o'clock tomorrow morning, I'll be back at this desk full of the usual Madeley spirit and able to do justice to all your excellent comments that I've so far failed to acknowledge with a reply. At the moment, I'm typing this through a matter of trial and error, slapping my hands against the keyboard in the hope that some of this is making sense.
It again makes me wish that I had the sleeping habits of Bill Oddie. The man snoozes through winter and then doesn't take a moment's rest for the remaining nine months of the year. Which reminds me that I saw him tonight on BBC2 getting excited by a colony of ring necked parakeets in the heart of London. The whole thing was pornographic in the extreme and I should have a word with him. Slow motion scenes of bird on bird action left me feeling quite disturbed. Or disturbed because it was actually quite stimulated by Bill's voice over. I don't know which. Should the ornithology not work out for him, I'm sure he'd be a success narrating smutty educational films. I do know that when Judy walked in to find me cooing on the sofa and stroking a cushion, I felt like I'd been caught loitering in that section of the bookshop which carries only books with oiled torsos and biker hats. Which, funnily enough, also happened to me today... I can't understand the rationale that they put authors with surnames WXYZ next to the shelves of erotica. It's getting to the point that a man can't go into a bookshop to purchase some P.G. Wodehouse or Tom Wolfe without looking like he's investing in 'The Wrench Wench: Tales of a Plumber's Mate Volume 7'.
I'm getting to bed. I'm rambling more than usual and I know that I'll probably dream about well-oiled parakeets with big hairy moustaches.
Wednesday, 13 February 2008
It was always going to happen. I'd eaten too much cheese at the Grosvenor Hotel, London, where I was attending the launch of our latest project. I always dream about myself when I've overdone it with the cheese. It is a little known fact that I am one of the few men to whom curd is a mild form of hallucinogen. Unpasteurised milk is known to make me very happy.
The event began in earnest at eight o'clock when we arrived by limo. Our PR people quickly ushered us onto the stage where we were to make the official launch. Though I say it myself, I looked a superior specimen of manhood in my crushed velvet evening suit with purple cummerbund. Judy radiated beauty in a crimson dress of my own design.
'Hand stitched,' I announced to the photographers below the stage as I lift up the hem of the dress to be sure the cameras picked up all the detail.
Once the bulbs stopped flashing and Judy has finished blushing, it was time for the speeches. With my usual reticence, I went first, ad libbing the whole thing.
'It's an absolute pleasure for us to be welcoming you here, isn't it Judy?' I said. 'We know how much you've all enjoyed our book and wine club. Last year we launched our cheese club which has also been a huge success and we hope that tonight's launch will see the Richard&Judy Nut Club become a national institution. A bit like Judy, really... I know Judy wants to say a few words but it falls to me to thank you all for coming this evening and to promise that, in the future, when you think of the Richard and Judy show, you'll think of nothing but nuts.'
It was then Judy's turn to say a few words. As usual, they were scripted and she'd spent the whole day memorising them.
'We know there are many people out there who, either through poor education or a scarcity of resources, do not eat nuts as part of their daily diet. With our club, we hope to make this country a nut loving nation once again.' She smiled at the crowd before somebody handed her a big set of ceremonial scissors and she cut the ribbon.
Unknown to the crowd, the ribbon was connected to dozens of sacks of walnuts and brazils hidden in the ceiling. Once Judy severed that cord, thousands of free nuts came raining down on the crowd. Unfortunately, before I could work out what the screaming was about and why people were calling for an medical help, I had to introduce the evening's special guest.
As you might know, only this Christmas, the pressurised shell of a walnut exploded in Ronnie Corbett's lap, leaving him with severe lacerations to his golfing tweeds and a fear of all large nuts. You can imagine the response of the crowd as Ronnie came out on stage. And when he cracked his first walnut since his accident, there wasn't a dry eye in the house.
The rest of the evening was taken up with a healthy combination of wine, cheese, nuts, and the smell of antiseptic cream rubbed into minor bruises and grazes which as few claimed were caused by Judy's stunt with the ribbon. It was good to see our friends and family relaxing, sharing our love for good food. I hope you all will follow our example.
Details about The Richard&Judy Nut Club will be available shortly at www.richardandjudysnuts.com.
Tuesday, 12 February 2008
'Have you ever heard of such a thing?' I asked Judy who was kneeling before the fireplace, chiselling off dried mortar from the new hearth she'd fitted a day earlier. 'Judging from this interest in pale, un-rouged skin, I would think that we could make a fortune if we could get a picture of Natasha Kaplinsky with a little less colour in her cheeks.'
Judy dropped her lump hammer and turned to me. 'Richard, are you sure that this is the most profitable way of spending your Tuesday?' she asked. 'I thought you could help me come up with some questions to ask tonight's guest, Kerry Katona, who will be joining us in the studio to talk about her new reality show, “Kerry Katona: Crazy In Love”, in which Kerry and her husband, Mark Croft, offer an insight into their extraordinary lives.'
I gazed at my poor darling wife. It never ceases to amaze me how easily she drops into autocue mode.
'Sorry,' she blushed. 'I did it again, didn't I?'
'You certain did, Jude. Perhaps we should continue this conversation after the break?'
She touched a hand to brow and shook her head sadly. 'I don't know what happens. I suppose it's just instinct after all these years. I can't wait for the Channel 4 contract to end so I can get down to Cornwall and start writing my novels.' A sigh and she looked up at me. 'But what about you, Richard? You've still not answered my question. Are you going to help me write some questions for Kerry?'
'Not if she were the last guest on earth,' I replied and vengefully dug a paper knife into the day's mail. 'You know how I feel about her. I don't at all see what's so extraordinary about her life? Has she ever had a great thought or written a line of prose or poetry enough to make a nation weep? Does she have any skills other than those of self-promotion and overindulgence? I've said it before, Jude, but we should be promoting people who deserve our help. Not these examples of British trailer trash who hardly know what it's like to go out and earn money through the hard graft of their own labours. No, no, Judy. You'll have to write the questions yourself. I'm going to spend my day trying to earn an honest wage. I'm going to sneak into Channel Five and snap a covert picture of Natasha Kaplinsky before they've heat sealed her inside a mixture of pancake and wax.'
Judy waved her chisel in the air. 'If you think it's worthwhile, go for it, Richard. But don't expect me to help.'
'There's no need for you to help,' I said. 'I have plenty of friends who will be more than willing to track down Natasha Kaplinsky. There are men out there cast from the same mould as your husband. Men who consider hunting newsreaders as the noblest of the sports left to us since we've been banned from shooting elephants, white rhino, and tiger.'
'So it's a surveillance operation?' said Clarkson half an hour later when I rang him. 'If it is, then count me in. It'll give me chance to try out the new night vision goggles I bought off eBay.'
'No need for night vision,' I told him. 'This will be a daylight raid into the heart of the Five News operation. I'm going to see if Bill Oddie will let us borrow his camera with the lens specially designed for taking surveillance pictures of sparrows at close range.'
'Why not bring him along?' asked Jeremy. 'We might need a man whose beard has been specially trained by the SAS to sneak through undergrowth.'
I explained how Bill and his beard were still suffering from their wounding by an errant heron. 'He's back with his family but he still claims to feel discomfort whenever he gets near an estuary,' I said.
Jeremy rang off having agreed to meet me at twelve, and, sure enough, a few seconds before noon, I heard the distant bang as the sound barrier was breached by a land-based rocket car. Jeremy arrive a second later, the shrill whine of his jet engine fading as he climbed out. He was dressed in combat trousers and a safari jacket, a fact which caused me no end of amusement as we began to pile equipment into the back of the Range Rover and then set off into central London and the promise of big game.
Being two 'A' list celebrities, we can get access to places that are restricted to you normal untalented folk, no doubt stuck out there in your humdrum existence of commuting into Manchester or Glasgow, and working a long day full of office routine. You won't know the thrill of breeching a nerve centre of the nation's communications. One such place is the studio for Five News. It's run by the people at Sky News from their headquarters in Osterley, Central London. We parked out front and decided to try the direct approach by blagging our way past the guard at the front desk. He was the typical guard, proud of his job. His jacket was emblazoned with the insignia of News International and the the Bob Friend Memorial tie pin gleamed near his throat.
'We're here to do an interview about our new show,' I told him.
'Oh,' said the guard. 'And what's that all about?'
Jeremy, quick on his feet as ever, replied: 'the Welsh.' When pressed and nervous, he usually mentions the Welsh. I suppose that, psychologically, the Welsh are Jeremy's comfort blanket, though I don't know why...
'The Welsh?' replied the guard.
Jeremy just smiled. I could tell it would be left to a man of real imagination to fill in the detail.
'Jeremy and I have been travelling Britain together, filing a new series in which we wryly comment on the nation's musical tastes. We began with the Welsh and their unhealthy obsession with male choral groups.'
'Very good,' whispered Jeremy.
'Welsh choral groups?' repeated the guard.
That's when Jeremy piped up. 'The show is called, “Good Vibrations With Richard&Jeremy”,' he said.
I made a point of jotting this idea down. Jeremy might not see much potential in it but I certainly do.
The guard, however, was somewhat suspicious. I could tell this by the way he picked up the phone and began to mutter something to his superiors. However, a few minutes later, a call came through and he reluctantly gave us to visitor cards.
We'd reached the first floor when Jeremy dragged me to one side and behind a large cardboard cut out of Kirsty Young marked for recycling. He nodded towards a set of doors marked 'Staff Only' at the end of the corridor.
'We go through there,' he said. 'I've been here before to plug my Christmas DVD. That way leads to the dressing rooms.'
'But we don't even know if Natasha is in the building,' I said. 'We should make some casual enquiries first.'
Jeremy placed his big hand on my shoulder. 'What kind of man comes on a hunt and doesn't know the habits of his quarry? You don't think I didn't come prepared. Before I left the house I rang Jeremy Paxman who told me everything we need to know about Kaplinsky, such as the fact that she rarely leaves her dressing room. She'll be in there now, resting before tonight's show.' He nodded again at the doors. 'Come on, follow me.'
I trailed after him as he crept down long dark corridors. Finally, he stopped outside a door marked 'Talent'.
'This is it,' he said. 'This is where they keep her.'
'Keep her?' I was very cynical, as would you should you know that your actions are being governed by information gleaned from a man called Paxman. 'You make her sound like she's an exhibit...'
Before I could finish, Jeremy threw open the door and I began to realise how little I know about the world of TV beyond Channel 4.
The oxygen tent filling the room was glowing a vibrant pink. Soft furnishings filled it like a sack of cotton candy and giant marshmallows. The fur from creatures whose natural camouflage was pink was spread across the mattress while lying amid the flowers, feathers, and throw cushions, was a figure of sublime beauty, her thin features cleansed of artificial colour.
'Is that her?' I whispered.
'If it's not,' replied Jeremy, 'we should watch out for seven malicious dwarves coming back from diamond mining duties.'
'But won't she wake up?'
'Not during daylight hours,' said Jeremy, who for some reason was opening his satchel. I was a little surprised when he pulled out a foot long stick sharpened at one end and a wooden mallet.
'What's that for?'
'It's just something that Paxman asked me to do,' he smiled the nation's favourite Jeremy.
I was in no mood to question the agreements made between BBC men. I pushed the lens through an opening in the oxygen tent and fired off a few snaps.
'We should get out of here,' I said.
Jeremy lingered, weighing the stake and mallet in his hands.
'Come on,' I said, grabbing him by a curl, 'we need to get out of here before we're discovered and they force us to make them a show. You don't want to be on Fifth Gear do you?'
That seemed to do the trick. His shoulders sagged and he followed me as we retraced our steps out of the building. Five minutes later, we were sitting in the Range Rover. I was checking the pictures on the digital camera while Jeremy kicked the gears into four wheel drive and ploughed us through a hedge and out onto the open road.
'These photographs will make us a small fortune,' I promised him.
Jeremy just looked vaguely out at the road ahead. 'I though I could do it,' he muttered. 'I thought I could do it... And I've missed my chance.'
'Don't worry,' I said, looking at the stake and mallet sitting on the back seat. 'If you're still in the mood for adventure, come along to the show this afternoon. I could do with a man who knows how to wield a mallet.' I looked again at the wood steak. 'I do think we should stop off and find you a bigger big of wood. It's one thing hunting a woman like Natasha Kaplinsky but I'm now talking about an evil that roams the Earth by day...'
Monday, 11 February 2008
'Well,' said the source of this very special journalistic assignment, 'we need information on the current state of mind of Finland's reindeer herders, ASAP. Column inches need swelling with firm reindeer facts, Stephen, and you are the man to swell them. I want 1000 words by tomorrow midnight.'
'Then I need to rush,' replied I and saved myself a second or two by hanging up the phone without further fuss.
The call had come from London and the offices of Richard Madeley, talk show host, friend, and sometimes muse to the humble 'I' of this piece, known as Fry. From what I had picked up from Richard's often incoherent instructions, it was felt by those 'in the know' that my psychological qualifications and tolerance for cooler climes made me the perfect celebrity for a mission deep into that land of the Finns which has so quietly been living under the assumed name Finland for these few years past. Fortunately, your exquisitely attired Uncle Stephen was also the man in the right spot. I was in something of a pickle. An American pickle to be precise. My broken arm had been causing me anguishes of a most unwelcome right-handed kind during my taxi tour up to the Great Lakes. The thought of a trip to a country more hospitable to my leftward leaning frame was so appealing as to make a man end a paragraph with a colon and a cry: lawks!
Eight hours later, a small plane brushed the frigid thigh of a runway in the small town of Sneiggur, fifty miles north of the Arctic circle. It was around midnight by the time I emerged at the rank of taxis and identified my guide and helper waiting for me there. He introduced himself as Olaf Ffnneer. In my mind he was a man so small as to render him a midget by the American scale, though in a Europe, with our lax height restrictions, he was merely a small man. However, for the sake of simplicity, I would think of him as 'Olaf the Small' since small he was. And bless him for being so.
'Welcome to Finland,' he said, his accent all ankles on a slippery run of iced vowels. 'Do you have any luggage?'
I parted my cape and handed him the large trunk that was concealed there next to my iPhone and the Browning revolver I was packing in case of Polar Bear or marauding Moomin.
'Then this is good,' replied he of the scant elevation as he slung the chest over his shoulder and sank in extra inch or two into the snow. 'We get a taxi to the hotel?'
I waved him on with my good arm and he trundled off towards the lead taxi whose twelve carnivorous engines were already howling with excitement at the through of a quick mush across the Finnish tundra.
Mush! Mush! Mush! How exhilarating it was to have the wind whip my cape about me at we raced through the Arctic night. Half an hour later, I climbed from our sled and walked into the cool reception of the hotel.
'This is the world's only permanent ice hotel,' said Mr. Ffnneer as he walked beneath my trunk.
'Were I a man give to exclamations of astonishment, Mr. Ffnneer, I would say “cripes” at sight of such cleverly sculpted ice.'
'You get some sleep,' said Mr. Ffnneer, as he dumped my case at the flurry of a front desk. 'Tomorrow morning I will take you to see reindeer!'
What man can sleep well with such a promise? I woke around nine o'clock eager to start the day. I opened my curtains to a fine morning in Finland: the moon high and the streets in semi darkness. I decided to forgo my sun block and wrapped an extra scarf around my damaged arm before venturing out onto the frozen corridor. A maid on skies smiled as she passed me, yodelling a promise to turn down my bed once she'd finished the laundry slopes.
After a quick breakfast of fried herring and herring tea, I accompanied Olaf the Small to his sled, which I was relieved to see had well blubbered runners. It was a point I make to my guide who blushed with Nordic pride.
'Our seals have the finest blubber,' he told me as he cracked his whip and two small Finnish ponies began to trot before us. As you know, your Uncle Stephen is not one to doubt another man about blubber. Nay it is and thus it always was. Blubber.
The rural community of Gnnrr Fritter lies about five miles outside the town of Sneiggur, which has the unique distinction of owning the most northern reindeer herds in the world. Mr. Grindle Gfffffffr, the chief of the herders, welcomed me with civility and presented me with the traditional gift of a polished reindeer hoof with the blond braids of his virginal daughters wrapped around it.
'Your reindeer are blessed with fine hooves,' I told him in my fluent Finnish. 'And only a cynical man with inside information could question the virginity of your daughters.' I sipped the hot herring oil from the hoof before I handed it to Olaf the Small. The formalities out of the way, I turned to speak with the leader. 'I'm here to understand why you're all feeling glum,' I told him as he began to serve me a bowl of freshly made herring soup, with some pieces of sautéed herring topping herring bread.
The lead herder listened to me as he scooped his herrings. When I was finished, he smiled and placed his hand on my knee. Soon I would learn exactly what it was that made Mr. Grindle Gfffffffr feel so down.
'Have you ever tried to milk a reindeer's teat in sub zero weather with gloves on, Mr. Stephen?' he asked me. The Finish language, so heavily reliant upon the pluperfect tense and ninety seven conjunctions of the word 'chilly' cannot be translated so easily into English and carry the real despair of the question.
'I say I haven't,' I replied, 'but I'm eager to have a go.'
And have a go soon I did. And I can report that the experience did not live up to its billing.
At the insistence of Mr. Grindle Gfffffffr I hurried up eating my herring dessert before I followed him out of his tent and across the snow to his stock of three thousand reindeer. A stool was produced from I know not where, on which I was instructed to sit while a female creature was roughly herded before me.
Mr. Grindle Gfffffffr pointed me to the creature's hind belly. 'Fondle' he said in Finnish, 'fondle' being the closest translation I can get to the words 'fnooorrffr'.
'I'm beginning to feel mildly disappointed with the world,' I admitted later on. After half an hour spent fumbling with a cold shriveled gland, I had liberated half a thimble full of reindeer milk.
'And that is why we are a sad nation,' said Mr. Grindle Gfffffffr. 'I ask you, Mr. Stephen, how we can be happy when out animals teats are left so shriveled by the ice and the snow?'
And there, Richard and my dear readers, you indeed have the answer you so desperately crave. You who are, even now, warmly wrapped in the embrace of your familiar fold; you whose teats are as big and as bountiful as ever: know the truth. Call it a plump or slightly overweight truth, or a slightly obese truth wheezing with glory, but Finland is a fine nation with men and women who suffer much in the cause of the reindeer. Mark my words: frozen teats and thick gloves do not an agreeable partnership make. Shiver!
Sunday, 10 February 2008
If there are any other celebrity friends you think I should ask to write for me, you should really suggest them in the comments and I'll see what I can do. Not all agents are willing to put my requests through to their clients, but I know a few celebrities personally and might be able to offer them ten minutes on the show in exchange for a couple of thousand words.
Which reminds me to tell you to watch out for the announcement this week that we've got a few big guests coming on the Channel 4 show. He's not yet been confirmed by we're hopefully getting Oscar hopeful, Daniel Day Lewis, into the studio to give us some cobbling tips, while later in the week Johnny Depp will be in to teach Judy the Hollywood secrets of how to clean mildew from between bathroom tiles.
As you can see, guys, it's going to be an exciting few days.
Saturday, 9 February 2008
As usual, I'm posting cheap filler material in the form of the best search terms that have brought readers to the blog this week. As is my custom, I'll try to figure out what they were searching for and I'll do my best to answer their queries.
Nude sorry Harold Wilson
This has to be the week's oddest search term. Luckily, I have a picture of one of the many times that our late Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, was caught in the nude. He was always very apologetic and I think that the rabbit proves my point.
Is Richard Madeley Jewish?
Depends what you're really asking. If you're asking if I'm circumcised then I'd have to ask you: does an accident involving a set of sheers count? If you're asking if I read the Torah regularly, then no, I'm not Jewish. I'm CofE with mildly orthodox Catholic leanings that have to do with my love of baroque church architecture and the writings of Pope Julius II.
Richard Madeley is an idiot
Depends what you mean by 'idiot'. Am I flawed? I would say so. Am I wiser and more knowledgeable than 99.9% of the British public: absolutely.
Richard and Judy baldness
And not for much longer! My hair is growing at a remarkable rate. I think taking some of Judy's old HRT medication has helped too. The early indications were that I was growing breasts but that, thankfully, is no longer the case. I remain a manly B cup.
Judy's tits at the Brits
Hard to know what to say to this one. She took them with her, if that's what you mean.
Which cartoon animal whistled through its teeth?
Richard Madeley's qualifications
Eight 'O' levels, a clutch of 'A' levels, a couple of degrees, and an honorary Ph.D. in Advanced Biomolecular Engineering.
Terry Nutkins with a beard
I have a photograph of this too.
Prunella Scales topless
Unfortunately I don't have this picture.
Pointless Stephen Fry links
You mean like this one?
How tall is David Dickinson?
This old chestnut? Little Miss Sunshine is 5' 11” tall, which you would know if you keep refreshing this page to go through my bestiary.
Richard Madeley is a twat – sorry the only way I could find your blog
That's okay, stranger. Whoever typed this in to Google gave me the biggest laugh of my week. And, when you think about that, you'll see why I'm having a day off. It has been a bad week for Madeley.
Friday, 8 February 2008
Now that I'm home and I've read your appeals on Dennis's behalf, I've changed my mind. I'll ask Dr. Raj to have a word with him and disillusion him about Peter 'The Hedgehog' Manley and Phil 'The Power' Taylor. After all, the unfortunate introduction of darts into this blog was partly my fault. Richard 'The Master' Madeley shouldn't have promoted Dennis so rapidly through the ranks. There were others who could have filled in for me today. I could have called in a favour from Jeremy 'The Rocket' Clarkson and had him write me something. I could even have pressed Martin 'The Professor' Amis into producing a small piece to make up for spelling Lola's name wrong in the interview I published earlier this week.
So, those of you who supported Dennis can rest easy tonight knowing that you've saved a one-armed man from the unemployment queue. Naturally, I would have replaced him with somebody with two hands, so, in terms of limbs, you've stood in the way of a real world decrease in the number of idle hands. You might want to think about that the next time you take the side of a man who whispers whenever he mentions Jockie Wilson's name.
Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I'd employed somebody so cretinous as to write about darts. And I told him not to mention his stump but he seems to have done so on nearly every line.
It was my trauma therapist who suggested that I look for some new hobbies. Before the accident, I'd been a semi-professional snooker player with a nice sideline in knotting novelty balloons for children's parties. I was also earning a good living by working in the applause department at the BBC. It was my job to provide the clapping that make their comedy shows seem funnier than they really are. I sometimes imagine what my life would be like now if I still had that job. I reckon I'd be earning a small fortune on 'Little Miss Jocelyn'...
Obviously, having only one hand meant that my life as a snooker-playing, balloon knotting, professional clapper would come to an end. I even had to leave my part-time job working for my girlfriend's fashion company where I modelled mittens. With the snap of a basking shark's jaw, my life changed forever. I couldn't even use the accordion I've played since a child.
Any person who has undergone such a dramatic change knows how difficult it is to find new interests. Luckily for me, the job came along working for Mr. Madeley who was very understanding about the problems I face. With what the forty pounds he paid me each week to work as his P.A. and the money I had collected by selling my old accordion and balloon pump, I soon began to build myself a new life. I've taught myself to use the yoyo and to play the harmonica. I also began to amass what has become the country's finest collection of Anna Nicole Smith memorabilia in the country. Some people call it pornography but I always say that Peter Manley has breasts and that doesn't make him anything to be ashamed about. And he's certainly not better looking that Anna who was so tragically taken from us recently.
Peter has been my saviour. The biggest obstacle I faced was finding a sport I could fit into my evenings and it was the sight of Peter at the ockey that saved me. Darts became my refuge from the hard work days at Channel 4. I scored my first 180 within a week of taking up the game and my three dart average is now regularly in the high 80s.
When people ask me where I see myself in ten years, I say: working the darts circuit as the country's only one-armed darts professional. Peter Manley is the man I want to become. He's obviously a bit heavy on the butter in the morning but I think he fills a shirt better than anybody since Anna posed in those ads for Guess jeans. It also makes him one of the most economically successful darts players. If I can pile on a few pounds, I'll make a fortune. That's what Peter has taught me. A big gut leaves plenty of room for advertising. Some people say it's a bit ironic that Peter Manley's right tit is sponsored by a scaffolding firm. I say it's good business sense.
'Dennis,' he said. 'I'm worried about tomorrow. I hope you're not going to write about your disability.'
I told him that I had intended to write about the last five years working as his assistant. 'You might call it a disability,' I said. 'I prefer to call it a wage trap.'
'Oh, no,' he replied. 'I don't want you writing about your life with me. You know all of my secrets.'
'Not all of them,' I said. 'Just the ones that involve lubricants.'
Now before you get any funny ideas, that bit about lubricants was one of my little jokes. I have lots of them. Well, you have to, working for a man like Mr. Madeley. Life is not easy. I can tell you that. Besides... even if I do know most of Mr. M's secrets, I wouldn't dream of writing about them here. Not when I could get good money for the serialisation rights.
'That's not funny, Dennis,' said my employer. 'You must remember to be discreet. You're writing for a public audience. This blog goes out under my name so don't go offending anybody.'
'Don't worry, Mr. Madeley,' I told him. 'If people want to know about heat rash from polyester or a certain person settling out of court when nuns accused him of indecent exposure, they'll have to go elsewhere. They won't get any of that from me.'
'That's good to hear, Dennis,' replied Mr. Madeley. 'But I want to give you some advice. If you have to write about... you know... your hand... then don't go mentioning your stump. It's not appealing.'
'It's not meant to be appealing,' I told him. 'It's just who I am.'
He sighed. 'Well if you must talk about it, can't you make it sound positive?'
'Positive?' I asked.
'Give it some human interest.'
'Righty-o,' I said. 'Perhaps I could give it a name...'
He thought for a few moments. 'I can't see how that would help.'
'It would make it more human. It would have a personality of its own. I could even drape a puppet over it. Of course, I wouldn't be able to make it talk or move and it would have to sit somewhat moribund on the end of my arm...'
'Disguising an amputee's stump with a paraplegic puppet doesn't sound the way to go to make your first blog post light and breezy, Dennis.'
'I'm not technically an amputee,' I replied. 'It was...'
'Yes, yes, I know,' he interrupted. 'It was ripped off by a basking shark off the coast of Cornwall. Look, Dennis. This is your chance to shine but don't get too comfortable. You're only filling in for one day while I'm earning a few shillings. Next week, I'll get one of my celebrity friends to write something longer. You know, something with a bit more meat on the bone... In the meantime, just write something interesting. Something that the educated people who read my blog would enjoy.'
'I know just the thing,' I told him. 'Just you wait until tomorrow, Mr. Madeley! I'll have your readers eating out of the palm of my hand...'
Thursday, 7 February 2008
Dennis is my P.A., or, as he likes to describe himself, my Personal 'Attendant'. He attends to all the jobs I have neither the time nor the patience to do myself. Sometimes it's Dennis who types up my posts and publishes them when I'm busy with the show. You might say, therefore, that Dennis is my extra set of legs. He's also my third arm, but, I hasten to add, he's not my fourth. Dennis has only one arm. In fact, he's one of the few one-armed P.A.s in the country, which makes him half a P.A., or an 'A' as he likes to joke.
Dennis has a unique sense of humour about his disability, which is the way he says you have to be. Not many men have had a limb bitten off by a basking shark off the coast of Cornwall and I doubt if there's another man who can laugh about it as much as Dennis. It's what makes me feel so certain that you'll like him. However, a word to the wise: Dennis' involvement in my blog explains why there are often so many spelling mistakes and typos in my posts. You may think you're correcting my poor spelling but you're really making a one armed man feel bad about his disability.
I've decided to introduce you to Dennis because tomorrow I'll be going to meet the team who will be working with me on 'Eye of the Storm 2'. There's already talk of 'Eye of the Storm 3' and 'Eye of the Storm 4', so this job will be consuming two days of my week from now on. Should I disappear for 48 hours, I'm hoping that Dennis will help keep this blog going. Being a one armed man, he will probably be writing posts that are considerably shorter than my usual pieces. I hope that Dennis will become to this blog what Nige is to Bryan over at Thought Experiments. Or that's how I explained it to my little one-armed helper this morning.
'Dennis, would you relish the opportunity of doing some extra typing each week?' I asked him as he began to clear up after the first production meeting of the day.
He looked at me from under his heavy brow and grunted.
'Is that a good grunt or a bad grunt?' I asked.
He put his one, lonely, solitary hand in his pocket and adopted the look of a suitably unimpressed one-armed man.
'I take it that you don't want to hear what I want you to do?'
'I'm not writing your blog, if that's what you're asking,' he said, forgetting for the moment which handsome Channel 4 type pays his wages.
'You've done it before,' I said. 'There are many times you've transcribed pieces from my Dictaphone.'
'But you get all the credit.'
'As it should be, Dennis. As it should be. You can't honestly believe that people should credit you for transcribing the words of a man with the full compliment of limbs?' I rubbed my face, which was aching at the cheek of it all. I could see that I would have to compromise if I wanted my plan to go ahead. 'So, would you do it if I told people of your existence? Perhaps I could give you a regular column in which you'd get to talk about life from a one-armed point of view.'
He shrugged but his face couldn't conceal a fleeting look of excitement.
'That's better,' I said, 'but if you're going to have a more visible presence on my blog, we have to make some ground rules. Take a note, Dennis. Head the list: Things That I, Dennis, Should and Should Not Do When Writing on Richard's Blog.'
'Fair enough,' he said, his hand coming out of his pocket and taking a pad and pencil from his desk.
The list took half the morning to compile but I present it to you as a way of filling the blog while I now go and practise my documentary voice.
1. Don't annoy the punters. Americans don't like too many references to Stephen Fry or obesity.
2. Don't provoke the visitors to any online forums dedicated to 'The House'. They will hunt you down, Dennis. The last time, I was lucky to get away with only three crank phone calls and a jiffy bag full of rabbit excrement.
3. Try to promote Jerry Caesar's blog whenever you can. I'm tired of being the only person to leave comments over there.
4. No posts about disability rights.
5. No posts about Esther Rantzen. I don't care how wonderful you think she is, Dennis.
6. Don't flirt with Selena Dreamy. If you had three arms you still wouldn't have enough.
7. Don't mention Finland to Ax unless you speak the language.
8. Don't provoke Mutleythedog. He is not a dog and probably isn't called Mutley.
9. Do not disillusion Bertas. She still thinks that Norwich is a good holiday destination.
10. Remind The Twitch to keep taking his mood medicine.
11. No name dropping. People cannot stand it when a blogger casually drops the names of famous people they have met into their blogs. Stephen Fry doesn't do it so neither should we.
12. News about Stephen Fry takes precedence over any other. Then it's Bill Oddie followed by That Man Clarkson. News about Jeremy Paxman can be posted if there's nothing better to do.
13. Respect Judy at all times. Remember: she pays our wages.
14. No jokes about one-armed bandits or any other kind of bandit.
15. No pictures of naked one-armed women.
16. Remember that people are here to read about me. I, Richard Madeley, should appear in every one of your blog posts. As should a completely superfluous link to Stephen Fry's blog.
17. Never mention your stump. People aren't interested.
Wednesday, 6 February 2008
Richard writes: "When I drunkenly stumbled into Professor Martin Amis at Maureen Lipman's cheese and wine party last month, I was ready to blame an excessive number of elbows in the room for my slight trip. The last thing I wanted to do was pay for the dry cleaning of an expensively ruffled jacket and corduroy trousers. I needn't have worried. Martin laughed off the stain, which he said delighted him because it was the same shape as the mole on Philip Roth's thigh, and instead asked me for an interview. The deal was struck there and then, and this is the result."
An aluminium bullet propelled me from Manchester to London. It carried the cordite stench of the intercity commuter train; a two hundred mile per hour slug rattling around the cranial cavities of canting fools whose scything fingers lay waste to lines of unkempt prose and words that die minuscule deaths between the covers of business reports, feasibility studies, and the cadaver-like morbidity of the end of year accounts. Solzhenitsyn one wrote of the moment when the 'soul, which formerly was dry, [...] ripens with suffering'. I was about as far from the Gulag Archipelago as you could get but I was also on my way to watch a man ripe with rich agonies of his very own.
An hour later, I'm sitting watching cameras shuffle softshoe across the floors of a subdued studio in South London. I've become enchanted by the insoluble piety of the place. At my side, sits a devote woman and her flask. She is knitting a cardigan big enough for a Sherman tank. She tells me that her name is Brenda before she turns to me, mid-purl. 'It's for Richard,' she says, her breath scorched by hot Darjeeling. 'He always looks so cold.'
The Richard in question is Richard Madeley, talk show host, polymath, and the man credited with the discovery of butane. 'That was many years ago,' he smiles when I later remind him of his origins in petrochemicals. 'I was trained as an organic chemist. Judy says it's now chemistry of a different kind but I still find it odd to be working in daytime television. I miss my pipettes.'
I want to tell him that he does more than work in daytime TV. To women like Brenda, he is the daytime. Though not for very much longer. He has invited me here to record the end of his decade-long imprisonment. I'm there to act as his witness: to sit and attest to his virtue in this tabernacle built for Brenda and the other knitting Gods of Middle Age. Bearing witness would be easier if the master of the television talk shows approached his premature retirement with a little more dignity.
I had found him stalking menacingly at the fringes of a circle of producers. Richard is a beast of capacious energy, occasionally lashing out at any who dare invade his space. One of the show's researchers runs away, her sobs echoing long after Richard had rebuked her for bringing him Marmite instead of coffee. Caffeine is his drug of choice. It's why I took my seat beside Brenda. Caffeine addicts are better left in their zone of jittery expectation. An hour later, I'm still there, watching Richard finish another show.
'Great show, guys! We should get that paraplegic brass band on again,' he announces as he drops down off the set and waves me over. His wig has slipped. I haven't the heart to tell him. Friends had advised me that he's a man whose vanity gorges on his charm. He lives an eccentric's life; dashing between emergencies as unnatural as his brow that never sweats, even when layered with a hairpiece weaved from the bristles of a mildly albino badger. On the phone earlier that morning, he had explained how Stephen Fry had helped him shave his head during a orgy of Taxi Driver and drunken self-loathing. In the flesh, this Travis Bickle has a cheerful, matter-of-fact voice that allies itself with the twinkle in his eye. He's a man fit for psychotic episodes. His humour attests to it in every act of passive aggression. When not directed at himself, it yawns in the face of absurdities that surround him. I tell him that he reminds me of Normal Mailer.
'When I started out, I only wanted to write like Mailer,' he tells me in his changing room. He has a habit of saying things he thinks other people want to hear. He knows I write novels so I'm treated to the Richard who should rightfully have won the Nobel Prize for Literature. 'Mailer was a model for how I've lived but my novels are more like something that Saul Bellow would write. Who would publish them? I'm not Jewish enough to be properly recognised as a Jewish novelist.'
I ask him how Jewish he is and how Jewish he wishes he was.
'I'm not at all Jewish,' he confesses. 'Except when I write. Judy compares me favourably with Howard Jacobsen. So does Howard Jacobsen. Howard Jacobsen thinks I'm Jewish.'
It's ingratiating and I'm tempted to ask to see the manuscripts. Does the man have prose as tight as the skin of his forehead? I feel almost transparent beside him; a glyph of anti-health and tobacco rot. Bellow would find it amusing watching this man freely handling his pelt while claiming to be the literary success to Herzog and Augie March. I want to tell him this but Richard's mind is already elsewhere. A parcel has been delivered to the door and he cannot wait to open it.
'Another stuffed heron,' he laughs, perching the cheap doll on the hardwood cliff of his table. 'It's for Bill Oddie. Ever since I mentioned that he's been speared through the thigh by an errant heron, his fans have been sending me these.'
It's clear that fans mean more to Madeley than he admits. To him the recognition is more than cant. Fans are important to the mystique of the man who lets it know that he wears no underpants and never locks the bathroom door. The psychology of the anal retentive is like cheap aftershave and it would be an insult to accuse him of wearing it.
'My fans tend not to come out in daylight,' he laughs. 'I'm not a fashionable wit like Stephen Fry. It's why I'm so often misjudged and people don't like me mentioning my friends in conversation. I don't know what people expect: that celebrities don't live near each other? That men like Stephen wouldn't search me out for a game of Scrabble. Some people find it difficult to believe that Ronnie Corbett lives next door. If I ever wrote that over forty celebrity friends live within a mile of our house, I'd be crucified.'
Crucifixion focuses his eyes and subconsciously he rubs stigmata on his palms. Would it be too easy to say he has a Christ complex? It's the interviewer's prerogative to avoid asking difficult questions when you feel an affinity for a subject. And it's hard not to feel for Madeley. In Manchester, delivering my yearly lecture to young writers, somebody had mentioned the blog that has become a byword for self-destructive journalism. It's called The Richard Madeley Appreciation Society. Humble it is not.
'Writing my blog has allowed me to reach out to people I'd normally cross the street to avoid,' he says. 'A few are a little psychologically unbalanced but I find that's the world. On some days, two hundred people drop by and read about my life. I love them all. Even those that drop by to call me a twat...'
A tear pools in his eye. Pure liquid sympathy. I dare not put it to him that two hundred readers are a piffling number, especially when most of them are there to abuse him. Reading through the names of his regular visitors is like reading out a roll call for a multiple personality disorder. AxmxZ, Selena Dreamy, Elberry, Hope-Athlete, Mutleythedog, Lola, Bertas and The Twitch. I suspect they are all the product of a single mind. When his contract ends, I expect the inevitable breakdown to begin with the cry: 'I am Richard Madeley and I am legend'.
Ruefully, he pops a pink bonbon in his mouth and I hear it crack between white porcelain before he begins to talk of Bill Oddie with great affection. His regard for his celebrity friends marks Richard out as something more than a good guy. He's a patron saint of lost comedians, failed and forgotten actors, and the detritus of showbiz.
The enigmatic hold that Bill Oddie has over Richard's career cannot be fathomed in the time I had with him. All I can do is tell him about the moment my own father introduced me to The Goodies. Kingsley called them 'Britain's response to Baudelaire' but my teenage sympathies lay eastward. There was never any doubt to an impressionable teenager that Bill Oddie was the voice of the anti-establishment and that his comedy was a vehicle for radical liberalism originating behind the Iron Curtain. In his bright red dungarees and lime green vest, he influenced me more than any other artist. I was seduced when still pubescent by guns firing tomato sauce and enormous cats. Later, when on the nadir of my own greatness, Bellow and Updike would efface Oddie from my life. In Madeley, I see a man who chose a different path. Young Amis smiles from his eyes and expresses it better than ever I can.
'Bill's a brainy little gnome,' he says with obvious affection.
I want to tell him that the brainiest little gnome is sitting before me, adjusting the wig on his suntanned brow. In this world of febrile sensibilities, where fashion is as disposable as the cant, Richard Madeley is the last link to homo celebritus. The moment passes too quickly. A knock on the door and I'm introduced to Judy, who doesn't seem to recognise the genius she berates for wearing his fly wide open.
'She's always telling me off about that,' he said, tucking himself away.
'Don't worry,' I reply. 'Norman Mailer always had the same problem. It's what comes of being a great Jewish novelist.'