Saturday, 24 January 2009

Anna Ford’s Mole

After a week of sitting in a cramped radio studio until one o’clock in the morning, it was a relief to be back on the spacious Madeley estate last night, helping Judy roll her new kegs down into the cellar. Since she’s taken up amateur brewing, my wife has spent a sizable part of our fortune buying the right equipment to open her own brewery. Barely a day doesn’t pass when the right side the R&J ampersand isn’t on the phone to either James May or Oz Clark, asking how to prepare her mash tun or when to add the yeast. When she came back from town last night, her four miniature shire horses pulling a cart loaded with large wooden barrels, it all felt a little too surreal for me. Yet I am, above all things, a loyal husband. After twenty minutes hard work, I rolled the last of the kegs down into the cellar and then stood back to wipe the moisture from the creaseless brow beloved by so many.

‘Not bad for a man of thirty eight,’ I said.

‘Fffft,’ said Judy as she began to unwrap the accessories that went with the barrels.

‘Okay... Thirty eight and some months,’ I said as I parked a tired cheek on the retired sofa we brought with us from ITV. It was a familiar feeling beneath me and I set to brushing away the dust from the sheet covering the indentation where Denise Richardson used to sit. As I rubbed my hand over that strange old crest and twin valleys, the exact shape and contour of Denise’s buttocks, I felt something strange beneath my fingertips. It was a shape I didn’t remember as being part of Denise’s lower slope.

‘Hello,’ I said, slipping my hand under the sheet as a man might slip his hand up a dress. ‘What’s this?’

Judy groaned as my hand emerged holding a dusty bottle.

‘Well I never,’ I said, immensely cheered by the discovery. ‘So this is where you hid them!’

‘Do you blame me?’ asked Judy, fingering her spigot.

‘I don’t blame you at all,’ I said, retrieving another two bottles. ‘In fact, I’m delighted. I’m sure they’ll have improved with age.’

We were talking, of course, about wine. But this was no ordinary wine. It wasn’t French and it didn’t come with elegantly designed label and hefty price tag. Yet this was the very rarest of drinks; none other than Bill Oddie’s fabled buttercup wine.

In the days when Bill was still an amateur bird watcher, not yet sure that he’d make a career out of his twitching, he had alternative paths that he had explored in fits of his usual high-pitched enthusiasm. He could have become the nation’s top astronomer if only he hadn’t lacked the necessary height to reach the eyepiece of the telescope I helped him erect in the attic of his hobbit hole. His involvement in the world of midget show ponies was the reason that Judy took up the reins (excuse the pun) and how she, herself, became one of the nation’s experts in horses under four feet tall. Eventually, Bill chose ornithology but, for a while, my bet had been that Bill would make his living from wine.

Bill Oddie’s Buttercup Wine is one of the great vintages of those post-Goodie years and it is still talked about in hushed voices among societies of London’s more knowledgeable tipplers. ‘Vin de Oddie’ is surprisingly light on the tongue, with a warm syrupy feeling that glides down your throat before returning with burst of citrusy aftertaste. It then slides down again, retreating with a woody flavour reminiscent of beards, before it comes back, rushing at you with a claw hammer and starts to beat your around your wrists and your ankles. I once drank a bottle of Bill’s wine and lost all feeling in my legs for three days. I remember one disastrous Monday when we had to film ‘This Morning’ with assistants carrying me between points in the studio to cover up the fact that I was still paralytic below the waist. It was after that episode that Judy took all my wine and hid it away. And this was why I was so happy to been reunited with my collection after all these years.

I carried the bottles up to the kitchen where I immediately introduced one to the corkscrew and then poured myself a healthy glass.

‘Are you sure it’s okay to drink that, Richard? It looked awfully yellow.’

‘As if kissed by a sunset,’ I said, in my best winespeak. I ran the cork under my nose to test the aroma. I gasped. ‘Ooh, Bachelor’s Super Noodles!’


I picked myself up from the floor and straightened my fringe. ‘Wow! This stuff has really matured. It’s a real MILF among wines.’

‘A MILF?’ asked Judy.

‘It’s a wine term, Jude. You wouldn’t understand.’

The glass was surprisingly heavy as I picked it up, the wine more like olive oil the way it clung to the sides.

‘Oh, Richard, please. Not all at once.’

Even I wasn’t that foolish. I rolled the wine around the glass, ensuring that its aroma would build in the bowl and make it both a taste and smell sensation. Then I gave it a measured sip before I swished the wine around my mouth, over my tongue, between my teeth, and ending with a quick gargle. I am, as you can obviously tell, a man who takes his wine seriously and in a professional manner. Only then did I swallow it.

‘Well?’ asked Judy, standing to one side and armed with the fire extinguisher.

‘Well?’ asked Judy, standing to one side and waving a burning cat around the room.

‘Well?’ asked the devil waving a fiery pitchfork in his hand.

‘Well?’ asked the devil, who fell away beneath me as I rose into the sky.

‘You’re a yeasty fellow,’ said Stephen Fry, floating before me, his green cape flapping behind him like the wings of the angel we all know that he really is. ‘Did you ever discover the secret of Anna Ford’s mole?’

‘I didn’t,’ I said, looking down. I was floating beside him, hundreds of feet in the air. Talk of Anna Ford’s mole made me suddenly maudlin and aware of the passage of time. ‘Am I imagining this?’

‘Yippee!’ said Bill Oddie who flew past me wearing the national dress of the bumble bee.

‘This is all your fault,’ I shouted after him.

‘Oh, shush now,’ said Stephen. ‘Can’t you see that Bill’s happy?’

‘I can’t feel my legs,’ I realised. I looked down and I was surprised by what I saw.

‘You’re probably wondering about the size of your ankles,’ said Stephen. ‘That’s because they aren’t your ankles.’

‘Not mine?’

‘Ah, indeed they are not. Those are the lovely ankles of Ms. Denise Robertson. You have her legs too and, I should imagine, her buttocks, though I have not ventured that far in order to test my theory. But rest assured, Richard, that I am confident that the rest is all you.’

‘I want Judy,’ I moaned.

‘Ah, here comes Bill,’ said Stephen. ‘Let’s see what he says about that.’

‘Wheeeee!’ said Bill Oddie, a streak of black and yellow beard, wings struggling to sustain a heavy paunch.

‘Richard wants to go home to Judy,’ explained Stephen.

‘I bet he does,’ said the Bumble Bee Bill Oddie. ‘But he still doesn’t understand the secret of Anna Ford’s mole? Should we tell him?’

‘I loved Anna Ford’s mole,’ I sobbed.


I felt a slap across my face. Stephen seemed surprised and then shook his head slowly.

‘Anna?’ I begged. ‘Tell me the secret.’

Another slap and I opened my eyes and found I was lying on the kitchen floor, my head resting on Judy’s lap.

‘That was wonderful,’ I said. ‘Stephen was an angel.’

She slapped me around the jaw, her knuckles rattling a couple of my teeth.

‘That’s for what you said about Anna Ford,’ she scolded. ‘And I’m hiding those bottles again. I should really pour them down the drain but I wouldn’t know what they’d do to the water supply. You always get like this when you drink, Richard. All I hear is you muttering about Anna bloody Ford.’

‘That was Stephen’s fault,’ I explained. ‘He mentioned her name. Bill was there too. He was a bee and you were...’


‘You were another angel,’ I lied.

She stood up and let my head slip and crack against the floor tiles. ‘Richard,’ she said, ‘if I live to be fifty, I’ll never understand you.’

I suppose she was right. I stood up, smiling as I was surprised to find that my legs were my own and that they still had feeling. My bliss was only compromised as I watched a certain devil take the remaining bottles of buttercup wine out into the garden. The night was soon filled with the sounds of digging somewhere over near the ornamental statue of Ainsley Harriot. Judy knows, I suppose, that it’s the one part of the garden I try to avoid. However, now I have a reason to travel that far and even the sight of Ainseley’s meat shank and a side order of sprouts won’t be enough to keep me away. Not now. Not while there remained three bottles of Bill Oddie’s buttercup wine hidden beneath the turf. Not when I’ve come so close to solving the mystery of Anna Ford’s mole.


Name: All Shook Up said...

Good grief, Dick... I thought you'd gone completely dormant! Glad to see you're back. How's the viewing figure(s)?

Anonymous said...

Are you sure you don't mean 'Vole'? I have checked and they really do exist and they seem a more likely pet than a 'mole' which lives underground. I suspect that Mr.Oddie inadvertently added 'Fly agaric' to his concoction. It would account for the hallucination that the lovely Judy struck you. I know for a fact that she has never been involved in any physical altercation...

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