Sunday, 18 January 2009

Why I've Not Been Sleeping

Hell of a week last week. I think I’ll say that again and, since I don’t care what Judy says about the carpet, I’ll do it in capitals. HELL. OF. A. WEEK!

Was that too much? It’s just that, as Paul O’Grady once discovered, there are only so many times a man of my undeniable charm but limited patience can be insulted before he strikes back. Only this time, there’s no need for any bottles of hot chilli sauce, plastic funnels, nor any rubber gloves and boxes of doggy treats.

‘I’ve got a good feeling about the Algerian entry,’ said the voice on the phone.
I rubbed my eyes and peered over at the digital. 4.30 in the morning. This was the third time in the week that the phone had woken me in the early hours. The bed squeaked as Judy rolled over, disturbed. She muttered something about monkfish before she lifted the duvet and slid beneath Slumberland’s finest. The snores resumed but the voice remained indifferent to Judy’s plight or the significance of large gilled North Atlantic anglerfish to the ongoing narrative.

‘I’ve got a few witty remarks about the Lithuanians,’ it said. ‘You want to hear them, Dick? Or would you prefer to hear all my Pole jokes?’

‘It’s you again, isn’t it Graham?’ I replied.

‘Of course it’s me,’ said Norton. ‘Who else would be talking about the Eurovision at four thirty in the morning? After all, I’m the only person the BBC have trusted to host the Euro gig.’

History. That’s what this came down to. History, a presenter with leading-man good looks, and the BBC mafia. If it’s the stuff of a Guy Richie film, this would be the moment when the camera makes a quick detour up the trouser leg of an extra and then does a quick 360 degree time-lapse business around the bushes and to that moment about a month ago when I was standing in one of London’s trendier media cafes. Queue the caption. ‘Somewhere in Soho’.

‘He’s here, everybody!’ cried Harry Hill who could clearly see everything from atop a pair of brothel creepers with six inches of creped soul. ‘Lock up your onions or they might fly away!’

If I’d known how those strange words would one day leave Judy muttering ‘monkfish’ at four thirty in the morning I might not have joined in the applause as I stood there, shoulder to shoulder with all the nation’s top presenters. Jonathan Ross was in his pink eel-skin suit (sourced from renewable eels) and Michael Parkinson was in something made from unemployed mine worker. Joining us were Des O’Connor, Paul O’Grady, Brucie Forsyth, Alan Carr, Angus Deaton, Sandy Toksvig... Even Alan Titchmarsh was there, sitting by the fire with a cup of Horlicks resting on his lap.

‘By ‘eck,’ he said. ‘This is a proper do.’

He was right. It was very proper do, only there was no time to reflect on my position among the nation’s ruling elite. There was a sudden ripple of applause and the crowd parted to allow the honour guard to enter the room along with the man we were all there to meet.

I recognised the earlobes immediately. They were earlobes I was hoping to follow; earlobes I hoped to emulate. They were earlobes that had suffered many years of abuse from listening to Eurovision hits; earlobes in London to announce the name of the man or woman who was to land the most highly prized job in television.

‘My children, becalm your beating hearts!’ said Sir Terry Wogan. ‘Too much... It’s all too much for a tired old pro to bear in his dotage...’

What class! The Pope of Radio 2 then began to walk slowly down the line of celebs, shaking our hands. He paused at Wossy and Jonathan kneeled down and kissed the papal ring on Terry’s little finger.

‘Bwess you, good sir,’ said Ross. ‘You are a fine example to all of us pwestenters who hope to follow in your fine footsteps. Now is there any chance I can get your phone number? I might need to wing you in the future, should I discover people impersonating you on Twitter.’

Terry smiled and blessed him with a hand to Jonathan’s brow before he moved on to me.

‘Richard. So good of you to make it,’ he said.

‘It’s not weally Wichard,’ whispered Wossy, leaning into the conversation. Terry ignored the slur, which has been sadly repeated on other occasions and despite the evidence otherwise.

‘There’s always room on the good ship Beeb for hearty fellows with few discernable skills,’ said Wogan in a confident voice. ‘I’m sure you’ll fit right in.’
From anybody else, it would have been an insult. But this was Terry and Terry means a lot to me. Finally, with great ceremony, Wogan went over to where Titchmarsh was sitting.

‘It’s Terry Wogan,’ explained June Whitfield who was acting as Alan’s minder for the day. ‘He’s come to announce the name of the next presenter of Eurovision. You’d like to host Eurovision, wouldn’t you, Alan?’

‘By eck! It’s a proper do!’ cried Titchmarsh again, so excited that he raised his mug and splashed his Horlicks all over June. I’m not sure the poor fellow understood a thing of what was going on. He’s not been the same since they Charlie Dimock’s breasts were dropped from BBC1.

Finally, Terry made his way to the fireplace where he posed for photographers and then it was time for the ceremony, which was to be led by the head of BBC light entertainment. Personally, I still blame the guy for the second series of ‘Little Miss Jocelyn’ so I paid little attention to a long and frankly boring speech about the role of the colour pink in the BBC light entertainment department. But from what I did hear, pink has a surprisingly important role and, naturally, it was all music to Jonathan’s ears which were pink to their own considerable lobes. By the time the speech was over, I felt distinctly out of place and I thought it a bad omen that Terry was handed a pink envelope containing the name of the chosen presenter.

‘Ah,’ said Wogan, ‘it’s been many a year since I was in a room, much like this one, eagerly awaiting Diddy David Hamilton to open the envelope to see who would follow him in this great role. It’s a great honour for any presenter to be given the job of commentating the Eurovision Song Contest; to be sent to foreign climes to mock the tastes of our continental friends. And now it’s time to see which of you will be given the high honour of continuing my xenophobic rant towards foreigners. I see some of our most talented names in presenting in the room. I also see Richard Madeley standing there. Ah, Richard. You’re a man after my own mustard. We’ve both been cut from the same cloth. Good luck to you, good sir!’

‘Good luck everybody!’ cried Titchmarsh to the great amusement of all. ‘Ooh, it’s a grand do!’

There was a twinkle in Terry’s eye as he tore open the envelope.

‘And now, with no more further ceremony,’ he said, ‘it’s time to announce the name of the scurvy dog who will be following me on the good ship Eurovision. And... that person is...’

There was a collective gasp. Had I even heard the name? I must have heard something because I stepped forward as if to shake Terry’s hand. Luckily, I was spared any embarrassment when a mirrorball rolled past me and unfurled itself in the middle of the room to take Wogan in its arms. I thought it was some strange form of pink protest until Terry returned the hug but thankfully none of the kisses.

‘By ‘eck, that was a proper turn of events,’ said Titchmarsh who was now standing at my side, June Whitfield on his arm. ‘Imagine them giving the job to him. Ah well. It means my Aunt Rose won’t be watching it this year. Too many references to sausages. My Aunt Rose doesn’t like references to sausages. But by gum, this was a grand do!’
And like that, it was over with Graham Norton taking the applause and the best job in showbusiness. Queue the time lapsed trouser leg and back to me in my bed at four thirty on a weekday morning.

‘Listen Graham,’ I said, softly so as to not disturb Judy, snoring heavily somewhere under the duvet. ‘I hold no grudges. The BBC have clearly decided that Eurovision is going to abandon its small but loyal following among heterosexual men who only watched it for Terry’s witty banter and the legs on the sultry French dancers. If the BBC are to ignore a man as talented as the man Madeley and choose to embrace the camp aesthetic in a spectacular way, then I’m glad they’ve given you the job.’

‘Really?’ squealed Norton. ‘You really mean that?’

‘I do,’ I said. ‘I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful night in Moscow with your double entendres and I predict that the national outcry will mean that the BBC will seek out a safer pair of hands next year. Perhaps a handsome pair of hands that know how to make subtle but biting references to the Turkish entrant’s moustache and her resemblance to a Chuckle Brother.’

And with that, I hung up the phone.

‘Who was that?’ muttered Judy.

‘Nobody of importance,’ I said as I lay smirking in the dark. ‘Now get back to your monkfish. I’ve got to think of something funny to say about Bulgarian glam rockers in time for next year.’


Welsh Girl said...

I'm not sure Charlie Dimmock's breasts have ever been lifted, in order to then be dropped, but that's by the by. You were robbed Richard, robbed I say! The mirrorball will have his comeuppance though......

Nige said...

It's a scandal - it's all over with Eurovision and me - unless of course...

David said...

I agree, but more importantly I’m sending Richard Madeley to hell on Wed 12th Jan. For your chance to play God and save him:

Dick Madeley said...

Welsh Girl, well I hate to disagree but I remember a time when they were pert. Early season of Ground Force. I think I have it on DVD.

Nige, I'm with you. I used to love Eurovision night but I won't be watching it now. Unless of course...

David, what are you talking about. Send me to heaven! Oh wait! I'm there already!