My brain had not loosened up from my two days in a Manchester studio but waking in my bed this morning, it was so reassuring to smell a fried breakfast. Delirious was my happiness as I rolled over and found Judy lying beside me, the morning paper in one hand, some kipper in the other.
‘I always think of home when I smell kipper,’ I said, moving the bottle of HP sauce my wife had wedged for safety between my buttocks. ‘Ah, Judy! It’s so good to be back in familiar surroundings... You’ve got tomato sauce on your chin, love.’
Judy did her duty by the errant sauce and then nodded to her newspaper. ‘You made a proper fool of yourself yesterday,’ she said. ‘What on earth were you thinking?’
She handed me the newspaper, a local rag distributed only in our undisclosed area of North London. ‘Madeley’s Record Attempt Humiliation!’ read the banner headline.
I sank back into my pillow and groaned. ‘It was a brave attempt,’ I protested, ‘but the world of Twitter hasn’t quite taken to my own particular form of genius. Up to about midday I was roaring away. People thought I really was Stephen Fry and my following was soaring. Then at some point, I began to feel hungry. It reminded me than I’m a man, not a deity. My self-confidence crumbled and instead of the pithy one-liners of a God, I was just a man insulting people and making gratuitous remarks about bodily parts.’ I frowned. ‘It was not hubris, Jude. Hubris! And it was far from pretty...’
Judy wiped the kipper grease from her mouth and turned her attention to her eggs, which she scooped up and polished off in a couple of moves. She was clearly choosing her words carefully and I had to wait until she’d had gulped down a lashing of hot coffee before she spoke.
‘Richard, I don’t know why you bother with the internet. Your blog is doing nothing for your career and Twitter is as pointless an interest as you’ve ever had. You need to do something to help promote yourself among the people that matter.’
‘My blog is doing nothing for me?’ I had to laugh. ‘Only through my blog do people see me for what I am: a witty, articulate man who is capable of a myriad of TV and radio assignments. My career is going to go stellar before long, Jude! I came close to landing that job on Countdown and you know how I’m going to apply for a job on Soccer AM at the end of the football season. Helen Chamberlain has a something, Judy. I’m telling you that my chemistry could work with hers.’
Judy scowled. ‘I’m sure it would, Richard,’ she said, squeezing her morning banger between a round of toast. ‘And all I’m saying is that before you start trying to impersonate Stephen Fry on Twitter, you might think about the consequences. Stephen has a loyal fans.’
I hummed myself a indignant hum. ‘Or, as I like to think of them: acolytes, zealots, or old fashioned obsessivers knitting Stephen Fry balaclavas. I was lucky to get away with my trousers and just a few bruises. I don’t know how Stephen can countenance such behaviour.’
‘The problem with Stephen is that he’s too busy swimming with sealions to think about the feelings of one of his oldest friends,’ said Judy.
I couldn’t disagree with her so I slid back under the sheets and closed my eyes. It felt so good to be home, in my own bed, with my wife lying beside me as she slid the bottle of sauce back between my cheeks where it would keep warm as I slept another couple of hours.
Saturday, 28 February 2009
My brain had not loosened up from my two days in a Manchester studio but waking in my bed this morning, it was so reassuring to smell a fried breakfast. Delirious was my happiness as I rolled over and found Judy lying beside me, the morning paper in one hand, some kipper in the other.
Thursday, 26 February 2009
Totally incapable of blogging today. I was up with the larks. Or is it crows? Could well be pigeons, the number of the damn things sitting on the house this morning. Bad omens indeed; or at least it was for the state of our double glazing. Thankfully, I won’t be around when Judy gets the ladders out later this morning and shinnies up them to Mr. Sheen the glass.
I’m away from home for a couple of days, in the great city of Manchester where I’m doing some voiceover work on an exciting new TV series that charts the fortunes of Bolivia’s nose flutists. ‘Richard Madeley and the Bolivian Nose Flutists’ (provisional title) should go out on ITV in the Autumn. I’m also taking this time to shut myself away in my hotel room and get some writing done. The novel is coming well, thank you, those of you who’ve been asking. I’ve managed to get past the difficult part where my hero, Rex Spanner, was stuck in the regimental barracks of the Iranian National Guard with only half a lemon and quart of baby oil. Things are now building to a pleasing climax.
All of which means, if I fall silent, at least you’ll know where to find me.
Room 721. Knock three times and whisper ‘Uncle Dick’ three times through the keyhole.
Wednesday, 25 February 2009
People have started to come up to me on the street and ask me about Twitter. Just like that. As bold as the brass stuff and without any consideration for Judy, who as you know, is allergic to strangers, dogs, and the colour yellow.
To solve the problem, I thought I’d write down an introduction to Twitter which I can print out and thrust into the faces of anybody who approaches me with a Tweet glinting in their eye. I call it ‘Uncle Dick’s Guide to Becoming A Good Twitterer And Making Your Life Complete’. It doesn’t promise you the earth, but it does promise to make you a better person.
1. Create your account at www.twitter.com
2. Immediately follow @stephenfry. I can’t stress this enough. If you Twitter, you must follow @stephenfry. You will immediately discover that he’s off in some remote part of the world, examining the underside of some rare form of parrot. This will make you unhappy with your life at the office/bakery/school/home. Congratulations! You’ve achieved your first feeling of self-loathing. You’re a real Twitterer!
3. Immediately follow @wossy. Although not quite as important as rule number 2, it is still required by UK law that you follow @wossy. Not only will you be entertained with stories of his celebrity friends dropping by (that Ricky Gervais... What a card!), you’ll learn more about Japanese manga and the lifestyles of adults who collect toys. This is better than spending a mornings hanging around Toys R Us. And since hanging around Toys R Us is not recommended, @wossy fills a void in all our lives.
4. You should next try to follow as many celebrities as possible starting with your favourite Uncle Dick. Following celebrities is the reason that Twitter exists. It’s the reason you live. The reason you have children is so that they can follow celebrities. Celebrities bring meaning to your lives and you should not ignore them. It is astonishing how even minor celebrities can bring so much peace and happiness. There’s no feeling as great as learning that Phillip Schofield spent the morning waiting to have new carpets fitted in his billiards room or that Richard Bacon collects used postage. Want to know that Maggie Philbin’s toaster’s gone on the fritz? Then Twitter is the place for you.
5. If you want to be a success on Twitter, you might have to adopt some radical – if not downright unhealthy – practices. You might have to follow ‘normal’ people.
7. I left a space to let you regain your composure. I know it was a shock and it’s not something you want to think about when you’ve just eaten. But you should quickly follow as many ‘normal’ people as you can. Bite your lip and go click crazy. Get it over with because being ‘followed’ is the measure of your success on Twitter. Celebrities will not follow you (and, let’s face it, why should they?). You have to make up for this by following people you might normally cross the street to avoid.
8. You will quickly realise that it’s bloody hard to get followed unless you’re a celebrity name. You will have the urge to quit but you must fight this urge. If you persevere, you will get followers. You might even be up to 20 within a few months.
9. Listen to your Uncle Dick: follow everybody who is good enough to follow you. But if they stop following you, then you should cull them without mercy. Unfollow them with extreme prejudice. Unfollow them with a vengeance.
10. When writing ‘tweets’ (Twitter messages are called ‘tweets’ after Stephen Fry’s pet canary), you should avoid posting anything of interest. You will quickly establish a pattern of posting the same thing, day after day. Some of the most popular forms of Tweet are listed below.
11. Take a picture of your lunch and post a picture of that. People don’t know what food looks like. They’ve rarely come into contact with a meal.
12. Another popular tweet is to complain about how many tax forms you’ve had to fill out and how many more tax forms your looking forward to zzzzzzzzzzz...
13. Sorry. Where was I? Oh, yes. Popular tweets.
14. Tweet news which people will have already learned about from other sources. If possible, alter the facts very slightly. E.g. Original: Britney Spears today gave birth to a baby boy called Sam. Your version: Britney Spears today gave birth to a two headed dragon she has named Raglock the Destroyer.
15. Tweet about other tweeters. My advice is hurl as much abuse around as you can. It livens things up, keeps things fresh.
16. One of the most popular form of tweeting is that of the celebrity verifiers. These people form loose associations known as ‘rabbles’ and ‘mobs’, who scour the Twitterverse for people pretending to be celebrities. When they find them, they hack at them with their pitchforks and then burn down their houses. They then salt the land so nothing will grow there for a thousand years... Their actions save all of us the indignity of following a fake Russell Grant when we should be following the real thing. You should therefore join a mob immediately after complying with rule number 3. Remember, in the Twitterverse, you’re nobody if you’re not in a mob.
17. The final rule of Twitter is to leap off when the next great social networking innovation comes along. To be honest, you’ll probably find that 140 characters take a little too much effort. In the coming months, Judy and I hope to launch our own Gruntverse, where you’ll be able to follow the grunts, sighs, and assorted gasps of celebrities. Want to hear Hugh Grant go ‘arrrrrrr’ three times a day? Well, watch this space. Gruntverse will be here soon.
18. Trust your Uncle Dick. It’s the next big thing.
Tuesday, 24 February 2009
Monday, 23 February 2009
I’m constantly at the mercy of people demanding to know how I do it.
‘Richard,’ they’ll say, ‘how did you manage to update your blog last night when satellite images prove that you were busy in the Lakes helping stricken motorists push their cars to the side of the road?’
‘Richard, how did you manage to Twitter today when Sky News said that you were in a clinic having your nostrils scraped?’
‘Richard, you couldn’t possibly have blogged a week last Sunday when there was a picture of you in Hello Magazine that showed the clock on your kitchen wall to be the same time as when you posted your piece about David Dickinson’s spa.’
And so it goes...
‘Richard, there’s a definitely incongruity between your blogging activities and the membership records of your health club where you were definitely receiving a Korean ear massage at the time you claimed to be making a tapioca pudding with Bill Oddie.’
Despite this, I’m also asked to update my blog more and people often demand that I spend more time Twittering to them.
‘Richard, where are you today, love?’ will come the echoing cry through the corridors of cyberspace. ‘Coo eee! Richard? Are you in today? Where’s your witty banter?’
I’m damned if I do, damned if I don’t. And to be perfectly honest: my blog earns me no income and takes a good amount of effort and time to write. I have other projects which demand my attention. There are my many novels that need finishing, scripts that need polishing, as well as the banjo lessons I’ve taken up.
Yes, that’s right. You heard me correctly. I said ‘banjo lessons’.
It was Judy’s idea, nearly two months ago now. We’ve often talked about my love of music but my inability to play any instrument but it was listening to the Verdi’s Requiem played on the trombone that was the genesis of the whole affair.
‘I really do admire the way you’ve put your heart and soul into the trombone, Jude,’ I said to her one night. She was in the process of packing her instrument away for evening after her usual ritual of calming herself down before sleep by playing the trombone in bed. I’d been sitting by her, trying to get through Dostoyevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’ – a novel that thwarts me even when I’m not distracted by the delicate strains of the Requiem filling the spacious Madeley boudoir.
‘There’s nothing to stop you from learning to play an instrument,’ replied Judy, emptying out her spit valve into the bucket she keeps next to the bed. ‘God knows but you’ve got enough time.’
I closed my book. It seems that the damn thing was never going to get cheerful and I wanted to consider Judy’s suggestion.
‘You promise you won’t laugh,’ I said.
‘Laugh? What at?’
‘What I’m about to tell you.’
Judy laughed. ‘What is it?’
‘I’ve always wanted to play the banjo. You know... Like they do at the beginning of The Beverley Hillbillies.’
Judy laughed again. I shrank down into my pillow. ‘Well, if that’s what you want, Richard,’ she said, turning over and turning out the light. She fell asleep chucking to herself, occasionally muttering about ‘Texas gold’.
The seed was sewn. It was about a week later that I was attending a bash in honour of some fairly forgettable cause when I bumped into an old friend I hadn’t spoken to in a long time. Dame Maggie Smith and I go back years; in fact, back to when I first trod the boards and played Laertes to her Gertrude in Ken Dodd’s one and only performance as Hamlet.
‘Maggie!’ I cried, going over to plant a wet one on her cheek. ‘You’re looking well.’
‘Well, Dick, I’m keeping busy,’ said Maggie. ‘You know what they say about an active mind.’
‘Indeed I do,’ I said. ‘I keep myself busy on my blog.’
‘Hmmm,’ she replied. ‘Do you ever think of doing something more productive with your time? I always thought it was sad that you gave up acting.’
‘One has to specialise at some point,’ I said.
‘Well,’ said Maggie, ‘it’s still not too late. You might have refused the world your Hamlet but we might still get to see one of the great Lears.’
I frowned. Maggie’s a dear and that kind of talk is a bit below the belt. I still think I could carry of a Hamlet, or one of the young lovers in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. To talk of King Lear was... Well, I could see that Hollywood had changed her.
‘To be honest, Maggie,’ I said, ‘I have been thinking of taking up an instrument. I want to be more musical as I approach my middle age.’
‘Middle age!’ she laughed. Then her face straightened. ‘What instrument were you thinking of, Dicky dear?’
Well, if I’d said that I was making a return to the stage playing the back end of a pantomime cow, the effect on Maggie’s face wouldn’t have been as strong.
‘The banjo!’ she cried. ‘Dicky, Dicky, Dicky! My dear boy! I play the banjo!’
‘I’ve been playing the banjo for nearly fifteen years.’
‘How amazing,’ I said. ‘Well perhaps you can give me some advice. I wouldn’t know how to go and buy a banjo...’
She tutted and placed her hand on my arm. ‘Dicky, for you, I’ll give you a banjo. I have dozens.’
I was moved. So moved that I probably donated so much to the quite forgettable cause that I had to hide the bank statement from Jude at the end of the month.
True to her word, not twenty four hours passed before a taxi arrived at my door and Dame Maggie Smith brought me a banjo.
Judy is over the moon, of course. Mr. Shawcross my new banjo teacher comes around once a week. He says that I have a knack because of my natural clawhammer. Judy has even started to call me The Claw, though my repertoire is limited. But I have mastered the classic bluegrass tune, ‘Dipple Doo Me Chicken Hoo’ and Judy has the trombone version coming via mail order any day now. I can’t see us performing it live for some time but who knows... It all depends if I can get the practice. And if people give me chance to be myself beyond my blog.
Friday, 20 February 2009
I’ve been limbering up my tonsils for my next stint on the radio. LBC have asked me to provide cover for one of their presenters this weekend and I thought it would be another chance to quietly spread the message that Dick Madeley is a one-man show. You already know that I’m witty, urbane, and knowledgeable, but what I hope will be conveyed this weekend is that I’m also an expert on the subject of monkfish. With monkfish slowly slipping from the news agenda but the future of the species still in doubt, I’d be sorely disappointed if the show doesn’t get two dozen calls asking me to talk about my favourite fish.
However, before I can get around to preparing monkfish facts for the show, I have to deal with a problem that has arisen on Twitter. As you know, I’m something of a Twitter legend. Uncle Dick, as people have fondly started to call me, provides daily horoscopes for the Twitterers, as well as leading them in the occasional sing-a-long. Two Fridays ago, the nation’s offices were alive to the sound of ‘Bring Me Sunshine’, led be me but accompanied by Judy on the trombone. I have also entertained people with debates about the best nun films and I’ve taken to a bee costume to highlight the crisis in the honey industry. I like to think of myself as the entertaining alternative to so many dull celebrities who do nothing but wallow in their own self importance. Where most celebrities follow a few ‘normals’, as they might say, I will follow anybody who follows me. Equality in all things, is my battle cry! I want to learn about people’s lives and take great interest in following their daily routines. I am, above all things, a people’s person. (Just don’t try to turn up on my doorstep. I’ll prosecute you to within an inch of your life.)
Now I hope to expand my role on Twitter by launching a new service: The Uncle Dick Madeley Celebrity Validation Service. There are, of course, others out there attempting to do the same thing but few of them have my connections nor my iron fist wrapped in a polyester glove. If I need to discover if Ronnie Corbett is really Twittering, I need only look over the back fence. If there’s a question over Jonathan Ross’s current location, I need only shimmy up the lamppost that sits outside his royal estate. There aren’t many people who can say the same.
What will distinguish my service from the rest is that I’m setting up my own hard line validation service with a paramilitary wing. I'll be adopting the same tactics that Field Marshall Montgomery used to rout the German's from North Africa. We’ll actively hunt down fake Twitterers and mete out a spectacular forms of justice. So, if you’re currently pretending to be Benjamin Netanyahu on Twitter, you should be aware that Judy could come abseiling through your window armed with a bucket of cold rice pudding. If you’re in some dingy bedsit pretending to be Lionel Richie, don’t be surprised if you suddenly see your wallpaper come alive. It’s only Judy in her camouflage coming at you with a pair of nostril tweezers.
No doubt I’ll talk about our operations at more length in the future. For the moment, I must go and give my tonsils a bloody good scrub ahead of a busy weekend. I only ask that you remember your line: ‘I wonder if Richard would be interested in talking about the plight of the North Atlantic monkfish.’
‘Bless you’, I’ll say. ‘Of course I would.’ You can then just leave the rest to me.
Thursday, 19 February 2009
My wearing an Elvis costume to the Brits had been Judy’s idea and was intended as a homage to the music industry from two of TV’s leading lights. Naturally, I threw myself into the part with my usual grievous enthusiasm. When I looked at myself in the bedroom mirror yesterday afternoon, I knew I was ‘all there’ as the King of Rock and Roll.
‘But I’ll never walk in these shoes,’ I said as I swivelled my hips a couple of times and hit that characteristic Elvis pose, outstretched arms and right knee triangulating perfectly on my groin.
My wife, in full Brenda Lee costume, knelt down and poked the toes of my blue suede shoes.
‘They are a bit tight,’ she admitted. ‘But they go so well with the costume.’ Her bottom lip peeped out a little to produce a look of mild petulance. ‘But I didn’t spend eight hours sewing those sequins on your cape for you not to wear your costume.’
‘The cape’s fine,’ I said, as I twisted around. ‘Uncle Dick Elvis’ glistened warmly in the winter sun. I swivelled a couple more times and reached a decision on the shoes. ‘No,’ I said, kicking them into the corner of the room. ‘If I’m going to the Brits, I’m going in something warm and comfortable.’
Judy scowled. ‘You mean your slippers, don’t you?’
I shrugged as I grabbed the box from the wardrobe. ‘It can get cold at Earls Court,’ I explained. ‘I need something to keep my feet warm. People won’t notice and if anybody asks, we can always say that Elvis sometimes wore slippers.’
‘But not brown tartan,’ muttered Judy.
That was a bit of an understatement and didn’t do justice to my slippers. My best dress slippers are one of a kind. They’re actually brown tartan with a fleecy lining that spills over to form a warm if unattractive ruff collar. With orthopaedic bunion cushions and a non-slip heel, they are the most comfortable footwear you can buy. They even do a model you can plug into your stairlift to keep your feet toasty as you travel between floors. Being only thirty eight years old, I know that I’m a bit young for this kind of footwear but I’m also of that cast of mind that firmly believes that comfort comes before style. I will not be controlled by these arbitrary cultural whims about what kind of shoes a handsome man can wear at rock and pop awards.
Not that the crowd seemed to care later last night when I stepped out of the limo. The journo’s flashbulbs went into overload as the baying fans screamed, waved, bared their breasts, and bombarded us with underwear. Judy took a g-string right across the face and I had to support her until we got under cover.
‘That was unique and strangely aromatic,’ I said as I brushed a large yellowing girdle from my shoulder. Judy regained her composure quickly and rolled up her sleeves intending to go back and throw some underwear of her own. It took me and two armed security guards to calm her down. Many lives were saved in the process.
Finally, we were led into the arena, which, for those of you who haven’t experience the celebrity lifestyle, is an artificial reality. The whole place is a rabbit run of special A list lanes surrounded by security guards holding back the sea of what we like to call ‘the norms’. Our seats were closer to the stage than most, within two kilometres of the actual performers. Between our table and stage were only a few thousand executives from music labels and, right at the front, a thin veneer of screaming girls they bus in for the cameras. They’ve been specially trained to look both gormless and promiscuous but they’ve all been neutered and have a special anti-rock star coating. Try to mate with one of them and your averaged guitarist would slide right off leaving only a tattooed trail behind.
After the g-string incident, Judy was in a petulant mood as she sat down. She immediate called for champagne as I made my way around to greet a few of the other guests and to occasionally pose with my cape unfurled. On my way back from shaking hands with Chris Tarrant, Billy Piper, Rick Stein, and others in the A list, I spotted a face I recognised from the newspapers.
‘Like my cape, Russell?’ I asked, turning to give Brand a look at Judy’s sequin work.
‘Ow,’ he wailed, brushing a few strands of stray noodle from his heavily made up face. ‘Richard! It irradiates my left ventricular to see you amongst us, so it does, it does! Pritthee? Where be the fair Jude, she of the magnificently loquacious bonnet?’
‘Pardon?’ I asked.
He smiled and looked at the nubile blondes sitting along his lap. ‘The man does not speaketh the Queen English,’ he said to them. Some giggled, a few roared. I wondered how so many free spirits could balance on one man’s knee.
‘Look,’ I said, ‘I only came over to say hello.’
‘Ah, the monkey talks!’ cried Russell. ‘Well, indeed, indeed... Perambulate yonderwards and beseech me no more with thy inscrutable requests. I am only here for the grape and will soon to be whisked by helichopper to Plymouth where I have acolytes to entertain and maidens to woo with my ribald speech, vulgar jokes, and my tongue of a thousand sinuous ways.’
‘Bugger this,’ I mumbled as I headed back to Judy. Her mood had improved on discovering Cilla Black at the next table. The two of them were entertaining each other by lobbing cheese nibbles at Samantha Fox, sitting two rows back.
The rest of the evening passed how Brit awards usually pass: in an alcoholic haze, full of regret and wonder. There was much bowing and tugging of forelocks as Russell Brand departed for his Plymouth gig. He left us to drink ourselves into oblivion and enjoy a feeble night’s entertainment. The presenters were no funnier at a range of two kilometres than a live hand grenade going off at two feet; the performances ranged from the excellent ‘Kings of Leon’ to the truly awful spectacle of ‘Take That’ being lowered into the audience on a large heavy testicle, adorned with Christmas lights, as they mimed to some godawful electronically manipulated pap. The Ting Tings brought some much needed attitude to the proceedings and did well despite Estelle’s widely out-of-tune wailing. Not once did the cameras swing our way and, this morning, I see that my cape has been ignored by the media who are concentrating their adoration on Duffy. The people I had hoped to see win left with nothing. Neil Diamond’s best album in years was ignored in favour of Kanye West, who, frankly, sounds more like a district of Florida levelled by a hurricane. Seasick Steve was another big loser, having produced one of the most heartfelt albums revealing a true and significant talent. But isn’t that the way with true and significant talent?
I got home and hung up my cape, realising that sometimes talent doesn’t count for very much in these days dominated by PR and spin. It’s about what sells and if those empty headed teenagers on the front row want baubles to distract them, real music artistry will always struggle to get noticed. The award to ‘Elbow’ aside, the evening was a tribute to the passing whims of an indifferent generation; a narcissist’s dream where vanity, pomposity, and vulgarity ride roughshod over a work ethic, humility and pride. All of which reminded me why I’m in TV and not music journalism. It’s just not suited to men in brown tartan slippers and Elvis Presley capes.
Tuesday, 17 February 2009
I hope you’ll forgive me if today I’m not quite ‘on form’. Last night, my sinuses flared. Left became right, up was down, and the spinning room became my new normality. The only stable thing has been Judy’s patience as she helps nurse me and get my passages flowing again.
I will say, however, that this sudden illness has given me chance to reflect on life and the hours I have to spend in dusty TV studios. I was lying in bed at nine o’clock this morning, a pack of hot oven-ready chips nestled against my aching brow, when it occurred to me that I could avoid these trivial complaints if I made just a few changes to my lifestyle.
‘Judy?’ I said.
She was busy preparing a bicycle pump fitted with twin nostril valves filled with Olbas Oil for immediate nasal relief.
‘Judy? Do you think we should get out of the city?’
‘Hmm,’ she said as she worked her elbow limber, ready for the all important hour of pumping. ‘You know my opinion on that. I’m going off to Cornwall to write erotic novels based around my heroine, the buxom eighteen-century courtesan, Jemima Flirt. You’re going to establish yourself as a star in your own right.’
‘But what do you think about Wales?’ I asked.
‘Well, it occurred to me that we could go to Wales and do something together in the fresh air. You know... Like keep bees. I’ve always wanted to do my bit to save the British bumble bee.’
She lowered the pump from my nose.
‘You want us to move to Wales to keep bumble bees?’
‘I thought it would be a pleasant way to enjoy your retirement. Of course, since I’m only thirty eight, I’ll have to carry on with my career. But I could commute to London each day.’
‘I’d buy a helicopter. And I’d paint it yellow and black to honour the bees.’
She raised the pump. ‘I had my heart set on Cornwall.’
Well, I was no condition to argue. With two valves up my nose, I just lay back and hoped that the aching would ease and I would regain my equilibrium. Sinusitis is a strange condition, almost affecting the mind as much as the body. I’m prone to blockages around the inner ear, which I often attribute to my slightly skewed outlook. When you can’t be sure of a true horizon, the rest of the world takes on a different attitude. In fact, I would attribute most of success in life down to blocked passages and the transcendental quality of my catarrh.
After Judy had finished, I was naturally feeling a little dizzy. She climbed off my chest and began to dismantle the hand pump.
‘The thing about Wales,’ I continued, ‘is that we could establish an independent source of income. Richard&Judy’s Organic Honey would take the market by storm. And it’s not as though it would take up much of your time. You’d have plenty of time to write Jemima Flirt’s latest blockbuster.’
My dear wife sighed. Or I think she did. It could have been some sudden decompression of my right inner ear which had been whistling all morning. ‘Look, Richard,’ she said. ‘If you want to keep bees, you can keep bees in Cornwall.’
I fell silent. How could I tell her about the close encounter I had as a child with the rare Cornish killer bee? I could never keep bees in Cornwall. I could never trust them.
‘Well,’ I said, ‘it was just an idea... But what do you think about goats?’
‘Richard&Judy’s Organic Goat’s Cheese. It wouldn’t take you long to milk them in the morning. And then you could get back to Jemima Flirt. I’m should imagine, Jude, that handing goat udders all morning would put you in the mood for writing erotic fiction. I know it would work for me...’
‘Come on,’ said Judy, now just a little disgusted as she fitted the twelve inch attachment to the foot pump she’d brought in from the shed. ‘Let’s cut out this nonsense. Roll over so I can finish cleaning your tubes.’
Which, as a totally devoted husband, I did. Though, I confess, it did very little to ease the congestion in my head. The world is still spinning.
Monday, 16 February 2009
It has always been my wife’s biggest fear that success of any kind would go to my head. This explains the look of disgust that Judy gave me as she closed the newspaper and looked up at all the mashed potato balanced above my immaculate and crease-free brow.
‘Don’t you think it’s a bit much?’ she asked.
I moved myself a slightly more casual angle, hoping to soften the effect of the potato which I’d sculpted into the shape of a hat with the words ‘top blogger’ inscribed in peas. Only Judy wasn’t quite seeing the point of my new mash sombrero.
‘You have an ego bigger than Herefordshire,’ she said, heading over to the fridge where she recovered a bottle of plonk. ‘I’d have thought you’d have been satisfied with being one of the sexiest men on TV, a veritable living god among presenters, without taking this kind of praise to heart.’
‘Ah,’ I said, wiping aside some errant punctuation that had slid to my eyebrow, ‘this is success independent of my work with you, Jude. I might have become a publishing sensation with my book, “Fathers & Sons”, but that’s now so heavily discounted that they’re giving them away with every bottle of Ambre Solaire. But this is my blog. This is my life’s work! This is my attempt to prove to the world that Richard Algernon Madeley is a cut above the normal TV fare. This is a demonstration that my talent is more than skin deep and that those of us lucky enough to call ourselves “celebrity” are really something quite special.’
Judy wiped the neck of the bottle before she sank a mouthful.
‘So you’re still plan to go ahead with your little exhibition?’ she asked but the look had softened in her eyes. I knew it was the closest she would come to giving me her blessing.
It was enough for me. I stood up and grabbed the walking cane that Stephen Fry had presented to me on my thirty seventh birthday last year and I walked to the door where I gave my evening suit a final brush down, my tails a flick, before I headed out.
‘Have fun!’ said Judy, mildly scolding but proud, nevertheless.
For a Monday morning, the road in this undisclosed part of North London was surprisingly busy. I’d forgotten that it’s the school holidays so, when I began to walk up the street, a line of children were soon trailing behind me. Some were only there to pick up the odd pea. Others clearly had high hopes of getting a taste of some Smash. But a few cheered me along, applauding me as I strolled with my head held high.
‘Ah!’ said Michael Palin as I found him unloading exotic foodstuffs from his car. ‘Lovely day, isn’t it Dick?’
I pointed to my hat, careful not to tip it.
‘The Sunday Times? Jolly well done!’
I smiled as I passed along.
I had almost walked past Jeremy Paxman’s house before I noticed him. He was up a ladder and cleaning out his gutters.
‘See my show last night?’ he cried. ‘I explored Victorian sewers.’
I couldn’t look up. ‘Very good,’ I replied and then pointed to my hat.
Jeremy’s getting on a bit and his eyesight isn’t what it was. ‘Oh,’ he snarled. ‘Top dogger! Well I suppose congratulations are in order.’
I hadn’t time to waste explaining. My mash was beginning to run and I had only a few minutes to achieve my intended goal.
At the Dickinson residence, I could tell that people were home by the glow of a slightly irradiated light coming from the upper bedroom window.
‘Oy! Dickinson!’ I cried.
There was a movement of curtains and then the naked torso of TV’s top antique appeared, black goggles sitting in the recessed pits of his eyes.
‘Get a load of this, Duck,’ I cried.
‘Pah! Bloody hell, Madeley,’ replied David ‘The Duck’ Dickinson. ‘You’ve got nothing better do with your bloody time?’
I pointed to the peas.
Even in his tanning goggles, David’s eyesight is still as sharp as it was when he was a seventy year old. He nodded. ‘That bloody sums you up, Madeley,’ he said. ‘A “loo logger”.’ And with that, he shut the window.
I was crestfallen. I gazed at my reflection in the windscreen of Dickinson’s bright orange Bentley and I could see that I was far too late. Peas had slipped and the effect of my mash coronet was ruined. ‘Top blogger’ had become ‘loo logger’ and was already on its way to ‘lo goer’. Judy was right. Pride does come before a fall. Humiliation is but a slipped pea away.
Sunday, 1 February 2009
It was last Sunday evening and in the heat of a passionate trombone recital, Judy was splendidly radiant. Her cheeks were twin meltdowns, hot spots of densely packed atoms beyond which many atmospheres of pressure were being forced through the mouthpiece to produce the most wonderful brass version of Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’.
Brrrrp... brrrp... brrr... brrr... brrrrp... brrrrp... went that familiar melody but, for me, a man in the middle of his winter blues, it was more than an enticing charm; it was a promise of spring mornings and dry days when I’ll be able to go jogging around the neighbourhood in my Lycra shorts and no court orders keeping me two hundred metres from David Dickinson’s solarium. Others clearly felt the same way. I looked around the church hall and saw many of our friends and neighbours spellbound by this great rarity: Judy playing her trombone for a paying public. I was captivated by the music and my wife’s talents, and I suppose it was a pang of pride that made me tear up at the end and miss the arrival of the lumbering giant at my side.
‘That was ****ing awesome,’ said Vinne Jones who had made a surprise appearance at the event and an even more unexpected appearance inches from my face.
‘Well, thank you,’ I said.
‘Not heard a ****ing noise like that since I ****ing stuck my ****ing studs into Robbie Fowler’s j*****w.’
‘Right,’ I replied, looking around for somebody large to hide behind. I don’t know about you but I tend to feel uncomfortable hearing that word used in polite company.
‘Listen,’ said Vinne, ‘you ever need somebody to stuck his ****ing studs into somebody’s j*****w, you just give me a call, yea?’ And with that he slid his business card into my upper breast pocket.
‘I’ll do just that,’ I promised.
‘Chipper!’ said Vinnie and slapped me playfully across the jaw.
I was still trying to work a detached retina back into place when Judy came down from the stage. Her lips were slightly puffed and numb from an hour of strenuous blowing.
‘Shoo wash thasht,’ she said.
‘Vinnie Jones,’ I whispered. ‘He was offering to stand on the j*****w of any man who incurs our displeasure.’
Judy blushed at the word, which I don’t think I have ever before uttered in the presence of my wife.
‘Wash a lovelsh geshshshure,’ she replied, though clearly a little disturbed by what she had heard.
‘That’s the beauty of being a celebrity,’ I said, trying to lighten the mood. ‘Good people are always willing to go out of their way to please us with kind offers.’
I thought no more about this kind offer until Wednesday, a momentous day in the Madeley home. It was the day that I was to have my new spa delivered.
As you all probably know, I’ve always been a man who takes his ‘wellness’ seriously. The spa was a newer luxury model with extra spouts installed across the base to provide a more vigorous flow of water across the user’s posterior quarter. The makers say that the force of water alone can keep an eighteen stone man buoyant and I was eager to test their claims in a pair of specially adapted swimming trunks which I’d rigged to carry extra ballast in a reinforced gusset.
After a couple of hours, the installation engineers came out of my shed (I call it a shed but it’s really a large complex outside the main house where I spend most of my time) to declare that the installation was complete. I quickly grabbed my shorts and a large bag of lead pellets and headed out to give it a trial run.
‘Don’t soak too long,’ shouted Judy from the kitchen. ‘You know how your j*****w turn in cold water...’
Since she’d heard me say that word, she had grown an unfortunate habit of using it. I suppose I should have said something about it but I was too excited to answer. Instead, I ran for my first look at my new spa.
Five minutes later, I was sitting in the large tub (big enough for eight healthy men, if you’re into that sort of thing – and I’m not), waist high in nicely warmed water and with a gentle stream of bubbles ticking the inside of my thighs. It was but the beginning. I had the remote control in my hand and I slowly moved the dial from ‘1’ up to ‘2’ and then beyond.
Soon the water was rushing past at a vigorous ‘6’ and I could feel that I was about to lift off. With great anticipation, I moved the dial to ‘7’ and...
‘7’ felt exactly the same as ‘6’. I turned it to ‘8’ and then ‘9’ and still nothing, no noticeable increase in the water’s force and no sign that my buttocks were about to lift off from the bottom of the spa.
Two minutes later, I was on the phone to the installation engineers.
‘Oh, we’re aware of your flow problem,’ they said. ‘In fact, we’re looking into it at this very moment.’
‘Then why didn’t you mention it earlier, before I stripped off?’ I asked.
‘Well, we didn’t want to disappoint you,’ they said.
‘Disappoint me? I’ve bought a top of the line spa and I expect top of the line performance. I don’t want to be left to discover that my water disappoints me at a mildly vigorous “6”. At the very least, I want my every cavity cleansed by a forceful “10”.’
‘We’ll look into it,’ they promised.
An hour later, I was in my dressing gown and sitting in the kitchen when the phone rang.
‘Bad news, Mr. M.,’ they said. ‘It’s an issue of water pressure. Normally, a house such as yours in a well supplied area will have enough pressure to run a spa at its optimum setting. However, in this case, you have a slight problem. It seems that one of your neighbours is using too much water. The pressure of the local water main has dropped by the time it reaches your house.’
‘And do you know who is doing this?’ I asked.
‘We’re looking into it at the moment,’ they said. ‘We’ll ring back when we have news.’
Another hour passes, by which time my j*****w are dry and I’m back into my civilian clothes, sitting in the living room where I’m giving my Scrabble pieces a polish before the big weekend match with Stephen Fry and Sir Clive James.
‘Richard?’ said the ever-more casual engineer. ‘We’ve isolated the problem. The water flow is being disrupted at number 43.’
’43?’ My mind did a quick run down the street until it came to a familiar driveway. ‘David Dickinson!’ I spat.
‘That’s the chap. He’s the funny thing. He’s running an Aqualine 2400 whirlpool and spa with a colonic nozzle.’
‘That doesn’t sound too bad,’ I said. ‘That’s at least half as powerful as my new hot tub.’
‘Ah,’ they replied. ‘That wouldn’t be a problem except he’s also got forty-two computer controlled ornamental Greek nymphs urinating around the side of his pool in carefully choreographed patterns. It’s quite the impressive sight but I’m surprised you get even a sniff of water when their bladders are on full power.’
I knew there was no point in asking David to control his forty two bladders. Since me and Michael Palin scorched David’s crotch, my relationship with David has been somewhat strained. It meant that I’d wasted money on a spa rendered incapable because a neighbour with a passion for kitsch. Which brings me back to the card in the breast pocket of my Sunday suit.
‘Vinnie,’ I said on the telephone yesterday morning. ‘What do you think about ornamental Greek nymphs that urinate around a rich man’s hot tub?’
Vinnie growled. ‘Makes me want to stick my f*****g boots into some rich guy’s j*****ws,’ he said.
And like the delicate notes of Judy trombone, that was music to my ears.