Saturday, 23 May 2009

A Day On The River

The farcical nature of the lurid headlines that accompany any development in the Richard & Judy saga are perhaps more apparent to me than anybody else. Judy is far too engrossed in the affairs at her Snooker and Billiard Club for any of the headlines to really affect her, whereas I’m a man with his eyes fixed on the here and now, measuring the temperature of the cultural waters with my smooth and (some might say) debonair elbows.

‘How did they hear about our taking part in Strictly Come Dancing?’ I asked, as I drew Judy’s eye to the newspaper headlines from earlier last week. Her back was creaking with the strain of rowing us up the long stretch of river towards the start line of the pro-celebrity boat race they hold in our undisclosed part of rural North London each year. We were a little late on account of my forgetting to pack my parasol and Judy was rowing furiously to get us there on time.

Judy puffed out her cheeks as the boat rolled into a stretch of turbulent current. ‘I guess... they found out... because... you’ve been flapping... your yap... on Twitter again,’ she gasped.

‘I’m quite discreet whenever I tweet,’ I said in my defence as I stretched out with a loud yarn that ended with my hand dipping lazily into the water. ‘In fact, if it weren't such hard work, I would have brought my laptop with me now. I’d quite like to tweet about the pleasures of boating.’

One of Judy’s oars got snagged in a bit of weed and she cursed as she dragged it in. A fisherman’s line had got wrapped around the coxswiddle (forgive me if I don’t know the exact technical terms), binding the weeds to the oar along with a newly dead swan. I turned away as Judy set about cutting them away with her teeth.

‘Yes,’ I mused, ‘the pleasures of boating...’

Once we were back under way and Judy was into her 72 strokes per minute rhythm, she returned to the topic of our previous discussion. ‘You might think you’re discreet, Richard,’ she replied, spitting out a swan feather and a fragment of beak, ‘but you’ve already let slip about your nocturnal wanderings.’

‘I’m cursed with an unrealistically small bladder,’ I explained, lifting my hand from the water as I realised that it was likely to set me off. ‘It's not my fault I have to visit the bathroom five times a night.’

‘Well,’ sniffed Jude, ‘I suppose you can’t defy physics. A man either has svelte hips or a generous capacity for liquid retention.’

That, I couldn’t deny. The Madeleys have always been of a slender cast; our hips 24% narrower than the girth of the average ‘A’ list celebrity (discounting, of course, Phil Jupitus and Johnny Vegas). It accounts for my natural abilities to move easily around on a sofa. Many have been the times that people have asked me how I move from one position to another within the fraction of a second it takes a camera to change angle. I put it down to my whip-like hips. I can go from open-thighed casual banter to knee-tight penetrative questioning in the blink of an eye. Next time you meet me, ask me to show you my ‘hip crack’. There are not many people who are able to break the sound barrier with their pelvis. As far as I know, it’s just me, Tom Jones, and Katie Price, although I have been told that her hips are now mostly made from rubber so it doesn’t count if it came to World Records.

‘I should really get Dennis to put out a press release denying this,’ I said, picking up the newspaper again. ‘I know you’re eager for this Strictly Come Dancing gig, Jude, but I worry that it wouldn’t sit well with my new younger audience. I don’t want to alienate my Twitter followers by being seen doing the cha-cha-cha with Bruce Forsyth. No offence, Jude, but what would my followers think of their favourite Uncle Dick if he portrayed himself as part of “the older generation”? Oh no. I can’t just think about us now, Jude. I have to think about the likes of @lurethesea and @Boltonwanderer who are begging for me to teach them the banjo. And then there’s @LaChatNoir and @alangoodenough, good people and talented in their own special ways. There’s my good friend @trevward who is currently learning judo so he can become by bodyguard. And what about @Drolgerg? It’s a public service to keep a man like that off the streets. @midfieldgeneral too, with his unwholesome interest in “On the Buses”, or @rebeccaholder who is just finishing drawing my adventures in comic strip form. And that’s not even mentioning @red1hols (and his blog), @Rasberrysmile, @zebedeejane, @BigDaws, @weenick, @stormyjoolz, @PAFoster, @Jellybabycakes, @over40something (who also has a blog), @Cigleris, @2legs, @ladyliz, @MandyPandy32 (whose cause, Jude, I keep saying deserves promoting), @oleuanna, @Footbacon in Sheffield, @HomoAsbo (he scares me, Jude, he scares me), @RealMissyBlues, @Tori_Da (with her unfortunale Harry Potter obsession), @TrippyPip, @fuzzilu, @welshracer, @martinpickering, @lightnet1, @Catvamp, @maxine_c, @diskgrinder, @lauramcguire83, @kandysays and @debsa. Who is to look after them? Especially @debsa...’

By the time I’d finished with this quite spontaneous roll call from off the top of my head, we were about two miles further up the river and Judy had apparently forgotten that I’d asked her a question. We turned a final bend in the river and the start line came into view. The other boats were already ready and the race officials were soon waving us to get into line.

‘Better bend your back, love,’ I said. ‘Don’t want to annoy Trevor MacDonald. Not after he disqualified us last year after my urine tested positive for ambrosia.’

As Judy moved us into the outside line, a shout went up from a familiar and not-too-welcome source.

‘You took your bloody time,’ shouted David Dickinson from his canoe. He was already down to his vest and his muscles glistened in the morning sun like hand crafted walnut knobs on a Queen Anne commode.

‘Ah, belt up Dickinson,’ I cried, swatting in his direction with my rolled up parasol. ‘You should just get ready to suck at our wake.’

‘You cheeky bloody bugger,’ he cried back but I dismissed him with a two fingered wave.

‘Come on,’ I muttered to Jude, ‘let’s give him a run for his money.’

Were I a latter day Patrick O'Brian, I would describe how I, as both master and commander of my vessel, had tightened the rigging, lay aside my cucumber sandwich and given Judy a speech worthy of Trafalgar. I would describe how her sinews tightened like rope, taught in the stiffening nor-easterly, as, from the embankment, the cry went up and Ronnie Corbett’s voice echoed across the lake.

‘Ah, ha! Now then... Well! Ha! As the bishop said to the nudist... Oh my goodness! Go!’

Judy’s arms worked those oars like she was back skinning otters on our holiday in the Faeroe Isles. She has an upper body strength that belies her size and femininity. Many times we’ve had big name Hollywood actors on the show and, in the green room later, I’ve suggested they try arm wrestling with Judy. They look at me as though I’m mad but it’s only when Jude has rolled up a sleeve that they’ve realised I was serious. She beat Sylvester Stallone four times about five when we were back on ITV and he was in his Rambo prime.

Say what you like about Dickinson, he’s got some stamina. He stayed with us up to the mile mark but then caught some of our wash and lost ground rapidly.

‘You hear me Madeley? The next time you won’t be so bloody lucky!’

‘Well next time, perhaps you shouldn’t use a mahogany canoe!’

Judy liked that. Or I think she did. It was hard to tell the woman’s emotions when she’s as red as a beetroot and sweating like Lee Evan’s in a microwave.

As we crossed the finishing line, she fell back and I cracked open a bottle of champagne I’d brought with me to celebrate our -- or, I suppose, more correctly, I should say ‘my’ -- victory.

‘Well,’ I said, standing up and waving to the crowd. ‘Today, Richard & Judy have conquered the Thames. Who knows what other victories lie ahead?’

At those words, the right side of the ampersand sat up, her brow beaded with sweat. ‘So, does that mean we’re entering “Strictly Come Dancing”?’

I pulled my lips from the bottle and wiped the fizz from my lips. ‘We’ll see, Jude,’ I said, ‘we’ll see...’

Saturday, 9 May 2009

The Real Story Behind Yesterday's Richard&Judy Announcement

Stretched out on her La-z-Boy recliner about a month ago, my dear wife, Judy, switched off the vibrating headrest for a moment and turned to me with a quizzical look chevroned between her brows.

'You know,' she said, gesturing with her bar of the dark yet milky towards her favourite film playing on our 72 inch plasma widescreen, 'how on earth are we meant to compete with this?'

I looked up over my book and dragged my spectacles to the end of my slender and twin nostrilled Julius Caesar.

'Compete?' I asked, following the aim of her Whispa bar to the sight of Bruce Willis' first and best bloody vest staining the screen red. 'What makes you think we need to compete?'

Judy shrugged. 'Look at the time, Richard. It's on at the same hour as our show would be playing on Watch.'

'So?' I asked softly, never one to take Judy's worries too seriously.

'They work by different rules on satellite TV,' she replied. 'Unless you're going to start wearing vests and shooting terrorists in your bare feet, we're never going to attract a big enough audience on Watch.'

I could see her point. With bloody violence oozing out of Sky Movies pre-watershed, why would anybody choose to sit down and watch Judy and myself interviewing Simon Le Bon about his new apple orchard in Herefordshire?

'You worry too much,' I said, bringing the conversation to premature close. Judy shrugged and pressed the big red button the recliner's arm. The room was quickly filled with the sound of electric motors and chattering teeth, and I went back to my monograph on sub-atomic physics.

I thought no more about Judy's fears until last week when she was out leading her brass band in a spot of light regimental parading around the neighbourhood.

I'd come in after a hard day covering for Sarah Kennedy down at the BBC. I had the house to myself so I naturally slipped off my trousers and fed myself into my favourite dressing gown. Not only did the silk feel good against my skin but the ermine trim tickled my thighs in a manner both pleasant and relaxing.

It was around eight o'clock and I had punched in the code for Sky Movies. Alien3 was just coming on and, being a huge admirer of Sigourney Weaver, I decided to spend the rest of the night in her company. Soon I was sitting with a tub of Ben & Jerry's pistachio ice cream in my lap and was I tutting at the bit where the late dear Brian Glover disappears through the ceiling in the spray of an arterial fountain. That's when the phone rang.

I picked it up, slipped it beneath my chin and carried on scooping the cold stuff.

'Madeley,' I said.

'Dickie!' cried a voice.

A chill ran through me that had nothing to do with either Ben or Jerry wedged between my thighs. It was The Agent.

'I'm a bit busy,' I explained. 'Sigourney's down to just her underwear and a flame thrower.'

'I'm ringing with some bad news,' he said. 'Watch are having second thoughts about your Twittering.'

'My Twittering?'

'They think you're doing too much of it and you're being far too interesting.'

'Pah!' I spat. A pistachio arced across the room and stuck to the end of Charles Dance's proboscis.

'I know,' said The Agent. 'Rather foolish of them but they feel it might look a bit odd if your followers on Twitter got any bigger than the average audience watching you on Watch.'

'I see,' I said. 'So, you want me to quit?'

'Not quit,' said The Agent. 'They just want you to be a little less entertaining. You know… Take a leaf out of Philip Schofield's book. Make lots of meaningless statements like: "oh, that sounds interesting" and "I haven't thought of that but is it purple?"'

'Is it purple?'

'That's the sort of the thing they're after,' he said. 'Listen, I've emailed you a few suggestions. Give it some thought and tell me what you think. But you've got to change your ways Dickie. The people at Watch won't stand for any more of your nonsense.'

Well, after this conversation, my mind couldn't rest. With Sigourney still battling men in latex suits, I dragged my new laptop to my lap and powered it up.

It's Dell XPS Studio 13, which meant that my lap went from about -5% to something in the high scorching. Frankly, I was glad that my thighs didn't shatter like a red-hot alien under a sudden shower of cold water.

Date: Thu, 29 April 2009 21:29:11 +0000

From: ************** <*******@**********>


Message-Id: <4a065b155c354b3f9d41453f@*****>

Subject: Your bloody Twittering

Mime-Version: 1.0

Dear Dick,

When are you going to learn? I've just come off the phone with the people from Watch. They are very displeased with you, Dickie, dear boy. They've been reading your Twitter account and think it's most inappropriate. They want to know why you can't be this entertaining on the show! Can't you at least get a few of your Twitter followers to 'follow' you onto Watch?

So, we've been banging a few ideas around and we think it's best if you stop being so damn interesting on Twitter. It looks bad for the show. Look at how Schofield does it. Can't you Twitter like him? He never once outdoes his show. Remember, Dickie, that banality is the key. That's why we want you to try a few of these @Schofe-like 'tweets'.

'Interesting. I like pudding.'
'I think that's currently unlikely.'
'Chicken? LOL. I'd rather have feathers.'
'I don't. Judy has the bigger thumb.'
'Yes but sometimes no. Other times: maybe.'
'I had one. I fell off and I couldn't glue it back on.'
'Too soon.'

The list went on for page after page of this tedious stuff and, when Judy got home at ten, she found me blubbering in front of the TV, a bucket of melted ice cream at my side and the large shaved head of Ms. Sigourney Weaver looking down on my from the TV.

'When will you learn that she only ever goes as far as her knickers in these films?' Judy mocked as she dropped her trombone case by the door.

'It's not that,' I said and explained about The Agent's phone call and Watch's concern at my Twittering.

Judy's face hardened like she was trying to blow the high C at the end of 'The Thunderbird's March'.

'Well, that's it,' she said, coming to put a consoling arm around my shoulder. 'If it's a choice between your Twittering and our show on an obscure satellite channel, I choose your Twittering.'

I wiped away a tear or possibly even two.

'Really?' I gasped. To say I was shocked would be an understatement. Judy has often expressed how she frowns upon my involvement with social networking, comparing it with the time I took an interest in amateur operatics in order to wear lederhosen.

'Richard. You have to do what your heart tells you. If you really want to waste your time and talent making glib comments to thousands of strangers, then that's what you should do. I will not stand in your way.'

'Jude,' I said, pulling her towards me. 'You've made the happiest man in the mid-five thousand followers.'

And that's why, yesterday, we made the announcement that the show will be ending on Watch. To be honest, it's something of a relief. I won't have to endure constant questions about viewing figures and I will have time to explore new avenues. Watch will miss us more than we will miss Watch and our future is now an open book of our own writing. In Judy's case, it's an erotic novel based around her heroine, the buxom eighteen-century courtesan, Jemima Flirt.

I, on the other hand, will continue to Twitter, continue to update this occasional blog, and continue to explore the vastness of this island Earth, cloaked in the moonlight of opportunity, the heat of circumstance, and the twilight of accomplishment.

Or, as I put it so eloquently in my official statement, 'We will be doing stuff together and stuff apart'. And I hope you will continue to be with me as I do that stuff.

God bless you. God bless Richard & Judy. And God bless all who sail in us.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

All Aboard!

I know that, for many of you, it’s hard not to envy me. After all, I’m a man whose glands have been probed by medical science for an answer to that age old riddle: why some of us have hugely successful careers in the media while others are mere Keith Chegwins bobbing along the evolutionary stream that heads towards the tar pit of late night Channel 5. However, as my increasing reluctance to update my blog demonstrates, I’m also a man who has to occasionally keep his glands close to his chest.

Ever since I finished my last book (yet to find a publisher but still destined to be 'the next big thing') I have hesitantly toyed with various ideas. How should the world see Uncle Dick Madeley next? In what guise would he appear unto you? As a novelist? Faith-healer? President? Saviour? In the end, I settled for all four.

My next project will be the biggest yet, involving a few hundred tons of iron and a tight construction schedule in a Belfast dockyard. The Richard & Judy Marine Fleet is my own brainchild. I intend it to help solve many of the world’s problems. Not only will we provide an armed presence off the coast of Somalia, we will help create new trade routes thereby stimulating the world in the depths of recession. What’s more, our floating palaces will become havens for anybody wanting to escape swine flu.

Heading the fleet with be the 150,000 tonne ‘Dicktanic’, in which we hope to carry thousands of our loyal viewers on a six month cruise around the waters of light chat and topical frivolity, with only the occasional tear along the way. I’ll be your captain and my first mate is called Judy, in charge of life rafts, catering, heavy machinery, and the brig.

There are some suggestions that I’m mad. ‘What do you know about cruise liners?’ I’ve heard people say. I reply that I think it’s important for ‘talent’ to take the middle-men out of the business of communicating with an audience. As publishers stand in the way of writers, TV executives stand in the way of talent such as Judy and myself, who should always be in touch with our natural audience. Why take any mountain to an unnamed religious deity when you can bring unnamed religious deities to the mountain? Only, in this case, the unnamed religious deity’s is named Dick and smells faintly of peppermint. You, by the way, are the mountain.

So, that’s where I’ve been. That’s what I’ve been up to. And that’s what I’ll be doing in the near future when I hope to see you all sailing on the Dicktanic. Don’t forget that the evening cabaret starts at eight and we have acts that are only legal in international waters.