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.'
'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: ************** <*******@**********.co.uk>
Subject: Your bloody Twittering
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.'
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.