Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Taboo Sucks, To You...

I see that Chip Dale is back and has blogged for two days straight! Why did nobody tell me? And how long will those pineapple-scented thighs keep up in the current blogging climate?

Things have changed since he last graced us with his innocent optimism and questionable quips. Of course, it would be churlish to remind people of the poorly written posts that characterised much of his blog output, so, instead, I simply welcome him back like a long-lost relative from the side of the family that nobody cares to talk about because they live on Merseyside and drive taxi cabs for a living.

Despite my initial wariness of Chip – I’m still not convinced that it’s healthy to be so obsessed with thongs – I have been slowly developing a soft spot for the man who has overcome so many obvious physical difficulties to succeed in the emotionally demanding world of male stripping. Admittedly, I have a similar attitude towards Gordon Brown and politics, though there’s also a nail gun fetish somewhere in that mix. Chip, however, just brings out the best in me and I’m glad to have him around so long as we’re separated by a few hundred miles.

It’s one of the drawbacks of being famous that people often stop me in the street and demand to know what I think about stripping as a career. ‘I lack the flexibility,’ I reply, though in truth, I encourage all men to take off their clothes for money unless they suffer some obvious physical defect such as good looks or a perfect body. It’s why I could never make a career as ‘Big Dick Madeley’. The Great Sculptor damned me by using clay free of blemishes. There’s not a wart on my body; just shapely legs, firm buttocks, and a thin waste angling nicely into armpits to die for. And as Chip proves, to be a male stripper, you have to put all your obvious flaws on show. It’s what makes for a rowdy evening and Judy return home at four thirty in the morning threatening me with a thong slingshot.

The world of female strippers is, of course, something quite different. It’s all about darkened booths heavy with a sordid musk and fetid bodily odours reminiscent of Clapham Common on New Year’s Eve. By contrast, is there anything funnier than seeing a man strip for a living? I remember thinking it strange when there was an outcry about the stripping postmen on our final Channel 4 show. People complained that it was wrong if me to enjoy Judy’s obvious embarrassment and that she could laugh at another person’s anatomy.

In these days of ‘right thinking’, we’re not meant to express an opinion about (or find humour in) anything out of the ordinary – though as the great S.J. Perelman once said, ‘humour, in its simplest form, is the unexpected [...] the sudden disruption of thought, the conjoining of unlikely elements’. It’s why we can laugh at a funeral, in the middle of a battle, or during Bruce Forsyth’s act. Stripping provides instantaneous access (or exposure) to the unexpected and though Chip would probably disagree: his success probably has more to do with embarrassed laughter than it has anything to do with his sex appeal.

After all, some of the oldest jokes in our culture are directed to people with large noses or enormous bottoms. What is the Venus of Willendorf if it isn’t a series of Benny Hill reduced to fit your hand? Unlike our primitive ancestors, we’ve simply moved on to laugh at oddly placed tattoos and tricks involving novelty sailor hats.

I suppose all forms of stripping appeal to the prurient part of our nature, where the infantile taboos lurk. Yet men like Chip seems particularly good at demonstrating that taboo and humour are reverse sides of the same screwed-up coin. Just ask the greatest stand-up of all time, Sigmund Freud, who often shocked audiences with his jokes about Dora, a plate of spinach and the baboon called Ferdinand. Comedy trails after taboo and skirts around the acceptable.

Political correctness may currently define what is acceptable but its strictures will never abide. I have lost track of the number of times I’ve been told off for using the word ‘midget’ recently but my mind naturally reaches for it when looking for a shorthand way of expressing the unexpected. Midget. Earlobe. Lubricated. Onion. Stripper. Owl. I know that three of these words might offend people below four feet but I have never heard either Ant or Dec complain. And is there anything funnier than a midget stripper? A lubricated onion? A heavily earlobed Owl? Unless, of course, you’re the producers at Channel 4 who wouldn’t allow the talent to book the acts for the final show of a successful series.

So, welcome back Chip. It’s just a shame you’re so tall and not an owl.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

My 50 Cents On Plinths

There are some constants in the world, such as knowing that knee surgery involving a lumber saw is preferable to any film with 50 Cent in a supporting role. Another constant is that all roads lead to this undisclosed borough of North London where those in power eventually come, seeking advice about capital punishment, road safety, public decency, air combat, and the moral conduct of Welsh hill farmers.
Last night, I was sat watching ‘Righteous Kill’, the latest Pacino/De Niro hamfest, with Judy beside me on the sofa doing her Scarface impressions, as she tends to do when watching her favourite actor chew dialogue like a Chihuahua savaging a postman’s all-weather heel. I’ve heard the lines a thousand times before and soon found my mind wandering. It wasn’t long before my slippers did the same, leading me to my den where I found an email waiting to distract me from Judy telling De Niro to ‘say hello to my little friend!’.

The message read:

Dear Richard,

Just read with interest your latest in the Daily Express. I’m currently canvassing opinion about the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square and wondered if you would care to contribute to the consultation process?

Yours, affectionately,


Normally I don’t acknowledge emails from people who read the ‘World’s Greatest Newspaper’ (I’m contractually obliged to call it that). I don’t want fans to read this blog expecting the same level of highbrow analysis, polished prose, and cutting rhetoric as they find over there in the Richard&Judy column, which is actually written by a friend of the family with a sociology degree and time on her hands.

However, I digress...

For Boris , I was happy to make an exception and to write a reply. Since he’s become London’s Mayor, he’s done a fantastic job. I haven’t met a single newt on London’s buses, nor have I been forced to apologise for my great great great grandfather once buying a pot of Robinson’s marmalade and being slightly amused by the label.

And if Boris wanted to sort out the problem of the Fourth Plinth then I was only too happy to lend a hand. It’s a project that clearly needs a new direction and who better to give it that direction than a man who’s not going to skim a few hundred thousand off the National Lottery for coming up with some dumb idea. You get my dumb ideas for nothing and at no cost to you Lotto addicts.

The way I see it: sculpture is in crisis. Chosen by committee and pandering to the excesses of the current liberal hegemony, public art makes no real statement about anything at all. I want to reinvigorate Trafalgar Square with a statue that will say something definite about Britain. I have therefore made a shortlist of subjects for your consideration. I’m pretty confident that you will see that any one of them would warrant a permanent place on the plinth.

Mr. Bronson

I was wasting valuable minutes on Twitter the other night when I received a message from Grange Hill’s Roland. He’s now called Erkan Mustafa but was once the boy who made it fashionable to eat crisps whilst wearing ill fitting blazers during the 1980s. The message brought many happy memories back to me of Trisha Yates, Mrs. McClusky, Zammo and his smack habit. But it occurred to me that there would be no finer candidate for the Fourth Plinth than Mr. Bronson. He had what the nation now lacks: the steely eye looking down on us and ready to crack us behind the ear with a history of the Punic Wars whenever we’re not paying attention in class. Mr. Bronson was the teacher we all feared yet the man who could have saved the country from steering from the straight and narrow. If only we’d appreciated him when he was around, he might not have gone off to found the Third Reich and watch as Indiana Jones skirted around a book burning to reclaim the Grail Diary from Doctor Elsa Schneider.

Sir Jimmy Savile

We’ve had disabilities represented in public art and we’ve had heroes. So isn’t it about time for the nation’s slightly strange bachelors who leave you with an uneasy feeling? Visit any town centre on a Tuesday morning and you’ll see them emerging from the greengrocers with a selection of strangely shaped vegetables in their Lakeland eco-friendly carrier bags. What better way is there of using the plinth than with a statue of Jimmy Savile waving a courgette?

Victoria Pendleton

In my mind, nothing demands a wasteful use of the public’s purse than a statue of an attractive woman wearing Lycra and riding a bicycle.

Roger de Coursey

People remember Nookie Bear but what about the man behind the voice? Is there a single statue in the country that represents our proud tradition of ventriloquists? And what’s novel about this idea is that the statue would have technology allowing it to throw its voice. Imagine Nelson making crude remarks about his column and I think you see the genius behind the idea.

Uncle Dick

I submit my own name, not out of any great belief in my genius (I’m far to humble to mention it more than twice in an essay) but because I believe my genius can make a difference. I would represent the 19 million people in this country who choose not to wear underwear. In addition, my genius speaks to the young and disenfranchised. To young gangstas, I am ’50 Pence’, the rebel who wear denims in semi-formal settings or a casual scarf worn indoors at the height of summer.

Judy Finnigan

Who would represent the approximately 7 million people in this country married to people who choose not to wear underwear. A fine bronze of Judy playing her trombone would be the perfect roost for pigeons.

Jamie Oliver

Unlike the previous proposals, I’m not suggesting we recreate Jamie in bronze. I actually want the real Jamie Oliver up on the plinth, preferably via some ladder or skylift which can be retracted once he’s in place. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I’m taken with the idea. Let’s go with this one and damn the expense. It will be like a David Blaine stunt only without any chance of him whimping out after forty days without food and water. If Damien Hurst had come up with this idea but using the head of a sheep, you’d call him a genius. I expect nothing less.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

On Poetry and Vacuum Pumps

I woke up bright and bushy this morning, played a game of wardrobe lottery and emerged a winner in a pair of brown corduroy slacks, a shirt with Gladstone collar and generous tie, all topped off with my favourite black beret. A quick look in the mirror and two snaps of my fingers later, I sloped off down the stairs, turned right at the weights room, went down the corridor past the swimming pool, arboretum, and tanning salon, and made a sharp left into the kitchen.

‘Morning Jude,’ I said to Mrs. M as I slid to a halt in front of the fridge.

Judy was sitting at the Formica work surface, her old vacuum cleaner dismantled before her and a vacuum pump held to her lips. When she replied, she made a sound not unlike a Clanger addicted to morphine.

‘I know what you’re saying,’ I said as I cracked open the Zanussi, ‘but Fate has ordained that I’m wearing a beret today.’

She gave another toot at the pump’s inlet valve.

‘You could say that but let’s see what the day has in store.’

Toot, toot!

‘Nonsense!’ I replied. ‘It’s not certain that Jeremy Kyle would ever say that, even if he did breed budgerigars...’

No matter how much you try to keep the small talk going with a person speaking through a dismantled dust manifold, there is only so much of it you can take. This is especially true of a woman whose lungs have been hardened by years of trombone practice. Some of the sounds Judy made were like a duck armed with a megaphone. It wasn’t long before I realised that eating breakfast in the kitchen was not for me or my beret.

Seeking a little P and Q in the garden, I took my toast, orange juice, and my copy of ‘The Guardian’ to the shade of Judy’s new trampoline. There, to the distant sounds of nozzle flushing, I ate my breakfast, read the paper, and tried to discover what the day had in store.

It didn’t take long to figure out why Providence had ordained that I should be wearing my beret on a Saturday. Once I was done with the Swine Flu update and cheering Jeremy Clarkson’s attack on Gordon Brown, I paged through to the arts section and discover a selection of poems about Iraq commissioned by Carol Ann Duffy. But don’t you worry, kind reader! I’ll mercifully quote only one stanza from ‘Big Ask’, the only poem in the selection written by our new poet laureate:

Guantanamo Bay - how many detained?
How many grains in a sack?
Extraordinary Rendition - give me some names.
How many cards in a pack?
Sexing the Dossier - name of the game?
Poker. Gin Rummy. Blackjack.

Now, as you know, I’m something of a poet myself; or should I say, I’ve been writing under the pseudonym, Gus Scrottee, for some months now. And by the time I’d finished reading Duffy’s latest, I’d stuffed my beret in my mouth to stifle the cries of anguish that would have otherwise ruined the quiet of the morning in our undisclosed part of North London.

I don’t mean to be pedantic or to criticise somebody trying their best but what sort of question is ‘how many grains in a sack’? Would that be grains of corn or grains of rice? And how big is the sack? Bigger than a gentleman’s sack, a swag bag sack, a sack of coal, the sack of Rome in 1527? Even when she has a chance to be clear about a detail, she waddles off, her pockets full of abstraction.

‘How many cards in a pack’? asks Carol Ann. Well, there are normally 52 but are we going to count the jokers? Or are we talking about Tarot cards (there are 78) or a deck of Italian cards which contain 40?

I’m often asked why the old book club hasn’t included any of Ms. Duffy’s work and this is the reason why. You won’t find this vague speculation in David Mitchell’s ‘Cloud Atlas’, even when he’s talking about clouds at a very high altitude. And you certainly don’t find this kind of confused thinking in Kate Mosse’s ‘Labyrinth’, even if it was about David Bowie leading a Fraggle Army.

The rest of the commissioned poems were little better and made me realise how far poets are from ordinary, down-to-earth people such as ourselves and Judy. But why should poetry be something for the privileged classes? Why must it be highbrow and elitist? And why shouldn’t poetry be written by a handsome TV presenter wearing a black beret while sitting beside a trampoline as his wife plays tunes on the nozzle of a vacuum cleaner?

No sooner had I reached this conclusion than I moistened the nib of my pen and sat down to scribble my own poem inspired by recent events. It is my gift to you, this fine Saturday morning, and my gift to the world.

Uncle Dick Madeley’s Meditation On Responses To Tragic Events Across The Globe But More Specifically In Iraq By Contemporary Poets; Inspired by Carol Ann Duffy’s Poem ‘Big Ask’ And Written After Eating A Slice Of Toast Whilst Sitting In The Shade of Judy’s Trampoline

I remember
thinking I should write
a poem about Iraq when
my wife told Englebert
Humperdink that she believed
he had the best horn section
in popular jazz. He
thanked her and I thought
I glimpsed mortality
in the damp spall cast from
his eye; the vague sense
that having the best horn
section in popular jazz
was to be his legacy,
like George W.’s legacy
was not a popular horn
section but the war in Iraq.

Oh Iraq! You have seen
the best and worst of us,
requiring the occasional
random italicising
as if to say this is
more meaningful
than any of the other
evils that the world
has to offer, such as
swine flu, recession,
the new series of
Top Gear on BBC2,
Peter Andre’s next
album or Real Madrid’s
transfer policy in the
summer of 2009.
Such terrors demand that
I randomly insert some
glib violence of mine:
the blood smearing my
hands from when I
butchered an onion.

Although the cut was little
compared to the blood in
Iraq, it was making my
italicised lunch that day
that first convinced
me that I understood
your suffering. From the
heart of NW3, I now see that
no war is exotic and all
wars taste of crimson cheese
and the bloody onion.

Oh! The brutality of America
that I like to attack because
they are not like we English
but powerful and full of evil,
except for ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’,
‘24’, and ‘Prison Break’.
However, quality TV comedy
and drama does not atone for
the B-52s (the aircraft not the
New Wave rock band) and
the evils done by your
helpfully rhyming hand.

And so Judy, the vacuum
bugle blows and
my poem ends
with some trite sense
of resolution, perhaps
written as though I’ve
left my elbow on the
keyboard, which conveys
the sense that I have
suffered because I know
how to strangely enjamb
a line, which is rather like
saying ‘we’ll see you after
the break’ or ‘in next
week’s show...’ before
eventually our season
ends and silently to writing
Daily Express columns we go.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Meet Gus Scrottee

Me in disguise as Gus Scrottee, failed writer, singer, loin tamer, pickle magnate, sawdust tycoon, and backyard ventriloquist.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

The Chronicles of Gus Scrottee

When I told Judy that I’d finished a script for another of my radio comedies, she shrugged her shoulders and carried on plucking her turkey. But before you think she has some plucking fetish, I should add that this was back in December when the feathers were already lying crisp and deep and even.

‘You’re not impressed?’ I asked, standing at the back door and watching my wife’s fingers work deftly around the gizzard.

‘Oh, I suppose I am,’ she said, snorting few feathers towards me. ‘Who are you sending it to? Ken or Mary? Or perhaps Lucy? She owes us a few favours.’

My hand tightened against the door jamb, as my fingers have a want to do when frustrated and in the region of door jambs. ‘Are you suggesting that they’d only produce my work because of my name?’ I asked.

‘Well I think that’s the only way you’ll get one of your scripts broadcast,’ she admitted.

‘That sounds remarkably like a dare,’ I replied.

‘If you want to see it like that,’ she said, grabbing her cleanly plucked bird by its crop and swinging it casually over her shoulder.

That was over six months ago; six long and frustrating months since I pledged to re-launch my career as a writer and broadcaster the hard way. Any man can ring up his friends and ask them to give him work based on years of favours owed. But I’m not any man. I am Gus Scrottee and, today, Gus finished his second project.

In order to work undercover as an unknown writer, I was forced to adopt this pseudonym which, by now, is familiar in production offices across the land. I’ve been writing my own material and submitting it, just like anybody else without a production credit to their name. The first of Gus’ full length scripts went to the BBC, via their Writersroom, where it has languished for nearly four months. We expect their rejection any day, given that only 2% of work submitted catches their eye. The second of Gus Scrottee’s big projects was finished this week, but, instead of sending it to the BBC, he thought he’d try independent radio production companies.

Turns out, finding an independent radio production company willing to read a script is as easy as sucking marbles through a chair leg.

As soon as I knew the script was done, I dragged my copy of the ‘Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook’ from the shelf, thumbed through the section for Independent Radio Producers and began my research. The list of production companies is pretty abbreviated:

Above the Title Productions
All Out Productions
Angel Eye Media Ltd.
Athena Media
Baby Cow Productions Ltd
Big Heart Media
Bona Broadcasting
Campbell Davison Media
Classic Arts Productions Ltd
Crosshands Ltd/ACP Television
CSA Word
Electric Airwaves
Ruth Evans Productions
Festival Productions Ltd
Fiction Factory
First Writes Theatre Co. Ltd.
Heavy Entertainment Ltd
Loftus Productions Ltd
Made in Manchester
Jane Marshall Productions
Pier Productions
Promenade Enterprises
Random Entertainment
SH Radio
Smooth Operations
Square Dog Radio LLP
Lou Stein Associates Ltd
Sweet Talk Productions Ltd
Tintinna Ltd
Torpedo Ltd
UBC Media Group plc
Whistledown Productions Ltd
Wise Buddah Radio

That’s only thirty six independent production companies in the UK making programmes for the radio. Yet this far-from-impressive list is made to look even more humble once I remove all the companies that don’t make radio comedies, which happens to be Gus Scrottee’s speciality.

Above the Title Productions
Angel Eye Media Ltd.
Baby Cow Productions Ltd
Bona Broadcasting
Random Entertainment
Sweet Talk Productions Ltd
UBC Media Group plc

Not too bad? You might think so, except many of these won’t accept unsolicited scripts, or only accept scripts submitted via an agent.

Thankfully, I am Uncle Dick Madeley, world famous author, presenter, and trapeze artiste, who can’t cross a London road without having agents slicing him with laminated business cards. However, for the purposes of this exercise, Gus Scrottee is unrepresented. So, the possible market for Gus’ script comes down to:

Random Entertainment
Sweet Talk Productions Ltd

Except that ‘Random Entertainment’ (the highly prestigious, award-winning company formed by Graeme Garden and Jon Naismith) has only a limited web presence and ‘Sweet Talk Productions Ltd’ has none. In other words: it’s likely that neither company are actively seeking scripts and highly probable that they’ve simply forgotten to mention that they don’t accept unsolicited submissions. Which leaves a hole where there was once a list of thirty six...

The answer to this problem is, of course, to get an agent. And here, unknown writers like Gus Scrotee, have the ‘Writers and Artists’ Yearbook’ to advise them. It helpfully suggests that: ‘the best way to get an agent is to first get an offer of a deal on a project’. What the ‘Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook’ fails to explain is how to help the dog catch its own tail: how to get a project so you can land an agent to help you get a project...

But what we can say is that ‘The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook’ costs £14.99 and at 832 pages, contains more publishers, agents, production companies, newspapers, and broadcasters than you could shake your fists at.

Which is all you can do once you realise that you’re as stuffed as Judy’s turkey last Christmas.

Season’s greetings!

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

The Devil Drives An Easy Bargain

Review: ‘Old Harry’s Game’ (Radio 4)

Although I am something of a fan of the BBC’s radio output, I listen to very little radio. As an audience, I fall between many stools. Radio 1 is as attractive as an intestinal heaving in a Dorset caravan park. Its frenzy of adolescent banality, gastric pops, whistles and groans, makes it unlistenable to anybody who isn’t an office worker, dentist, or Polish decorator. In contrast, Radio 2 lacks edge and, except when I'm on it, steers a path down the middle of the road that I, as a hardened veteran of grunge, rock, and banjo solos, simply finds unacceptable. Radio 3, meanwhile, is obsessed with whatever it does, without any consideration for the outside world. It’s radio equivalent of Dustin Hoffman in ‘Rainman’. For that reason, I often find myself warming to it until I realise that don’t really enjoy classical music, jazz, or Harrison Birtwistle’s latest dustbin lid medley. By contrast, Radio 4 has everything I could want in a radio station, let down by many of things I dislike about the BBC. You know the score. Middle-class, middle-ages dramas that the announcer summarises: ‘Daphne is approaching her fiftieth birthday but nursing her aging mother struck down with Alzheimer’s, when Phillip, her new next door neighbour, invites her around to play chess, opening up a new world of temptation, passion and lightly oiled green salads.’

Then there’s Radio 5 Live, which I only tend to listen to when my testosterone levels are particularly high. Radio 6 I would have more time for if its eclectic mix of alternative music styles didn’t mean that I have to endure jazz, funk, and hip-hop, in order to hear indie, punk, or classic rock. Since Judy is a big fan of funk, I tend to avoid tuning in to Radio 6 in case I set her off. There’s nothing more distracting than driving a car when your passenger is shouting ‘Can I hear you count me off? A one, two three, four... Ha!’

As for BBC Radio 7, it no longer exists to me. After ‘Richard&Judy’ finished on Watch, I thought I’d spend some time working on new projects. To ‘get my eye in’, so to speak, I sent work to their open-call for writers. I sent countless of my top-drawer jokes, one-liners and sketches to ‘NewsJack’, the ‘topical sketch show’. It would have been profitable had I dug a hole in the garden, dumped all my work into it, and then planted a rose bush on top. They didn’t so much as reject my work as ignore it completely.

Given that I listen to very little live radio, I exist about five years behind the popular tastes. I discover my favourite shows somewhat late into their life cycle. My newest discovery is ‘Old Harry’s Game’, which recently ended its seventh season on Radio 4. It’s rare that I find something in life that gives me this amount of pleasure. For the past two months, Andy Hamilton’s voice has been rattling around my head on every train journey I’ve made. I have walked the great cities of this nation with a large inane grin on my face, chuckling in queues, laughing out loud at the most outrageously inopportune moments.

The plot has an arc so simple that it lays claim to genius. Andy Hamilton plays Satan, ruler of the vast underworld populated by the great and the not-so-good. Each episode takes some aspect of our humanity and exposes it to Satan’s ridicule, with Humanity’s position defended by the Professor, an upright man of liberal convictions, kept out of his rightful place in heaven by his atheism. Then there’s Thomas Quentin Crimp, played superbly by Jimmy Mulville. He’s the deceased chairman of a privatised water company and holds the distinction of being the most amoral human in the history of the world.

From this simple premise, the show explores what it is to be human, drawing on many great jokes about Jeffry Archer, Robert Maxwell (currently residing in hell), Rupert Murdock, Jane Austen (also in hell, along with her brass knuckles). Except for the odd barb aimed towards myself and Judy, ‘Old Harry’s Game’ is the most perfectly written radio comedy I’ve had the pleasure of listening to in all of my forty two years above ground. I can’t praise it more highly. If I were to have another child, it would demand that it be called Andy Peter Spike Armando Milligan Hamilton Sellers Iannucci Madeley. That’s how highly I rate the show and I think you will do that same.

Verdict: 5 out of 5 Uncle Dick Grins.

Monday, 20 July 2009

The Clichéd Tattoo

Out buying a book of First Class, this morning, I found myself standing in the queue at my local supermarket and wondering what possesses a young man to have a large two inch ebony disk inserted into his earlobe.

He was standing in front of me in a line of customers that stretched from the one open till, around the display of discounted Jaffa cakes, and into the babycare aisle. I had at least five minutes to inspect the lad who, in addition to the ebony disc, had been riveted through the neck with a stainless-steel stud. His eyebrow was pieced by a similar lump of metalwork, his lower lip dragged south by half a dozen rings. Then there were the tattoos covering his arms in Celtic patterns that disappeared under his shirt and emerged at his neck where they ran up to his ear. There, the Northern European aesthetic met the South American influence of his tribal disc before the whole thing was rounded off with some braiding in his hair that made him resemble a Viking. It was only when I made an admiring comment about his earhoop – ‘that’s quite the thing you’ve got in your ear’ – did he start to tell me about the various piercings hidden from view. The highlight of the tour was his tongue (also studded), which he’d had surgically split so as to form a V. The effect made him look viperfish, should vipers ever visit the Co-op to buy Superbike Monthly. By the time he’d finished, I felt quite old and out of touch, standing there with my book of stamps, packet of kitchen rolls and a bottle of antibacterial handwash.

Only later did my mind turn to how mundane rebellion has become among the youth. If my young friend truly wants to look unique, he needs more imagination. Tattoos are ubiquitous these days; stapling, studding, and piercing sights common to the average high street. it comes to looking different, modern youth all look the same. If Dick Madeley were ever to customise his body, he’d be far more ambitious.

When it comes to transforming my body, I’d make use of the latest OLED technology. Placed beneath my skin, I’d turn my body into a living display. This would allow me the flexibility to respond to my surroundings like a chameleon, only I’d be showing a range of light entertainment programming. The space across my forehead I would use as a basic TV guide; the red button over my right eyebrow indicating my interactive service. The only other changed to my body I would accept would be to my earlobes, one which would serve as a beverage holder and the other as a place to hang the remote control. Naturally, such alterations would require a minimum of clothing. The traditional Indian, Khādī, would do the trick, the loose robes easily thrown aside when the need arises. In urban surroundings, I might use by body to display public art. In the countryside, I’d project documentaries about wildlife, becoming, as it were, a walking handbook of English flora and fauna. At night, I might project soothing displays, and in the morning, the latest headlines complete with news ticker around my neck.

The beauty of my plan: the whole thing would be paid for advertising and even should anybody copy me, I’d still be as unique as a channel on satellite, with my own branding and channel ident. Yes, if (I almost feel like saying ‘when’) it comes time to customise this old body of mine, I’m not going for tattoos and outdated techniques straight from the Amazonian jungle. Give me cutting edge Japanese technology and a broadcasting deal with UK Gold.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Transfer Season Speculation

Judy is to seal her move to Manchester City within the next couple of hours. I’ve been on the phone all morning with Mark Hughes, ironing out the details of what must be the most surprising transfer of the summer window. Crease yourself a wry one if you want but I’m told that Judy is integral to City's plans. Although I don’t rate her particularly highly when pushed any further up the field that central defence, I do accept that she’s deadly in the six yard box and, in these days of crazy money in football, it comes as no surprise that Judy will be working along the City forward line. Teams will shake when they see the attacking formation of Santa Cruz, Bellamy, Tevez, Adebayor, Robinho, Finnigan.

I will be putting the £72 million transfer feel into good effect. A cheaper replacement will come in to work beside me and I’ll be taking the Andy Roddick approach by new picking a partner out of a swimwear catalogue (see right, for the leading candidate in the lightweight division). I will also be spending a few million to buy out some of my favourite blogs and providing editorial input into what I want to see (more guinea pig posts, Bryan; not so many butterflies, Nige). Of course, a good portion of the money will go into taking back my toxic waste which the Brazilians now tell me they don’t want. I wish they’d make up their minds. I now face the problem of disposing of every soufflé and creamed desert we made on ‘This Morning’. There’s 1,400 tonnes of the stuff, which is far too toxic for landfill and too fluffy and light to dump at sea. I intend to spread the rest of the money among charitable causes. I’ll be supporting the arts, through sponsorship of poetry (here, here, and here), as well as giving money to Andy Hamilton so he can do nothing all year but produce more series of the devilish funny ‘Old Harry’s Game’, the final episode of which I have planned for my afternoon.

Saturday, 18 July 2009


This week has been a delightful series of happenstance; remarkably fortuitous events that, had they not occurred by accident, I would have been forced to arrange myself. I’ve already detailed my transformation from squirrel protector to squirrel hunter and then to eventual patron saint of squirrels. However, I’ve not yet detailed the strange series of emails which have led me to discover one the most forward thinking minds of our age. That’s right: I’m talking about Tony.

It was late last week and I was communicating with a philosopher friend who happens to be writing a book detailing Immanuel Kant’s previously unrecorded visits of Wales. As you know, one of my solo projects is to be a TV version of ‘Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason’ and I was interested in his ideas for the programmes. However, I was working well past the midnight hour. Judy’s trombone had been silent for at least an hour and I was still at my desk. I’m a bit of a bungler when it comes to my relationship with the keyboard but this is especially true once it gets into the early AM. Call it carelessness or the mysterious workings of fate but I missed out a letter in the email address. Instead of going to my good friend Simon in Wales, the message arrived in the inbox of a complete stranger.

Now, most strangers when receiving one of my misdirect emails go straight to the newspapers with a demand for a small fortune. Lawyers usually become involved, money found, and then Judy has to downsize our holiday plans for the year. However, on this occasion, a reply came back pretending to be my friend Simon.

It had me fooled until the last line:

Dear Richard

Was only talking to La Price this afternoon, and your name came up. Alas, she only too well recalls her appearance on the show in 2002 when she was debating whether to have her boobs further enlarged and your comments & mime still make her shudder. And not in that way, either.

Glad you're on board: I'll get my people to run up a prelim treatment, and should have a foot in the door next week.

Will speak Tuesday although am seeing my oncologist first thing so might be a bit woozy.

Realising I had made a terrible mistake, I hastily constructed a reply to ‘Tony’:

From: Richard Madeley
To: a*****
Sent: Monday, 13 July, 2009 19:04:15
Subject: Re: Kant: The TV Series

Dear Simon/‘A********s’/Anthony/Tony, or, for all I know, Geraldine, Doreen, or Sandra.

You clearly have the advantage over me as I seem to have mad
e a bloated arse of myself!

Many apologies for sending you a message intended for another person. I didn’t realize that there were so many people in Wales that such confusion could even occur. Do you know Simon? He has ginger hair and a funny accent that makes him sound like Anthony Hopkins but without the Oscar success. Of course you must know him. Wales is such a small place. I bet you’ve already shared a joke about my stupidity over a pint of that Guinness you’re so famous for.

I have so many questions to ask, what with you are the only g
enuine Welshman I’ve spoken with on email. (Simon is actually English, which, as you’ve probably guessed, accounts for the ginger hair.) Does this mean you’re one of the few people in Wales with access to the internet? I can only congratulate you on being so forward thinking. Have you seen the opening of ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’? I don’t suggest you throw your mouse up in the air but I think the similarities are there for all to see...


Dick Madeley (Tall, fawn, English)

Naturally, the email was a touch tongue-in-cheek, hoping to provoke a response, but I didn’t expect a long reply witty reply which ended with a suggestion for a road safety scheme that my new friend hoped I might be able support.

‘Tony’ writes:

Despite 30 years of prosecutions & advertising a hard core are never going to stop [drink driving]. So isn't it time we took a different strategy & allowed it one evening of the week? Suppose drink-driving were legalised between 9 & 12 on a Tuesday night? People could drive to a nice country pub (legally) at 7, spend an agreeable evening imbibing heavily, and then drive home. As long as the day were advertised satisfactorily (and I don't believe anyone would fail to hear about it) then anyone hurt by a drunk would only have themselves to blame. Any children hurt after 9 should have been in bed and be grateful they're not in care. Yes, there will be a lot of damage to property, but in a recession this would prove a valuable economic stimulus. One heavy drink-driving session a week would be enough for anyone, and would provide a valuable promotion to our hard-pressed rural pubs.

One thing you know about your Uncle Dick is that he likes to encourage talent in youth. I immediately replied. Despite the lateness of the hour and my need to be up early the next day to attend a genealogy seminar in Kidderminster, I knew that a mind as rare as this needs cultivating with loving care.

From: Richard Madeley
To: a*********

Sent: Wednesday, 15 July, 2009 0:32:24
Subject: Re: Kant: The TV Series

My darling Tony,

I am disappointed to learn that you’re English, though your estuar
y twang is clear to me now. South of Watford but no so far south as to drink scrumpy or have buxom daughters able to bring me mead in the morning. Do I detect the faint accent of Notting Hill, Sodsbury Park, or Hammersmith? Being a Romford lad, myself, I sense that we share similar values. It’s why I’m not hesitating in lending my support to your scheme to introduce legalised periods for drink-driving. It is brushed with brilliance, tickled by genius, and cupped by the warm fingers of inspiration. And not only is it informed by popular lifestyle choices but I believe it has value as early evening entertainment which we might be able to get onto one of the minor satellite channels or even BBC2.

As executive producer on the show/scheme (I would demand no less), I would promote barbed wire impact zones with minor celebrity endorsement (e.g. get impaled through the hip by a carburettor, Peter Kay runs on
to sing about armadillos). That would be the main selling point, though your dancing monkey idea also appeals. I’ve mentioned the idea to Judy and she’s is keen to make it a baboon. However, I’m sure we can iron out that kind of detail during the production meetings.

As you are no doubt aware, I’m a man with his middle finger warmed to the temperature of British public and what this show clearly needs is an educative angle. Perhaps begin with our driver fully sober and then we slowly introduce alcohol to their bloodstream. I have patented an anally mounted injection syste
m which could easily be adapted to pump alcohol into the system, perhaps controlled by a respectable celebrity such as Carol Vorderman. I can see it now: a young lout, possibly from a council estate in the North, drives the wrong way up the A448 or even the A449 towards Kidderminster. We cut to the studio to see Carol activate the pump before he barrel rolls down the road wiping out a coach carrying the Rhondda Male Voice choir. And if that’s not a winning formula for popular TV combined with a public service broadcast, I don’t know what is.

The more I think of this, the more I like you ideas. Do you have any more? We’re particularly interested in any scheme that might combat the rise in illegal nipple smuggling from the Far East as it would fit with a show we alre
ady have in production.

How fortunate it was that my email missed its target but found its way to a greater mind.

Kindest regards,


Since my reply, we’ve debated the subject at some length. I’ll soon have a proposal put together that I’ll be forwarding to the relevant TV production companies. ‘Richard Madeley’s Road Rage’ is the title I like best, though Judy suggests ‘Pandering To The Mob Mentality With An Inhumane Bloodthirsty Spectacle with Richard Madeley’. I guess she thinks the show would work best on Sky One.

In the meantime, if there’s anybody out there who need to contact my new ‘ideas man’, then you can do so though me and I’ll forward your details. I’ll be only taking a 10% commission from any of his ideas which are subsequently made into government schemes, TV/film projects, and third world revolutions.

Friday, 17 July 2009

On Mobility Scooters

I was out posting another signed photo for a fan (I still have a few 4x10s left so email me a postal address and I’ll get them to you within 3 to 4 days) when I was clipped by a mobility scooter. Now, this isn’t the first time it’s happened lately but the indignation on the driver’s face was something extraordinary. Apparently, he was annoyed that I couldn’t walk fast enough through a shopping centre. He gave me a mouthful of verbal and sped off, weaving his way through the other pedestrian traffic, occasionally clipping them and giving them equal abuse.

What I want to know is why mobility scooters have to have more mobility than me? Excuse me for feeling a sense of injustice but it seems completely wrong that a loss of mobility should be rewarded with an extra five or ten miles an hour across level ground. People with prosthetic hands aren’t capable of crushing steel like some James Bond villain, so why aren’t mobility scooters capped at a reasonable walking speed? It’s not as if this extra speed is used for good. I’ve lost count of the number of times my rectum has been ramming by a pensioner using their walking stick as a makeshift lance. They fix them to the shopping baskets on the front of their scooters and deliberately aim for the midpoint of my buttocks. All that momentum directed through the one inch rubber end of a walking stick can do serious damage to a man’s trousers, let along what lies beyond.

And before anybody says this is a rant against disability or infirmity: it’s not. It’s a rant against the arrogance of some and the rudeness of many. The government need to sort this out. And if nothing’s done, I’m buying myself a mobility scooter and I’m fitting axel blades.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Bless You All...

In my new role as Patron Saint of Squirrels, can I ask you, before you go to bed tonight, to bend a knee or two by the side of your cot, bow your head and say a few words on behalf of the poor grey squirrels?

Today has opened my eyes to the terrible persecution of these truly wonderful creatures. I've spent many hours watching a family of greys swing happily in their feeding hammocks. So, I ask you, if you've got some unwanted brassieres lying around the house, please stretch them between two trees and fill them with grain. Or perhaps you could hang a nut sack from a tree or scatter walnuts on your lawn. Trust me. I've been in the squirrel business for 24... no, nearly 26 hours now, and I've not heard a single thing that could go wrong. My plans are sound and so are my nuts.

Squirrel Update

Okay guys, I’ve given it much thought and as much as I liked the idea of spending the next twenty years of my life butchering grey squirrels, I really couldn’t do the work justice. And the truth is that in terms of old items of underwear to use as makeshift squirrel feeders, we are fully equipped to maintain a community of greys for decades to come. For that reason, I’ve decided to make my garden a sanctuary for the grey squirrel. If any of those old English reds attempt to get in, they get Judy’s mallet.

Once my community of grey squirrels has been established, I will then begin the breeding programme to develop a grey squirrel that is totally red. That way, a stronger (and perhaps even slightly psychopathic) red squirrel will be able to populate the land and everybody will be happy.

Go in peace, my squirrels.

Seeking Squirrel Help

As a sign of my looming middle age (only five years to go!), I’ve started to feed the birds in the garden. I have become an expert in buying cheap seeds and suet, which I have taken to stuffing into Judy’s old stockings and hang them around the garden. The trees are now filled with dozens of feet shaped blobs of Judy’s size six fashioned out of millet and lard. Bill Oddie has also advised me about his specialised bird mix and, after he’d agreed to give me a healthy discount, I’ve been buying sacks of the stuff which I’ve used to fill Judy’s old brassieres that I suspend between tree stumps. You might say that our garden has become a haven for wildlife, or indeed, men who like to view women’s underwear in a natural setting.

Anyway, through much effort, expense, and luck, I have managed to attract sparrows, starlings, blackbirds, and even feral pigeons missing a variety of toes/feet. Judy hasn’t been impressed, or, at least, she wasn’t until the other day when she saw a squirrel swinging from one of her old bra straps.

Of course, living in this undisclosed part of North London, we are accustomed to seeing squirrels, but rarely have they ever ventured into the garden. Things have now changed. My nut sacks hanging from the trees are attracting squirrels in large numbers and I’ve become delighted with my new role as chief squirrel warden.
However, it now appears that I’ve been making an error common to all new naturalists. Prince Charles told me the other day that instead of feeding the squirrels, I should really be chasing them with a very large mallet. Grey squirrels are apparently a pest, a form of vermin, and need to be destroyed wherever they are found. I didn’t see his point until he compared them to Labour ministers.

Now, I’m not adverse to a little squirrel battery but the dilemma I face is this: I have never seen a red squirrels in my life unless it was lying by the side of the road doing a good impression of a Dunlop all weather tread. I’m told that I need to kill the greys to attract the reds. But I don’t see how I’m automatically going to have red squirrels in my garden if I sign up for this grey cull.

In TV terms, it’s like alienating your usual audience searching for viewers who wouldn’t in their wildest dreams watch your show. My grey squirrels are like my audience of mature women with a thing for handsome thirty-year old men in tight slacks and a causal way of sitting on a sofa. I’m not going to beat them lifeless with a mallet, even if that does attract a young audience that enjoys a pierced nipple and has the lyrics to Lady GaGa’s latest toothache tattooed on their rear.
Somewhat reluctantly, I’ve built a trap to catch the poor things – the squirrels, not my mature viewers. It’s a humane device, mainly constructed from assorted items I found in the bag of Judy had filled for the Heart Foundation. The trigger is a length of knicker elastic and the trapping mechanism one of Judy’s old corsets with the ribs sharpened to points. The overall appearance is of a giant Venus flytrap, big enough to catch squirrels, but built by Dorothy Perkins.

I don’t want to deploy it until I’ve had expert advice. So, my question to you is this: do my squirrels deserve to live or die? I need professional squirrel advice or, failing that, your off-the-cuff suggestions.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Lobster Rash

Because we’re ‘holidaying’ (don’t ask – it’s one of Judy’s words meaning ‘a posh vacation’) here in the ‘Democratic’ People’s Republic of North Korea, I find that there’s nothing to do between indoctrination seminars other than to memorise the party line or watch reruns of ‘Jim Davidson’s Big Break’, which are strangely popular over here.

As a fan of neither socialism nor snooker, I wandered slowly around the compound this afternoon, bored to the far reaches of my considerable wits. That’s when it hit me. I was killing time (though, in these parts, it’s called ‘reprogramming time’) when I could be catching up with a little housekeeping at my Appreciation Society.
I don’t know about you but nothing makes me feel more like a imperialist lickspittle than reviewing the capitalist search terms that have come up in recent months. It’s been a while since I even looked at the statistics for this blog so I was surprised that the figures have remained high, mainly due to people looking for the phrase ‘classic usherette tray’ via Google.

Top Search Terms Used By My Western Imperialist Visitors

‘classic usherette tray’

And a ‘classic’ search term too. What can I say that already hasn’t be said about the ‘classic usherette tray’? It’s a design classic, performs the basic functions of a tray, and can be ushered or otherwise coaxed around the room, perhaps to serve nibbles or something immersed in a cheese dip.

‘casual swearing appreciation society’

A new bloody entry into my bleeding list but I’m buggered if I know why.

‘the real richard madeley’

People often come up to me in the street and say ‘is that really you?’ I reply: ‘of course it is’ and they walk away happy. I hope that visitors to this blog experience a similar sequence of anticipation, affirmation, and satisfaction.

‘helen chamberlain mobile telephone’

Who is Helen Chamberlain? Are they related to the Prime Minister, Neville?

‘claire balding wedding’

I attended it and had a fantastic afternoon, although I never got to meet the groom. After the buffet I discovered that I have a shrimp allergy. My earlobes became swollen and my throat constricted, producing an effect not unlike an Irish accent. That’s your trivia question for today. Which well known TV celebrity turns into Terry Wogan whenever he eats shellfish?

‘repeat of katy price's interview with pearce morgan’

It should, of course, be: ‘Katie’, ‘Piers’, and ‘Mogadon’.

‘lobster rash’

See my shrimp allergy.

‘prunella scales topless’

Again, see my shrimp allergy.

‘richard madeley book signings 2009’

I’ll be here and there throughout the year. But it would make my day if anybody could come up to me at one of my book signings and ask in a loud voice: ‘how’s your shrimp allergy, Uncle Barry?’

‘facebook jeremy irons appreciation society’

That’s just typical of Irons. He sees how my blog has been a success and he tries to copy the format. Well, I look forward to the day that he can lead his readers in belly dance lessons.

‘in a particularly bad summer, i eat nothing but cheese yet maintain a healthy tan’

We should all praise Cliff Richard for learning to use the internet but his lack of capital letters is worrying.

‘sunless tanning using gravy browning’

Again, his inability to find the SHIFT key is something they need to address in the care home.

‘judy finnigan teeth’, ‘katie derham legs’, ‘jeremy clarkson tits’

I’ve lumped these together since there’s clearly a theme. Lusting after the bodily parts of famous people is a normal part of human sexuality. In the days of my pimpled youth, I was regularly aroused by Fatima Whitbread’s armpits. These days, Stephen Fry’s flared nostrils are a great ‘turn on’.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

A Word From Our Sponsors...

The View From The Beach

The holiday is going splendidly; thank you to all who asked. We left London in the early hours on Sunday morning and arrived at the hotel about twenty seven hours later. It’s probably been a few years since Judith Chalmers visited North Korea for ‘Wish You Were Here’, so perhaps taking her advice for holiday destinations wasn’t that thought through. However, the hotel is functional, if a little sparse in terms of its facility mix. Though it does have a spa, it is an older model of yellowing ceramic bath whose plughole seems to be blocked with a thick substance that, if I didn’t know better, I would say was dried blood.

However, after a long journey, it was pleasant to soak for a few hours, surrounded by people who were in awe of the mahogany lustre of my skin. From my rudimentary understanding of Korean, they are either telling me that they haven’t seen such a bronzed example of Western masculinity before or they believe that Aardvarks should not wear trousers in hot weather.

Despite their habit of poking me with sticks, the people are friendly if a little grim. Jud has pretty much left me to get to know them since she’s spending her first couple of days out sightseeing. I haven’t seen much of her, to be honest. Actually, I haven’t seen her in over seventy two hours, but that’s typical of Judy once she starts to indulge her passion for taking pictures of military facilities.

Other than that, I thought I’d just update the blog to say that I’m enjoying my break and to recommend North Korea as an economy break destination. The beaches here are some of the quietest I’ve known and the locals have been entertaining me fireworks. They try their best given their limited resources but they tend to fire their rockets one at a time. Though they go up well enough, the rockets just seem to arc out over the Sea of Japan without a proper explosion at the end. It’s all very disappointing. They’ve told me that if I can provide a few hundred pounds, they’ll be able to find the right ingredients to produce a nice big explosion. I’m tempted to invest, just to break the monotony.

About the only complaint I have, thus far, is the amount of paperwork I’ve had to fill in. I attend lessons in ‘Juche’ (the official state ideology) for most of the morning, leaving me the afternoon to relax before I have my combat training in the evening. Then it’s a hot meal of cabbage strew with half a potato before bed. I would equate it to a stay at the Priory or one of those classy London health clubs, only with slightly more emphasis on militarism, heavy industry, and destroying the West.

Okay. Have to dash. I’m helping the locals erect a new statue to Father Kim. It makes such a change to be in a culture that has such a civic pride. Mind you, it’s the first statue I’ve seen that has a guidance system. But as the saying goes: when in North Korea...

Monday, 13 July 2009

The Dance of the Mesopotamian Fire Goat

I’d been limbering up for something close to an hour before I heard my name called. Not one to shun the limelight, I gathered up the loose lamé frills of my outfit, threw a few more silks over my arm, before I shuffled out onto stage, wondering if this would be last time that Judy’s enthusiasm for volunteer work would leave me in the full glare of public humiliation.

As soon as they saw me, the crowd went wild. Yet their ovation wasn’t so loud that I couldn’t hear laughter mixed with their gasps of surprise as I took my proper place in the middle of the stage. That is the difficult moment for any professional entertainer: those empty few seconds when you don’t have the familiarity of your act to make you feel secure. Back when we had our show on ITV, I would often feel nerves during the first few seconds after a commercial break. My mouth was never dryer than when I’d be saying words like: ‘And welcome back. Have you or your partner ever confessed to having an affair with a member of the Belgian royal family?’ Or: ‘Just before the break, we saw Alice here inflate her own intestines with a foot pump to impress Leo Sawyer...’

On this occasion, I ran a finger down to probe my tantric centre, to make certain that my ruby hadn’t been worked loose during my warm-up. Just the touch of that stone helped me focus, as it also made me think back to the moment, 24 hours earlier, when I’d been told that I’d be performing, semi-naked, to a crowd of local leisure tourism consultants in the town hall...

‘I’ve been reading your Twitter account,’ Judy had announced sometime after we’d settled down in front of the TV for the evening. Like most Friday night’s, her knife had already whittled a block of walnut into shavings piled on an old copy of ‘The News of the World’ spread out across her lap. ‘It makes me realise how little I really know you, Richard.’

Instinctively, I looked towards the door. I have no objection to Judy spending her spare time hand-carving mythic woodland creatures which she donates to charity but I do wish she wouldn’t look to start arguments when she’s holding eight inches of Bowie knife.

‘Does it?’ I asked, trying to concentrate on my copy of Immanuel Kant’s ‘Critique of Pure Reason’ which I’ve been annotating ahead of my plans to transfer it to documentary form later in the year. ‘And what have you discovered that you didn’t already know?’

‘Oh, just about the free belly dancing classes you’ve been giving people on a Friday afternoon.’

I lowered the book and peered nervously at the newly retired right side of the R&J ampersand. I had managed to keep my Friday afternoon dance classes a secret from Judy, who takes as dim view of my Twittering as she does the male belly dance, which she first saw performed by Russell Grant in the early eighties. However, I could see that were was no use denying it, though the calm look on her face did suggest that she didn’t know I’d been wearing her favourite broach in my navel.

‘Oh Richard!’ she laughed as she no doubt saw me edging away from her. ‘Come back! And don’t look so frightened! I’m not angry. I’m delighted that you’ve found yourself a hobby. It’s certainly more practical than that idea you’ve had about farming organic molluscs in the garden pond.’

That was a typical Judy remark: one part gentle praise, another part deep insult backed up with cold steel. The plans for the mollusc farm had still not been presented to the council but Judy was already there with her objections. And she was wrong to call it my idea when the proposal was originally put to me by Bill Oddie, who happens to be looking to get all his friends involved in the organic shellfish movement.

‘So, my belly dancing doesn’t make you angry?’ I asked, hoping to keep the mollusc debate for another day.

‘Of course not,’ she laughed and sliced away at the haunches of her barely formed faun.

‘So you don’t think it strange that a man approaching forty should instruct strangers in the art of the belly dance via the medium of social networking? I know you had qualms about my playing my banjo on MySpace and my posing for live art classes via Facebook...’

‘If you enjoy belly dancing, Richard, I’m not going to stop you,’ she said.

‘Only, I find it has helped with my back spasms...’

‘I’m sure that it would strengthen your pelvic floor considerably,’ she agreed.

I thought it best to mention that I wasn’t born with a pelvic floor, just an abnormally high anal ceiling.

‘And my abs have tightened up since I’ve started to shake them regularly,’ I added.

‘They would have no other choice,’ she smiled.

I relieved myself of a sigh and picked up my book. I was settling myself back into Kant’s solution to the knotty problems of existence and being German when Judy cleared her throat.

‘Of course, Richard,’ she said, ‘I might have mentioned your belly dancing to Judith. She’ll probably ring you about it later...’

‘Judith? Judith?’ I repeated. Then my heart did one of those strange things it does which makes you think it’s suddenly escaped your body and is already thumbing for a lift somewhere near Watford services. ‘Not Judith Chalmers?’

There was evil in Judy’s smile. I felt like I’d been picked up by a trucker with ‘Hate’ tattooed across one set of knuckles and ‘Hate’ across the other.

And that’s when the phone rang.

‘Judith!’ I cried, moments later as I nestling the phone under my chin. ‘Judy said you might be in touch.’

Admit it: I did a good job of hiding my displeasure. It’s always been one of my better qualities, praised by the head of ITV no less. I remember, back in the eighties, we had Robert Mugabe on ‘This Morning’ showing us how to mix his favourite fruit cocktails. The man actually thought I liked his pineapple punch so much that he wrote me out the recipe.

‘Oh , I need your help,’ said Judith Chalmers with the hushed ease of a woman who knows how to manipulate men to her will. I confess that I have something of a weak spot when it comes to Judith, who originally introduced me to the way of the commando. You might say that I owe her a lot and you’d be right. She saved me from underwear and I would be happy to save her from any equally tight or poorly ventilated spot.

‘You are my last hope,’ she said. ‘We’ve organised a Festival of Britain at the town hall tomorrow night and Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall has dropped out. He was going to demonstrate hen thatching but now he says his pigs have developed trenchsnout. I was hoping that you could fill in with some of your dancing. We’ve got a hundred leisure tourism consultants coming and I won’t be happy if we can’t provide entertainment worthy of the great good they do for the country.’

‘I’m honoured that you thought of me but my dancing is a very private thing known only to a few people,’ I explained.

‘Oh, that’s alright,’ replied Judith. ‘I’ve taken care of that.’

‘Taken care of what?’

‘I’ve put up posters...’


‘The posters announcing your hitherto hidden talent.’

If my heart wasn’t already being propositioned by a trucker stuck in a lay-by somewhere north of Watford services, it would have sank to its knees – had it knees, of course. I slouched against the wall and let my forehead to crack against the doorframe. The game was up. I was backed into a corner, taken out at the ankles, without a leg to stand on. In other words: I was arse naked to the shagpile without a stump to call my own.

‘Okay,’ I sighed, ‘I’ll do it.’

‘Oh good,’ said Judith. ‘I’m sure we’ll all have a simply smashing time!’

Time is a strange thing. It’s taken me half an hour to type these reminiscences but I recollected them all in the time it took me to click a pair of thumb cymbals.

The noise focussed my attention back on the audience. I could feel the hot lights over my body; the thin fabric of the veils and sashes doing nothing to keep me cool. Yet centred in my navel was the large lump of Judy’s best jewellery, a cool reminder that the belly dance begins in the karmic centre of our being and ends at the tips of our fingers or Ipswich, depending on which school of belly dance you follow. I placed my hands above my head and looked to Judy, standing at the side of the stage, waiting for the signal.

I could put it off no longer. I nodded and she raised her trombone to her lips and began to play the old familiar seductive melody as my body began to writhe in the hypnotic fashion of The Dance of the Mesopotamian Fire Goat.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

The Forgotten Man

The state of media intrusion in the this county is enough to turn a lesser man grey! I’ve just had to sedate Judy with an episode of 'Midsomer Murders' and a packet of Co-op Jaffa Cakes. The poor woman had suffered a shock which would have levelled even me had I not studied Buddhist mediation techniques during my time working for Radio Cumbria in the Far East all those years ago.

The shock came out of the blue. I checked my mobile phone about an hour ago and discovered eleven messages on the voicemail. Now, I don’t mean to boast but any one of seven messages would have added a few million onto the sales of tomorrow’s newspapers. A couple might have even raised questions in parliament and caused not one but three governments to fall.

Yet, apparently, while every celebrity in London has had their phone tapped, the Madeley mobile remains ignored. How difficult was it to guess that my pin-number was my inside leg measurement followed by my waist size: 3836?

It’s Judy I feel sorry for. I almost felt bad sending her up the telephone pole at the bottom of our drive to check that the line was tapped. Seeing the poor woman grip on with her thighs in this humid weather brought a lump to my throat. At first I thought it was pride but it was merely a touch of phlegm from shouting ‘squeeze your knees tighter, old girl!’

The outcome of all that effort – and the reason that Judy’s now in bed with John Nettles and a box of Jaffa cakes – was nothing less sinister than a deserted sparrow’s nest. Not a single bug, wiretap, or evidence of illegal surveillance.

I ask you: what is the world coming to when a man of my standing isn’t being monitored by the tabloids?

Well, Barry Madeley will not stand for it. I intend to write a letter of complaint to the ‘News of the World’ in the morning. I have a new career to fund and £700,000 pounds would have come in useful. Just think of how many boxes of Jaffa Cakes that would buy and double it since it’s ‘buy one get one free’ at the moment. However, even that is little solace at a difficult time like this.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Sunday, 5 July 2009

The Jesus Suit

My new braces (teeth, not trouser) got caught in my best cufflinks this morning. I won’t say what I was doing to get them trapped – it certainly had nothing to do with licking my own wrists, despite the evidence of the CCTV that Judy’s installed in the bathroom – but I will say that it shows you the lengths I’ll go to look both handsome and fashionable for my new solo career.

‘Are you sure you want to go to church, Richard?’ asked Judy as she manned my elbow and tried to part me from myself.

‘Barry,’ I replied, my voice muffled by six inches of quality cuff in a tapioca brown silk. ‘Will you please call me Barry?’

Judy gave my arm a tug and the cuff came clear but almost at the expense of an upper left incisor.

‘How many times have I told you that I’m not going to call you Barry?’ she replied. ‘It’s just ridiculous!’

‘And how many times have I got to show you the official documents proving that my name is now officially changed to Barry Madeley and that by...’

‘Oh, rubbish!’

‘... by not calling me Barry, you are denying me my rights as a human, a celebrity and as a Barry.’

My wife sat down on the edge of the bed and kicked off her pink frilled slippers. ‘You’ve changed, Richard,’ she said before she slipped to the floor in search of the black shoes she usually only wears on BAFTA nights. After a moment or two of activity under the bed and one sonorous ring against the chamber pot, she appeared again. ‘I mean, this new look just isn’t you. What on earth do you think you’re doing? A man your age getting his teeth straightened! And what do you think you’re wearing? You look like Des O’Connor having one of his senior moments.’

I had no need to defend myself. I could recognise the envy of a woman who had been left behind by the changing times. Judy has never been a fan of my crushed velvet jackets, my flared trousers with strips of silk running from hip to ankle. Judy is resistant to the eternal cycles of fashion and she won’t accept that my body has exactly the same ratio of body fat to exquisitely cut shank as it had when this fashion first came around in 1973.

‘Don’t worry, Judy,’ I said, straightening the bow tie given to me by Mickie Most. ‘Just because I’m dressed like this doesn’t change the way I feel about you. You are my one constant in an ever-changing world. You’re like the rock of Gibraltar.’

She glared at me.

‘But, obviously, without the baboons...’

That seemed to do the trick. ‘Do you really mean that, Richard?’ she asked, a sweet smile developing as she reached out for my hand.

I gave her hand a firm shake. ‘Nice to meet you,’ I said, introducing myself with a raffish charm, ‘the name’s Barry...’

How her face changed! She stuck a foot into a shoe wish enough force to cause a slight fold to develop in the carpet. I’ve always suspected that our carpet fitters used substandard carpet grips and this was the proof.

‘Barry! Barry! They say that insanity strikes men earlier than woman... And now he wants us to go to church! I don’t see why we need to go to church.’ She muttered this last bit but not so far under her breath that I couldn’t make it out.

‘We’re attending the house of the Lord because I believe that this new start is more than just a reconfiguration of the Richard&Judy partnership,’ I explained. ‘I think it’s a calling.’

‘A calling?’

‘You just can’t accept it, can you Jude, that I’ve been called. You know? Like that guy in the Bible who was told to pursue a solo career out in the desert.’

Judy frowned. ‘You mean Jesus?’

‘I’ll be facing my own demons. And who knows what temptations await me in the wilderness of light entertainment? The devil has many guises. Well, perhaps one less since Natasha Kaplinsky went to Channel 5.’

‘So, you are comparing yourself to the son of God?’

‘But not in any way that makes it blasphemous,’ I replied. ‘I’m just noting the similarities between my life and that of another handsome man who had the common touch and was widely misunderstood by an ignorant public too busy worshipping false gods, such as Richard Hammond.’

‘I knew there was a reason you’ve been wearing a lot of sandals lately,’ said Judy before she stood up and disappeared out on the landing.

Well, no more was said on the matter. We sat in silence as I drove the Ranger Rover at a Christian’s pace all the way to the local C of E. We would have been there much sooner if the Christian had moved out of the way but the fool didn’t seem to care how much bumper I applied to his tail lights.

At the church, a small crowd gathered to welcome us. They cheered Judy as she climbed out of the car, though I think there were a little surprised to see me given the things I’d said the last time I visited. However, they have a new vicar and I gave her my winning smile before I paused by a young woman parked in a wheelchair by the door.

‘God bless you, Uncle Barry!’ she said but I just smiled and lay my hand on her head. I’m not saying it would help her. I mean, I wasn’t about to restore to her the use of her legs. Or, at least, not immediately...

Saturday, 4 July 2009

The Adventures of Baz Mad

The party lasted long into the night at Madeley HQ, here in our undisclosed part of North Londonshire. The great and good of showbiz had come to mark the end of the Richard&Judy partnership and Bruce Forsyth was there, too, entertaining us all with his soft shoe shuffles and his famous anecdote about a golf umbrella, Jimmy Tarbuck’s 9 iron, and a sticky eighteenth hole.

The night was a success worthy of our long career in television but, eventually, around 2am, I saw Judy tap her nose and fiddle with an earlobe and I knew it was time to ease our guests casually towards the front door. Or, if that didn’t work, drag them by whatever surgical enhancement provided a firm enough grip.

‘Have you seen the genuine Tudor buttress on the end of the house?’ I asked David Dickinson, who had spent most of the evening on his hands and knees, looking for maker’s marks beneath the IKEA coffee table.

‘Genuine Tudor!’ he cried. ‘This I’ve got to bloody see!’

He didn’t, of course, ‘see anything’. But once I’d got him to the front door he did feel the creped underside of my right boot placed in the small of his kidneys. Similar tricks worked on Alan Titchmarsh, Natasha Kaplinsky, and Dame Kelly Holmes, each of whom I’d managed to lure away from the buffet table with the promise of a drooping plumb tree, a photo opportunity, or the challenge of a sprint up the drive in aid of Cystic Fibrosis. In the process, I’d also managed to get Forsyth out the front door by tying a five pound note to a thread attached to Dame Kelly’s dress. I know she prides herself a running a good middle distance race but I’m sure even she was flagging when she turned the end of the road chased by Brucie out to top up his income.

Back in the house, the party continued to shed talent like the BBC during a pay review. A pair of recognisable sandals were sticking out from beneath Vanessa Feltz so I grabbed them by their heels and gave a yank. There was a loud squeak and a ‘pop’ noise, much like a cork coming from giggly bottle, before the yank produced a Yank. An anglicised Yank, to be specific, dressed in quality tweeds to go with his Jesus boots and horn-rimmed spectacles.

‘Oy! What did you do that for?’ cried Vanessa and made a move to drag Johnny Depp back towards her.

‘Where am I again? What am I here to promote?’ asked Johnny, probably confused due to the usual high build-up of CO2 in Vanessa’s cleavage.

‘I think it’s time to let Johnny go,’ I said, quietly pleased with myself for rescuing my favourite Hollywood ‘A’ list star from my second favourite member of the triple D brigade.

‘Well, would you like me to take him home?’ she asked.

I know her games and I couldn’t do that to the poor lad. I tucked a ten pound note into his breast pocket and whispered into his ear the directions for the local bus stop. That’s the thing you can sure about with Johnny Depp: he’s a true professional. You only need to direct him once and he’ll give you a performance worthy of the Number 14 to Kensington.

By this time, Judy had managed to get rid of most of the minor celebs, working her charm to great effect. Whenever they threatened to stay, she’d sob on their shoulders, breath tales of woe in their face and ask if they could help revive her career. There’s nothing more certain to upset an ambitious young celebrity than the taint of failure or retirement. And any that prove particularly resilient to tears will eventually scarper if you offer to put them in touch with Les Dennis’ agent.
Soon, we were down to one old favourite who would be stubborn to shift given that early in evening she’d disappeared with a bottle of Drambuie. Thankfully, Vanessa stayed long enough to help us in our search.

Eventually, I found Cilla Black down in the cellar, blowing tunes over the empty end of the empty whisky bottle.

‘Surprise surprise!’ she’d cried as I opened the door of an old wardrobe in which Judy used to keep her spigot collection.

‘Come on, Cilla,’ I said as I lifted her from the wardrobe and threw her over Vanessa’s shoulder.

‘Don’t worry,’ said Vanessa, ‘I’ll take her from here.’

‘I used to sing with the Beatles!’ cried Cilla.

‘Of course you did,’ I replied. ‘There had to be a good reason they broke up.’

The last I saw of the two of them was Vanessa walking down the drive with Cilla over her shoulder, trying to pat out the rhythm of ‘Obla Dee Obla Da’ on Vanessa’s bottom.
With the last farewell made, Judy put out the milk bottles before I turned the lock on the front door and we both breathed a sigh, or, more accurately, two sighs divided by the familiar ampersand that has served us so well.

‘So, that’s that for Richard & Judy,’ I said.

‘We’ve had a good run but I think we’re making the right decision to retire before you hit your mid-life crisis,’ she replied moving in for a cuddle.

‘Indeed we have,’ I replied, my arm draping around Judy’s shoulders. ‘I just wonder what the future has in store for Barry Madeley...’

‘Who’s Barry Madeley?’ asked his wife.

‘Barry is my new name,’ I said, already cursing myself for having spoken my thoughts aloud. These were plans to which I had failed to make my wife privy. It was time for some firm explanations. ‘You see: I don’t want people expecting to hear “& Judy” whenever my name is mentioned during my solo career. That’s why I’ve changed my name to Barry. I’ve been meaning to tell you ever since it became official two months ago.’

‘Two months! But I don’t understand why you’d change it. Richard goes so well with Judy.’

‘Well the name’s now Barry,’ I said, ‘but if you want to be informal, you can call me Baz.’

‘But I don’t want to be married to a Baz,’ she replied.

‘So call me Bazzer or even Bazroid if you prefer the exotic.’

But Judy just fell silent and realising that our hug had gone cold, I gave a shrug and climbed the stairs to bed. I was already fluffing my pillows by the time Judy joined me.

‘I don’t understand why you won’t let me call you Richard,’ she said.

‘Look, Jude,’ I replied, ‘I know you’re attached to that name but I’m seeking a new audience that is beyond your reach. I want to appeal to dynamic go getters in my own age range. If they’re older than 35, they’re ancient in my book, Daddio. Baz Mad doesn’t do fossils.’

Judy’s face turned a shade of beetroot high in the Betanin, which as you’ll know, is the chemical that makes Judy red.

‘Baz Mad?’ she spluttered.

I’d done it again. I hadn’t meant to let Judy in on my plans so early on in my separate career but the cat was out of the bag, as they say. So far out that it was probably thinking of bringing a dead rat back in through the back door.

‘I thought I’d abbreviate my surname as well,’ I explained. ‘“Baz Mad” has a certain ring to it, don’t you think? Sounds a bit like Gaz Top and do remember how successful he was?’

‘Well, I don’t like it,’ said Judy, sourly folding down the sheets on her side of the marital mattress.

‘Abbreviations work in this increasingly fast culture of ours. Twitter has taught me a lot about being brief, Jude, and “Baz Mad” will look great on the cover of my novel...’

‘Your novel?’ asked Judy.

That’s when I realised that I’d done it again. As you know, Judy sees herself as a writer of some potential.

‘That’s right. I’ve decided that I want to write fiction,’ I said. ‘And I know what you’re going to say. We agreed that you would be the one writing erotic fiction and I’m not going to step on your toes, Jude. I won’t touch your eighteenth century courtesan, Jemima Flirt. Oh no! Baz Mad’s erotic fiction will be of a different tone altogether.’

Judy sank onto the edge of the bed without even bothering to fluff her pillows.

‘Erotic fiction? But that means you’ve stolen my dream!’

‘Not stolen, Jude. I merely took an interest and found I had a natural flair for soft-core eroticism. I’ve been writing my book for many months. It shouldn’t bother you. It will have been published months before you get yours in the bookshops.’

‘Oh Richard! It was my dream to publish a book of erotic tales.’‘And your dream is still your dream, Jude. However, Barry just got there before you. Here,’ I said, sliding my four hundred page manuscript from beneath the bed. ‘Cast your eyes over that. But take care. Some of this is so juicy it will drip off your chin. It’s a story set in a Lancashire town about a tyre fitter and his mature lover.

She looked at the front page.

‘Mrs Chatterley’s Rover: A Tale of Six Strokes?'

‘Catchy, isn’t it?’

She snorted or perhaps just cleared her throat before she began to read aloud from one of the more sexually explicit parts of the book, when the tyre fitter first meets Mrs. Chatterley on the A573 outside Golborne, Lancashire.

As he jacked up her rear, her marigolds squeaked seductively on his bald crown like two rubberised otters in a frisky dance. His passion overwhelmed her; her frigidity falling away like the rust on a large lug nut, oiled with WD40 and tapped with his spanner.

‘I feel so hot and dirty,’ she said but he just whistled and kicked her knees. ‘Perhaps you’d like me to rebore you cylinders,’ he replied.

Ten minutes later, her foot was suspended by the elasticated cord of her pine air freshener as she felt her fan belt snap and her hot exhaust splutter his name. ‘Ronald’.

‘My Rover’s a coupe!’ she cried. ‘It doesn’t have four doors!’ But he knew different as he packed her generous luggage space and ran a masterful finger over her vulcanised tread, every stroke of his foot pump engorging her inner tube, her being swollen to eternity!

Judy sat there in silence for nearly a minute.

‘Well?’ I asked. ‘Did that make you feel better? Did you like that bit at the end. Thought it made it sound a bit like D.H. Lawrence.’

She handed the manuscript to me and slid her legs under the sheets before leaning over and putting a kiss on my upper right cheek.

‘Richard,’ she said, ‘I should have known I had nothing to worry about.’
And with that, she reached over, turned off the bedside lights, and left me listening to her snoring that may have trembled the bed but they also made Baz Mad feel very contented with the world.