Friday, November 07, 2008

The acknowledgments for a book are usually written in the last-minute rush to get the thing off to press. As such, important names are sometimes missed out. So it is with Turned Out Nice Again. For example, Simon McLean gave me a copy of the 1983 Late Late Breakfast Show where the car stunt went quite badly wrong, while Andy Henderson - former proprietor of the much-missed Lost British Television blog - gave me some invaluable Stanley Baxter and Chic Murray material. I forgot to thank both of them and am now mired in self-loathing. Similarly, I forgot to nod gratefully in the direction of John Williams - co-conspirator behind Tachyon TV and one of the funniest people in all archive TV fandom - and Dick Fiddy of the BFI, who introduced me to Bob Monkhouse's manager Peter Prichard. I am a clot. Sorry chaps. I'll sort it for the paperback.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

John Peel was once asked what was the strangest place he'd had sex. He replied "Ipswich". After some of my experiences there today, I have a rough idea what he meant. I'd made the journey down on the East Suffolk line to be interviewed by Luke Deal on his BBC Radio Suffolk afternoon show. That bit was good fun, but train timetables meant that I'd arrived with an hour and a half to spare. So, I'd popped to a pub for some lunch. I stood at the bar, watching people come and go, turning up after me, but getting served ahead of me. Maybe I'm exaggerating, but I must have spent five full minutes being bypassed. When, eventually, nobody else was around and the barman deigned to serve me, I thought about it as a game of soldiers and just said "No thanks. I'm going to go somewhere else".

Looking for alternative sustenance, I passed a fish and chip shop on my bike, and decided that I suddenly fancied saveloy and chips. As I placed my order, the chief fryer gave me a quizzical look. "You want saveloys? You mean the red sausages?". As I was hungry, feeling unaccountably charitable and not reckoning much on a stranger's mucus as a condiment, I bit my tongue and nodded, but surely a saveloy is a saveloy and a sausage is a sausage?

As I sat on a nearby wall, eating my (very nice) red sausage, chips and mushy peas, I noticed a superb poster in a newsagent's window. This one, in fact.

In the shorthand of headline writing, putting something in quotes means that "we've heard this, and nobody will confirm it, but we're desperate so we're printing it anyway". Similarly, a question mark indicates that they're making it up as they go along. In this case, the Ipswich Evening Star was trying desperately to find a local angle on the big international story of the moment. Of course, the headline is designed to make the casual viewer think that the leader of the free world may be about to enjoy a break on the Norfolk Broads before taking office. On closer inspection, it turns out that Obama might land at Stansted on his first official visit to Britain, before being whisked to London as soon as humanly possible. Anyway, the poster made me laugh, and I hope it amuses you a bit too.

What happened next wasn't so jolly. Having taken the picture, I was approached by a chap in a hoodie, his eye movements indicating that his bloodstream contained something stronger than 2 jumbo saveloys, chips, peas and a can of ginger beer. "Are you taking my picture?" he asked in a threatening tone of voice. "No," I replied. "You were taking my picture," he continued. Taking great care to maintain a vice-like grip on the camera (street value: unknown), I showed him my picture on the preview screen, and reassured him that I had not and would never want to take his picture. By this time, he'd been joined by a motley crew of smackheads of both sexes, all bollocking on about how taking pictures of people in the street was against the law and an infringement of their civil liberties. I know, the irony wasn't lost on me, but I settled for staring at them quite hard (something were too whacked to achieve in return) before moving on. I was, however, boiling with rage.

I live in the same county, but Ipswich would appear to be a different world.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Another review, this time from Keith Watson in Metro. He has reservations about the book, but his last line pretty much gauges my attitude to the matter. I felt there were too many good stories to cram in about light entertainment itself to make any more space than I did for social context.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Inadvertently, I committed Internet suicide a fortnight ago. Concerned messages were left, enquiring after my well-being, after my bon mots stopped appearing on various forums. Over at Cook'd and Bomb'd, the absence of my usual Wednesday night pretend radio strangeness augured ill for those disturbed enough to tune in. I had even abandoned one thread in mid-argument, which was the surest sign that something sinister had occurred. The messages that I received were incredibly touching, but the simple truth was that I had a couple of piss-ups to attend in London, a research trip to the BBC Written Archive Centre at Caversham to do and some visiting of relatives to fit in, these being family members without broadband.

I'll spare you the full Fear and Loathing travelogue, but a couple of highlights spring to mind. First was the Oldie Travel Awards at the East India Club. Now, despite being a mere stripling of 35, I've been an Oldie contributor for nearly a decade. I live in hope that the magazine will still exist when I'm a real oldie myself.

Second was the fulfilment of a long-deferred ambition, while visiting Mrs Cheeseford's parents in Bristol. In one of his 1960s documentaries on the west country, John Betjeman had featured a small escarpment in the Avon Gorge by Clifton Suspension Bridge, down which generations of Bristolian children had slid on their backsides, rendering the rock completely smooth. When I saw the programme, I thought 'I'm having some of that'. I ascertained that men in hard hats hadn't cordoned off the area for health and safety reasons, but somehow other commitments our our great western jaunts always got in the way. Until now:

Just one question arises. For the first, say, 100 years of the slide's existence, wouldn't it have been quite a rough ride? The darning needles of north-east Somerset must have been well-used.

Finally, there was the Blue Peter Goes Gold event run by the estimable Kaleidoscope at BAFTA. A day of laughter, hilarity, hard hats, vast quantities of beer and mock shock when we heard Biddy Baxter using the word 'cleavage'. After the 7 (count 'em) hours of clips and panels (something that might be perceived by some as an ordeal, only marginally preferable to spending the time with Peter Stringfellow in Basra, but they're wrong, it was great), we trooped upstairs to mark the publication of Ian Greaves and Justin Lewis' Prime Minister, You Wanted to See Me, and BAFTA: Behind the Mask by Reginald Collin. As well being a former director of the Academy, Collin is also a former director of top-rated drama series like Callan, and a fund of superb stories about the golden years of television. It was made apparent, at one time, that BAFTA could easily become RAFTA if it so desired. The desire, however, wasn't there. One reason was the potential for confusion with the Royal Academy over the road in Piccadilly, giving rise to the image of cab drivers asking fares if they wanted the one where the pictures moved, or the one where they stayed still.