Saturday, September 05, 2009

For a couple of years or so, the bookshelf above my monitor has had an A5 envelope poked between the paperbacks, containing various items of correspondence. The content is nothing stunning or revelatory, but they're things I'd like to keep safe all the same. With this in mind, I've been eyeing them up for ages thinking "Must put that envelope away somewhere". So I did, and now I can't find it. It's not too much of a worry, as I know that the moment I stop looking for it, it'll turn up. That happened last week with a tape recorder manual. Shortly after locating a PDF on the Internet, I found my yellowing hard copy. If I weren't so dismissive of such things, I'd blame a playful spirit.

Friday, September 04, 2009

So farewell then, Keith Waterhouse. While I find his later novels near-unreadable, I've always had a soft spot for his earlier work, and he was one of the few good things in the Daily Mail. Apart from which, how could one not love a human being who so clearly set out to resemble a spaniel?

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Sad news indeed about Simon Dee. I made contact with him when I was researching Turned Out Nice Again and I have a couple of very cordial letters from him. Sadly, I was already about a year late with the manuscript when I found him, and I never did make it to Winchester. Fortunately, I had plenty of background on his chat show years from producers and executives, and I tried to be as fair as I could. I had to note their comments that he was a bloody nightmare to work with, but I also had to make clear his importance in the history of the chat show - in UK terms, Dee and Eamonn Andrews laid the foundations - and also to give praise where it was due. On his day, he was a good interviewer - someone who listened and engaged his brain accordingly, but who also had the chutzpah to ask the apparently unaskable. Unfortunately, he seemed to believe his own publicity, and, I suspect, also suffered from bad management. As a result, he alienated the people he needed most, and in later life seemed more inclined to blame a nebulous conspiracy for his downfall, rather than his own hubris. As Bill Cotton said "There was a time when he was a very powerful force on British television and he could have gone anywhere. But he was just a bloody fool". Indeed, but his show was one where magic sometimes happened, and I make no apologies for reminding you all of this from the 21 September 1968 Dee Time:

Monday, August 31, 2009

All too often nowadays, I put down a newspaper having concluded that its writers know little and care even less about the subjects of their articles. I want authoritative voices, not some 'will this do?' chancer who's cribbed the lot off Wikipedia. I'm not entirely sure if it's them or me: was it always this way, and I only notice it now because I'm better informed?

One of my pitifully few must-reads is James May's column in the Daily Telegraph each Saturday. While Jeremy Clarkson's in the Sunday Times telling its readers how he'd run the world (and making many of them profoundly glad that he isn't) and the Hamster's set up his wheel in the Daily Mirror, May ploughs his own wildly meandering furrow in the Torygraph. Despite being in the Motoring section, May's rambles frequently have only the slenderest connection to cars. Very often, only the last paragraph even mentions motoring, in a manner that just about connects with the preceding few hundred words. And that, dear reader, is the joy of the exercise. Rather audaciously, May uses his platform to explore subjects that interest him, including trains, music and the contents of his kitchen cupboard. It's a weekly visit to the mind of an agreeably anoraky middle-aged chap who actually knows stuff and gives a toss about it, so, as an anorak nearing middle age, is it any wonder that I'm a fan?

When May appeared on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, the host, jokingly, said that he hoped never to be trapped in a lift with May. Given Ross' own well-documented geek credentials, I thought the remark, even in jest, was beneath him. I'd rather be trapped in a pub (as can happen at high tide in the White Cross in Richmond) with May, but if it came down to it, I suspect time stuck in a lift with him would pass most pleasantly. In this cynical, jaded age, May is an enthusiast, and a pretty good standard-bearer for enthusiasts of all kinds. My only hope is that nobody at the Telegraph ever sits him down and asks him to write more about cars.