He’s been introduced on stage with the words ‘Yes, he’s still alive…it’s Humphrey Lyttelton!’ for so long, it seems impossible that he now isn’t.
Forget cups of tea, kings and queens, fish and chips (or endless rain, endemic alcoholism, and teenage pregnancy): I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue is the true symbol of Britishness. When Gordon Brown suggested we needed a motto to rival France’s ‘liberte, egalite, fraternite’ he should have looked no further than the 30+ years of Radio 4’s antidote to panel games. Brains, Filth, Silliness: that’s Blighty. (I’d settle for ‘Bring me the head of Alfredo Garcia!’, though.)
I remember my glee when I first looked at a Tube map, and discovered Mornington Crescent actually exists. I can’t hear the word ‘punt’ without recalling Barry Cryer reducing a theatre to mirthful mush, without ever needing to reach the punchline. Thanks to Willie Rushton, in my mind Hamlet’s ‘To be or not to be, that is the question’ will forever be sung to the tune of ‘A you’re Adorable’. And Humph’s own contributions – wearily deriding the panel, the audience, the games themselves – pricked the possible balloon of smuggery, on the comedy programme of fate.
I just hope that Samantha can cope all right without him. In her honour, some greatest hits: Girlfriend in a Coma to the tune of Tiptoe through the Tulips, and some of the gent himself from 2006.
Red: the Next Generation of American Writers, edited by Amy Goldwasser (hardback: essays). This is a peach of a dip-into book: a collection of essays on everything from terminal illness to fangirling Johnny Depp, from ‘a generation, perhaps the first, of writers’. It’s grand proof that all the blogging, social networking, texting and gossiping teenagers do instead of their homework has inherent value. They’re not just giving an insight into the familiar petty distractions of teenage angst (although they do that spectacularly); these are writers, showing off how much they already know about structure, pace, how to use wit or shock to manipulate the reader. And some of them are only 13. We old fart fictioneers had better watch our backs. (Incidentally, I don’t know of anything similar that exists in the UK. Anyone else? It’s quite a tempting idea, if not…)
I’m in the keyboard-hammering stage with Biscuits & Lies: one day it’s going swimmingly, the next I dream of throwing it all out of the window and starting again. A first draft needs to exist before I can edit it into something less humiliatingly terrible, but it’s still frustrating to know how much of my still-puny word count is delete-worthy guff. (Today is a ‘throw it out of the window’ day: can you tell?) I’ve finally pegged the key difference between the main characters in Big Woo and B&L, though: Big Woo‘s serafina is fixated on how messed up she is; B&L‘s heroine has absolutely no idea. Now, if only I could find a way to respond to the note I’ve got pinned up above the laptop: NEEDS MORE JOKES.
Breaking myself horribly through yoga; becoming obsessed with The Apprentice, even though the last three firings have made no sense whatsoever (Lucinda FTW!); watching Atonement (good enough to distract from La Knightley and her Amazing Performing Back, even: remarkable); watching There Will Be Blood (possibly good in theory: could not stand it); avoiding chocolate, with great sadness.