Sunday, 22 June 2008

Fresh Goat?

Another summer solstice is behind us and Jyuti’s best linen is back in the cupboard with only minor chutney damage. As we all stood around in the back garden two evenings ago, wrapped in our ceremonial robes and declaring our love for the Moon and Sun Goddesses, I felt completely at ease with the world. Life is often trying and unfair to men of good looks and talent. Some of us are unfairly singled out for abuse. Yet it’s reassuring to know that Mother Sun is always there to ensure we’re all tanned to at least a Madeley Factor of 4. I suppose that’s why those of us in the druid faith are always happy in each other’s company. There’s really no mood better than that of a group of celebrities when there’s a goat to offer up on the high altar of light entertainment.

Which is why it struck me as odd that Stephen Fry looked so intense as he walked around the garden waving a large wooden baton.

‘Ah,’ said Stephen, ‘’tis I, Fry, with my ceremonial fertility cane, hewn from the finest Brazilian hardwood and guaranteed to deliver fecundity to all who fall under it.’

‘You mean it’s a stick of procreation?’

‘You might say that,’ said he, directing randomly towards David Dickinson.

‘I really wish you wouldn’t do that,’ I said, jumping in the way of the stick. ‘There are lots of people here but the last one I’d like to see frisky is Dickinson.’

‘I do not choose,’ said Stephen. ‘’Tis the stick that chooses whose loins will be blessed this summer eve.’

And with that he was off, this time to worry the already pregnant Billy Piper with his cane.

I left Stephen to his shamanism and slipped over to the buffet table where Sir Clive James was struggling to get some of Jyuti’s homemade chutney off his ceremonial gown.

‘I’m a mess,’ wheezed the Great One. ‘I’ll never be able to look a vestal virgin in the face. I have chutney where chutney should never tread.’

I gave him a slap on the back. ‘Cheer up, Clive. It’s not every year that you get to be the one to deliver the final blow to our ceremonial goat.’

‘But the chutney,’ said Clive. ‘I can’t slaughter an animal looking like this. And what will Jyuti say? Goat blood might not be the only life essence to flow by the close of play.’

‘Spare me the chutney,’ I replied. ‘Just think. You’ll soon be awash with the fresh arterial spray of the best Norfolk goat that money can buy. You should look forward to that.’

‘Ah, Raj,’ said Sir Clive, looking at me over his glasses in that way that reminds you of the great intellect at work behind that magnificent brow of his. ‘You know how to cheer a fellow up. I feel moved to write you a poem, perhaps in three stanzas and with end rhymes.’

‘I can do even better than that,’ I said. ‘Go and stand near Stephen. One wave of his stick and you’ll feel positively chirpy about the world and the vestal virgins won’t stand a chance with you. Nor will the goat, if I’m honest. But there you have the Great Circle of Life. You can’t have everything.’

And that, on this Sunday morning, is the message I want to send out to all my friends in the druid community. I know you were disappointed that neither Jyuti nor I could be with you at Stonehenge the other day, but we promise to make up for it next year.

These things are foretold in the Book of Richard, as lifted from the Book of Tesco.

'Shabna Grithalda Vertiga Raj Vespa.'

Saturday, 21 June 2008

The Vanity of Human TV Presenters

“And Swift expires a driveller and a show”

Vanity is such a modern drug that it should really come in a foil wrap. So many of us are under that charming, wonderful, warming narcosis which makes us feel so loved for our gifts and talent. This really is such a new wonder drug that makes us feel so special, it’s sometimes a shock to learn that there are others out there who go hungry or struggle with their insignificance. Haven’t they had their tabs this month? Doesn’t ego come on the National Health?

Yet I suppose it is hardly surprising that we choose to be doped up on our sense of self. It is hard to survive otherwise, when our culture is so unendingly rotten. Riven by petty feuds, blatant falsehoods and aggravated narcissism, London is a den of arrogance, ambition, and arseholes. We need that occasional boost to pep us up. Vanity keeps us strong. And occasionally it forces us to make mistakes.

This whole affair of poor Richard just saddens me terribly. A brilliant mind is now being ridiculed by the lowest among us. Yet those grub-eating satirists with their endless witticisms are just as prone to vanity. Their lives will contain as many (if not more) misjudgements as even the most litigious person will find in Richard’s misunderstood career. It’s the intellectual conceit suffered by all of us who aspire for success that we will occasionally choose the difficult path. Ridicule is the price suffered by anybody who has tried to rise too quickly, only to reveal that very human characteristic: an astonishing capacity to make a complete balls of things.

Jyuti made the point this morning when we came to discuss one of my greatest shames.

‘Jyuti,’ I said at a particularly sensitive moment over my cornflakes, ‘it sometimes disappoints me enormously that I can’t drive a car.’

My confession clearly startled her. She knows how rarely I like to make this little fact public. When you look back through my blog, you’d see the numerous instances when I mention having driven us somewhere. Only, I was telling the smallest untruth. I employ a man to do all the driving for me. He’s an ex-grand National jockey who lives in the back of the Range Rover and doesn’t complain when I force him over the back seat and I climb out the driver’s door.

‘Perhaps you should do something to change that,’ Jyuti replied as I’d finished sobbing.

‘And become a figure of fun like Richard?’ I asked.

‘I know what you mean, the poor man... Harassed by scientologists for plagiarism. It’s like being shopped for theft by Ronnie Biggs.’

‘Not just scientologists,’ I said, ‘but damn ungrateful bloggers who don’t remember how he eased the suffering of so many people. But is that what we’ve come to, Jyuti? Does a trained healer mean so much less to us than the men and women that drive petrol tankers? Why do we mock and humiliate our artists, yet are willing to pay for our cars in blood? Why am I, a man of so many skills, unable to perform the most basic necessities of modern life that I’m made to feel like an outcast?’

‘Perhaps you need to think about a new career,’ said Jyuti. She’s always wanting go solo so I was hardly surprised by her suggestion. ‘Phil across the road says that most jobs come with a company car these days.’

‘And what does Phil across the road do for a living?’ I asked.

‘He’s a photocopier engineer.’

A photocopier engineer. Jyuti wants me to become a photocopier engineer so I might learn to drive and we can put an ex-Grand National jockey out of his chauffeuring job.

What does this say about the world? The same world that is currently mocking Richard Madeley, even though there doesn’t walk a kinder, more generous man on the face of this rotten borough of Earth.

I feel quite pensive today, as though a great wrong has been done. Damn all, who mock him. And damn all photocopier engineers too. May they all rot in a world low on toner and heavy on paper jams.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Voices From My Past

‘Hello, Raj,’ said the voice I recognised but hadn’t heard in an age. ‘Long time no see.’

‘Richard?’ I said, struggling to recall the last time my old sparring partner from ‘This Morning’ had rang me. ‘Is that you? How’s life as a professor going?’

‘Quite well,’ he said. ‘In fact, very well. I’ve just launched a new blog.’

You can imagine who this news filled me with delight. ‘A blog! How fantastic, Richard,’ I said. ‘You might know that I’m something of a blogger, myself. One of the least read but widely admired blogger in the country. Only the other night a wonderful lady viewer emailed me for the recipe for my tuna plait.’

Richard didn’t sound too impressed.

‘You still have those inferiority issues, don’t you Raj?’

‘How should I know? I’m not Dr. Smarty Pants Professor of Psychology...’ I took a long deep breath and waited a moment. ‘So,’ I said. ‘Tell me about your blog...’

‘Oh,’ he said. ‘It’s just a place where I want to connect with an audience. Chat about important matters in my life and generally break down all barriers that prevent people from getting to know a super talented man of letters.’

‘Pretty much what I do with my blog,’ I said. ‘I hope you’ve got a good name for this project.’

‘I have,’ he said. ‘I call it “The Richard Madeley Appreciation Society”.’

‘You cheeky bugger,’ I replied.

There must have been something in the way I said this. It was more of a scream than your average, common-or-garden ‘cheeky bugger’. Jyoti came running in from the kitchen.

‘Listen to this, Jyt,’ I said. ‘You won’t believe it but Richard had gone and launched his own blog and bloody called it “The Richard Madeley Appreciation Society.’

‘What’s wrong with that?’ asked Jyoti.

‘What’s wrong? Well, for one, there’s not many people who want to appreciate him. And don’t you think it sounds a little too like a certain highly popular blog read by 3.2 million people a week?’

‘It sounds nothing like Thought Experiments,’ said Jyoti as she retired back to the kitchen.

I just hung up the phone and locked myself behind my office door. There are only so many insults a man can take after another hard day split between Manchester and London.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Butterscoth Nuggets

No great anecdotes for you tonight. I’m caught somewhere between a brain that’s full of ideas and a body that’s already unbuttoning my shirt and stirring a mug of cocoa. It has been a strange day, split between Manchester and London. I suppose you all know about my time in London, given that much of it was covered live on Channel 4 between the hours of five and six. It’s the early part of my day you won’t know about. It was the usual slog and you can probably guess a few of the details: miserable train journey, Manchester as overcrowded as ever, used my mobile phone to take picture of extravagantly dressed woman only to later discover that it was a man in drag... You know: a typical day in Persaudland. I'd post the picture but I don't know if that would be considered illegal.

My greatest achievement was to discover a new word. ‘Underemployed’. It might not be new for you but I think it perfectly sums up so much of my life at the moment. It’s quite different to being ‘unemployed’, which is never as bad as it sounds, so long as you’re a man with the Persaud spirit. Up at dawn, at my desk by eight, and working a full fifteen hour day on my books, essays, blogs... Rarely a night goes past without my getting a solid eight hours before I’m up again, working away and hating every moment I’m forced to relax, go shopping with Jyudi, or help Clarkson weld new wing mirrors to his rocket car. My autobiography is now past 30,000 words and I’m getting into the foothills of the ‘This Morning’ years. That part of my life is going swimmingly. Role on publication in 2010!

So, you see, except for the wage, my form of unemployment is extremely rewarding. It keeps me poor but fully employed. I set my own pace – brutally taxing, if I’m honest – and goals which are generally unreachable but I enjoy trying to reach them nevertheless. If I were in any other walk of life, I’d be classed as a workaholic, a high flier with offices in the city and an expense account to match. Because my business is writing, my office is a pit of a spare room, overloaded with books and half-finished manuscripts, and my expense account is whatever Jyudi is willing to slip me at the end of the week.

All of which leads me to my new word and the reason I’m still proud of it at half-past eleven at night.

To be ‘underemployed’ is to have spare capacity for work. Not just any work, though some days I do wonder if I’d be happier tending lawns and emptying bins. (I once knew a university lecturer who gave up his high paying job to become a gardener. He claimed he didn’t miss academia and was much happier.) What I mean by ‘unemployed’ is to have the capacity to do lots of complicated and challenging tasks but never getting the chance to flex that muscle. Give me an impossible problem and I’ve got the patience of a saint as I try to solve it. Give me something easy but routine, I tend to drift off into my own world. I begin to think I’m terribly bad at my job and not particularly bright. It’s all quite depressing.

The whole sorry business was put into perspective at half past night tonight. I was sitting with Jyudi, watching the football, when she suddenly jumps up. I’d drifted off and thought German had scored and began to curse the Kaiser.

‘So sorry, Raj,’ she said. ‘I forgot to mention that I had one hell of a morning with the people at Blackberry Manor.’

I gave a shudder, though I suppose you wonder why.

I don’t like to boast but Jyudi and I have a rather profitable sideline as consultants for the entertainment industry. We provide ideas for theme park owners and resort managers who want to update their facility mix with the latest in visitor attractions. Blackberry Manor is one of our latest consultancy projects. It’s based on the Isle of Man and comprises a large field which the owner wants to turn into a tourist hot spot.

‘The thing is, Raj, they want our ideas for tomorrow.’

‘Tomorrow?’ I cried. ‘Why didn’t you tell me earlier? It’s impossible now...’

‘Not for you,’ said Jyudi, displaying all that faith she has in my super abilities, which makes our relationship so strong.

‘But you can’t honestly expect me to come up with ideas off the top of my head so late at night,’ I begged her.

‘But that’s what we need for eight o’clock tomorrow morning or we lose the contract. Twenty resort destination ideas for the over 65s, based around an empty plot of land in the middle of the Isle of Man.’

I sank back down into my chair and closed my eyes as Jyudi got her notebook ready. After fifteen minutes, I’d got up to nineteen ideas.

Raj Ideas for the Blackberry Manor Theme Park

1. Udder Fun -- milk your own dairy cow
2. ‘Teat World’ – similar to Udder Fun but could involve any lactating mammal.
3. The Stilt Museum – break your hips in style
4. Taffy Pulling – a visitor attraction either about making toffee or a dating scheme for Welshmen
5. Gnome City – a miniature city populated by garden gnomes
6. The Brassiere Patisserie – we bake ‘em, you wear ‘em.
7. Donkey Sanctuary/Nunnery – funds itself if you think about it
8. Spongecake World – a multi-story museum detailing the history of cakes with a layer of strawberry jam in the middle
9. Miniature golf – with miniature golf instructors, all under three feet four
10. What Was it Like in the War Grandad? – Relive those WW2 memories stuck in an Anderson shelter with a book of coupons and a stick of lard
11. Name That Rash – All the fun of the rash! Get rashes, give rashes, watch them develop, learn all the cures, fun for all the family, the itchy treat that keeps on giving
12. Pick Your Own Coconuts – Shimmy up your very own a palm tree! Exhilarating and good for the thighs!
13. Name That Spoon! – the Isle of Man’s biggest spoon collection
14. Pan For Gold! – Butterscotch Nugget Gold!
15. The Hole – Enjoy the view from the Isle of Man’s deepest hole (which is neither a pitshaft nor a natural cave system)
16. A Brief History of Curtains – an interactive tour where the over 65s get to look out of the curtains of the rich and famous.
17. Extreme Sports for the Over 65s – knit your own bungee rope
18. Traditional Tea Garden – rule over an exact replica of a colonial tea plantation and then taste the produce of your brutal lash
19. Pimp My Mobility Scooter – drag racing at a dizzying 8mph!!!

Jyudi sat back and gazed at the list. Tears of relief were in her eyes.

‘You’ve done it again, Raj,’ she said and planted a kiss of my cheek.

‘What’s that for?' I asked. 'I’ve only done nineteen.’

‘Oh, I’ve got a good idea for the twentieth,’ she said and scribbled a final line of the page.

20. The Raj Persaud World – a theme park dedicated to the most wonderful man on the planet.

What could I say? I simply couldn’t argue with that.