Friday, 30 August 2013

Winding Up Important Civic People

I’m heading out this morning, so, if you’re reading this on Friday, 30th August, 2013, I’ll probably be in Blackwell’s university bookshop in Manchester, no doubt thumbing a copy of The Comic Journal and otherwise making the most of the quiet before the new university term begins. I’m also running off early to avoid any emails from angry civic leaders. Not that I’m in the habit of annoying civic leaders but sometimes it just can’t be helped.

There might be some sharp people who enter into local politics but I can’t say that I’ve ever met one. People who enter into local politics tend to be the last people who should be involved in local politics. To paraphrase the great Groucho Marx, I wouldn’t want to belong to any club that would have those prats as members.

As evidence, I'd like you to consider the following email exchange which took place yesterday, but first, I need to set the scene... You need to know that my old blog, ‘The Richard Madeley Appreciation Society’, was supposedly written by the real Richard Madeley, star of UK TV and the husband of the equally famous Judy. Of course, the blog wasn’t written by Richard Madeley but by me. Richard Madeley had nothing to do with it. You also need to know that I’ve not updated the blog in a long time but that it still attracts the occasional visitor.

What usually happens when a visitor arrives is that they ignore the blog completely. They don’t spot the disclaimers in the banner. Suspicions aren’t raised by Photoshopped pictures of Richard in various freakish costumes or the generally twisted nature of the blog. They just rush straight to the email address at the side and think they’ve got a hotline to a bona fide UK celebrity.

That’s when I get an email such as the following:

Dear Richard,

From the small town of Pud, Glossopshire we  would like to have you sometime to speak at Pud Town Hall if possible. How do we go about making a booking if you would be interested. You remember little Pud from your Glossopshire days  ? – we heard you recall your memories of the County on a recent Radio Glossopshire programme.

I am an ex Councillor and Mayor of Pud and I am a Player and Committee Member of our local Brass Band (Pud Marching Band) and have arranged successful fundraising events before.

Best wishes

Barry and Rita Elbow

To save the embarrassment of the individual who sent me this email, I have changed a few of the details. He wasn’t called Barry Elbow and there is no Pud or county of Glossopshire.

Now, you would think that the kind thing to do would be to email back to explain how they’ve fallen for a hoax. That, however, is the very worst thing you can do. I’ve replied like that many times and it usually results in a severe bollocking from some self-important Reginald quoting advertising standards, scripture, and the law of the land.

I don’t mind the anger. It’s always good to annoy these people. However, I don’t see why I should be punished for their shallow pursuit of celebrity. I’m also of the opinion that I shouldn’t let them down so lightly. If people can’t be bothered to read the blog of the person they’re contacting, it suggests they’re not interested in the person they’re contacting. Even though I’m not Richard Madeley, I do think that the real Richard Madeley deserves more respect than somebody buttonholing him to provide free entertainment during some rainy afternoon in Pud. If you’re going to ask a favour of the man, at least have the common courtesy of learning a little about him and don’t just ask to borrow his celebrity for a couple of hours.

Because, if you do that to me, you’re going to get a reply like this:

Dear Mayor Elbow and Lady Mayoress,

Thank you for your generous invite! I would dearly love to come and speak at Pud Town Hall, though you don’t mention a topic, so I presume it’s my choice! In which case, I’d love to talk to you about my new passion for the English whelk, to be seen next year in my new BBC2 documentary series, ‘Richard Madeley’s Whelk Summer’. A talk at Pud Town Hall would be just the thing to kick off our nationwide publicity about the show.

Did you know that British waters harbour 127 varieties of whelk, of which my favourite is definitely the thick-lipped dog whelk (aka nassarius incrassatus)? If that sort of information excites you, Barry, I could manage perhaps two or three hours on the subject, plus I have some rather amusing slides including one from the first time Judy tried to eat a whelk. Unfortunately, we didn’t know that she has a shellfish allergy so she ballooned considerably, as you’ll see from the slide. The air ambulance was a bit of a white knuckler but at least we can laugh about it now! Well, I can laugh but Judy has a slight residual puffiness around her lips which makes laughter almost as painful as yawning.

Barry, let’s talk wheelbase… Is there ample parking at Pud Town Hall? I’m currently driving a six-berth Majestic motorhome in beige as part of a promotional deal the Beeb have arranged with the makers. I must warn you: it can cause congestion in smaller town centres. In other places (Bridgnorth), local scout troupes were used to guide me into the parking bay. I’m sure with your connections, you could do the same. Nothing too fancy, of course. Just a small procession, perhaps with the Pud Marching Band providing the music. The theme to ‘The Damnbusters’ is a personal favourite. Do you know it and, more to the point, Barry, can you play it?

I don’t know about you but I think the best marching band music came from the films made about the Second World War. The Spitfire Prelude, The 49th Parallel, the theme to ‘The Great Escape’… Steve McQueen was never better, don’t you think? Little known factoid for you, Barry: he made that entire movie wearing a truss. Makes the mind boggle as well as perspire! More recently, of course, we have the music to ‘Saving Private Ryan’ but it doesn’t produce the same swell in the breast as ‘The Dambuster’s March’. I suppose it’s because it’s about Americans. Judy just reminded me about ‘Colonel Bogey’ which was another good one. Good tune, I mean. Not good American though perhaps he was. Now I think about it, if you don’t like the whelk idea, I could talk about World War 2 marching band music. Hit me with your thoughts, Barry (you too Rita!). You’ll both find that I’m very open minded.

By the way, I hope you're not contacting me after finding the blog 'The Richard Madeley Appreciation Society' on the internet. I should mention briefly in passing that the blog was a spoof written by a man of limited intellect and very little talent in the field of comedy writing. He thought himself funnier than he is and occasionally pretends to be me under the name ‘Dick Madeley’. You should watch out for him and try not to get too involved. His real name is Stan Madeley. He wrote a book mocking me but thankfully it was under marketed and therefore a bit of a flop despite it being a proper rib cracker.

But let’s not sour the good tone we’ve set with talk of internet pranksters. These spoofers are just one of the many down sides of being a national celebrity/treasure. Another down side is Clare Balding but best not to go into that over unsecure channels. On a more pleasant note: I’ve just hopped onto Google Maps and eyeballed the width of your High Street. It looks very exciting if a bit narrow for the well-equipped motorhome. I’m intrigued by the look of your ‘Caramel Floom’ tea house, though I’m very disappointed to see that ‘Pud Domestic Applicance Ltd’ has now closed down.

What’s happened to the British high street, Barry? Some people blame internet shopping but I read a story in Judy’s Guardian the other day which said that only 30 percent of people shop on the internet. Well, that just made me want to cry: what about the other 70 per cent? Out-of-town shopping is clearly the problem and I think it should be taxed until B&Q squeak! What we need is for councils to work more proactively to bring new commerce into our small towns. It’s why I’m excited to see your Caramel Floom. In my opinion, every town should have a Caramel Floom, along with a bookshop, a shop selling plumbing supplies, and somewhere to buy nails.

Before I forget: my agent will need to know the numbers you can fit into the Town Hall. The biggest crowd I’ve ever had to work for a talk was 27, though they thinned out a little during the final hour.

But perhaps it’s too early to talk logistics. Let’s just get this sucker organised. Send me more details, size of hall and details of your audio visual equipment (I’m hot on multimedia, Barry), so we can begin to lock down some of the arrangements ahead of what is sure to be a night of slightly saucy crustacean fun.

Again, thank you for the invite. I’m sure the kind people of Pud will give me a very great whelkome!

Sincerely yours,

Dick Madeley
‘The Nation’s Favourite Uncle’

So, how do you reply to a letter like that? With good humour? With a snide remark to indicate that you’re angry at the deception? Perhaps you don’t even reply at all. You allow the silence to convey your disappointment…

Well, not Barry and not Rita. Barry and Rita still think I’m called Richard but Barry is now harbouring some doubts….

Dear Richard

Thank you for your reply – will consider.


And we sometimes wonder why the country is in the state it's in?

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