I enter the glass façade of The Channel Four Buildings. Russel Brand the wunderkind of channel four is in reception looking tall and gangly like a younger version of punk poet John Cooper Clark. He’s the presenter equivelant of my publisher Jamie Byng. Jamie is as rock and roll and his soul is as old as The Chair of Edinburgh. His a spirit and vitality have the same presence. They, Brand and cooper clark, were definitely separated at birth. In fact there is a great table Jamie, Russel Brand and Cooper Clark. I’d serve that table. The reception is laid out like a pack of cards spread. I pick a gorgeous queen of spades. And she simply glances to someone who looks the part. I’ll be the joker.
I am led – as you are in these things – two floors down past what is called the green room. It’s The Vortex of all things production or so the artists and guests would like to think. There are other vortexes such as The Gallery. It’s after make up and wardrobe that I spill into the green room where the guests are bubbling with nervous energy, lots of chat and banter warming up for the show and getting a feel for themselves and each other. Production team members flit in and out the room like bees in and out the hive. Clip boards and head sets and impeccable clothes from Monsoon All Saints and Armani. I notice the gallery through a door somewhere with its bank of screens and get a first glimpse of the set. Looking through the circular glasss in the gallery door is like looking into a fish bowl.
The Panel guests are firstly Suzie Dent, she of Channel Four’s oldest tv programme Countdown. Suzie is both gorgeous and fun. It’s me and Suzie against the world. On the opposing team are Edwina Currie MP (one of the most famous ex-politicians in Britian) and Will Smith. Not that Will Smith. I like Edwina Currie. I know I am not supposed to but I do. She is on the opposite side of the political spectrum to me but I am a sucker for a Jewish aunt. Go figure. She is chatty open and said I was handsome. Just the latter would make me feel that I liked her. I am cheap like that.
Just before the programme I meet Julian Fellows a bellow of a man as sensitive as he is a fighter for his “belief in punctuation dear lemn”. He’s more a rebel than the nation knows and puts me in mind of people like “ Radio fours arts programme. Julian does a good line in “English man”. But judge him at your peril. Like any “English Man” what you have is a complex, witty and attractive complexity of personality. He is the presenter and chair and the show is called Never Mind The Full Stops.
Towards the end of the show it is each panel members job to choose a word they love and a word they hate. I choose EGGNOG as the word I love. Why? Because it is a ridiculous word that even feels ridiculous as it shapes itself in the mouth – try saying it aloud “eggnog”. And the word I hate is taken from a magnificent dictionary at home called THE FUTURE DICTIONARY OF AMERICA. It has contributors like Paul Auster Kurt Vonnegurt Peter carey Katha Pollitt and many many more. But on the programme I, with a raised eyebrow say “Julian my word taken from The Future Dictionary of America is “Bush” and the definition is “bush [bush] n I. a poisonous family of shrubs, now extinct.”
It gets a laugh from the live audience. Julian’s all of a bluster. I thought his tweed might bust a few buttons. “It’s not a political show” he says and I reply “I know but this is not about politics, it’s about a Bush”. Julian asks me if I have another word. “I’m sorry” I say but I’m sticking with Bush. I am tempted by the innuendo but simply smirk. Julian being the professional and sharp as the pin that slides through the butterfly moves on. Just for your information Bush was submitted to the dictionary by Paul Auster whose New York Trilogy book I absolutely loved!
The show ends and my team loses. It’s only later on that I realised that I enjoyed the show so much, the guests, the presenter, the subject matter etc, that I forgot about the binary opposite of winning or losing. I meant to say that Oscar Wilde lost his trial but remained the greater writer, but I only thought of that on the car on the way home. “you’ll never guess who I had in my cab” said the cab driver “Yes” I said “I’ll never guess”.
Seven days later to this blog President George Bush is beaten in the mid term elections. It’s international news! But when the show Never Mind The Full Stops goes out, in mid January 2007 the future dictionary of America (2004) will be the present. And I mean a resent to the present – if not extinct then in the final throes.