Saturday, 9 April 2011

More Fun than Fun

I listened to Desert Island Discs the other day (I rarely do these days as I find the Scottish female presenter has a moist way of talking that makes it impossible not to think about the wet mucous membranes inside her mouth - ugh). The subject was Gyles Brandreth, a man who I know very little of, beyond his occasional participation in Just a Minute. I suspect he is someone one might feel ambivalent about, if one met him. His friend Roger Lewis in the rather wonderful Seasonal Suicide Notes describes a visit Brandreth makes to Lewis's house:

'Gyles Brandreth called in for lunch on his way to address the Oswestry branch of Bingo for the Deaf ... I made him a cup of tea. "This is the most wonderful cup of tea I have ever had in my life," he said, so firmly I believed it. I opened the door to the dining room and we proceeded to tuck in. "This is the most wonderful lunch I have ever had in my life," he claimed. Later on, Anna took him to Leominster Railway Station. "This is the most wonderful lift I have ever had in my life," I expected him to say in a heartfelt manner - and, when the Arriva Trains Wales train pulled in, "This is the most wonderful train I have ever seen in my life."'

Brandreth does sound a bit exhausting to be with, but his never fading enthusiasm is quite enviable as well. Therefore, when he told the Desert Island Discs lady that he takes Noel Coward's letters and diaries as inspiration, I made a note. According to Brandreth, when things went wrong, Noel Coward always said, 'Rise above it,' and Brandreth has taken that admonition very much to heart.

Which is why, when I was at the remaindered bookshop yesterday and saw a copy of The Letters of Noel Coward  for a relatively knockdown price, I bought it immediately. I started reading it yesterday evening and, despite the slightly Brandrethesque (or rather, I suppose, since Brandreth has been inspired by Coward, it is in fact purely Cowardesque), gushing nature of a lot of the phrasing in the letters (Dear Darling old Mummy-snooks is a bit sickening, I have to admit, and there is quite a bit of that kind of thing ['Ducky old Diddleums' - eurgh]), I am rather enjoying it.

The book has a good introduction, outlining Coward's life and the development of his career. It turns out that at two years old Coward 'had to be removed from church for dancing in the aisle to accompany the hymn', which suggests that it would have been impossible to try to get him to be anything other than an entertainer. What is also emerging though is that in some respects he was born before his time. 'He was always a man in a hurry', the author explains, 'a hurry to get on to the next thing and the next place. Which is why he was particularly fond of the telegram as a means of communication. Not only was it necessarily brief and to the point but it lent itself to the kind of verbal jokes that he dearly loved.'

When I read that, I thought about all the modern ways of sending messages around the world at immense speed. There are many things in the modern world that Coward would have hated, but I suspect he would have absolutely adored Twitter.


  1. I love reading your blog.

  2. Thank you, that is very kind, AB

  3. AB is Ameeee, haha, sorry!

  4. What is on your little picture - I can't make it out? It doesn't appear to be Harry related. Is it a person or a china figurine? Do I need new glasses?

  5. Oh that's me as a kid - haha