Knowing me, a-ha: Alan Partridge's nearest and not-so-dearest pay tribute
July 21st 2013
FOR the past 15 years, former Goodie and fervent bird-watcher Bill Oddie has had something of a cross to bear. He has found himself the butt of a running gag on a seminal comedy show featuring Alan Partridge. Across the two series of I'm Alan Partridge, and more recently on 2010's Mid Morning Matters, Partridge has repeatedly name-checked Oddie, citing the nature-lover as, alongside former Crimewatch presenter Sue Cook, one of his few remaining celebrity friends. But, Partridge being Partridge, he portrays him less as a confidant than an annoyance, claiming Oddie perpetually leaves messages for him (ignored) and inundates him with often ill-advised gifts.
Only fleetingly has he said something positive about the man. In his 2011 autobiography, for example, I, Partridge: We Need to Talk About Alan, Oddie is praised for teaching him, "how to remain still for long periods of time and go completely undetected in undergrowth and shrubbery" – a skill Alan employs to spy on his wife Carol, whom he rightly suspects of cheating on him with "a narcissistic sports pimp".
I contact Oddie to ask how he feels about this. His response is swift. "Anything I can do to discredit the idea that I have even heard of Mr Partridge, let alone befriended him, is most welcome," he writes in an email, encouraging me to call. I do. He's great fun as I quiz him further on what it's like to be cast as the irritant's irritant.
Laughing uproariously, he says: "Do you know, a good number of people have asked the very same thing! But why should I be upset about it? Some have suggested he is setting me up, but I don't think he is, actually." He pauses, as if only now reconsidering. "And even if he were, well, it's a compliment. Partridge is a good act."
Still, he was curious about the repeated references, so Oddie wrote to Partridge's alter ego, Steve Coogan, to find out his motives. "I wrote twice, in fact." And what was the response? "There wasn't one! Bloody typical, eh? When you call his bluff, Alan is not there to respond. I suppose he thinks he's staying in character…"
Steve Coogan has stayed in character as Alan Partridge, on and off, for 22 years now. Long after most comedy creations have been kicked into touch, and consigned to Dave for an eternity of repeats, Partridge lives on. His appeal says much about the collective British taste in comedy, that we like our small-screen heroes full of unpleasant foibles. When I speak to Felicity Montagu (Partridge's long-suffering assistant, Lynn), she tells me there is something appealing about "being in such a failed world".
Lisa Moore – who runs the Comedy Practices degree at the University of Salford, suggests that Partridge, or rather Coogan and his co-creator Armando Iannucci, are cleverly perpetuating something the 19th-century writer Edgar Allan Poe encapsulated in an essay entitled "The Imp of the Perverse". "It's the urge to do that which you know you should not do," Moore says. "Alan simply never stops. He is the buffoon's buffoon. But the character resonates because there is probably a little of the imp in all of us." Oddie's reading is more succinct. "He's the ultimate sad fucker, isn't he?"
Early next month sees the release of "Alan Partridge, The Movie", which, after going through several mooted titles – among them "Colossal Velocity", "Live and Let Die with Alan Partridge" and even "Alan Partridge: Shitstorm" – goes by the name Alpha Papa. The plot is a loose reworking of Dog Day Afternoon, the 1975 siege-gone-wrong drama starring Al Pacino, re-imagined and recast in East Anglia, with fewer weapons, and no Pacino.
Partridge, now 57, is still ensconced at North Norfolk Digital, but the station has been swallowed by a larger company, which promptly enforces mass redundancies. One of the DJs let go, played by Colm Meaney, snaps, brings a shotgun to the studio and holds several people hostage. Partridge immediately spies an opportunity for national exposure, something he has been cruelly denied of late, and becomes, capital N, the Negotiator.
At the time of writing, there were no press screenings available, merely the trailer online. This is not, insists the film's producer Kevin Loader, because its makers are fearing a mauling from the critics – classic TV shows rarely make the transition to cinema smoothly – but simply because of a crazy timetable. "We're still in post-production," he says, "but we are all very pleased with it. I must have seen it a million times now, and I'm still laughing."
This last-minute frenzy, it transpires, is typical of the Partridge process. It's always tortured, and the film script was rewritten so many times they lost count. "Partridge is a lot of very hard work," Armando Iannucci will tell me. "It's the attention to detail, the angst over every word. In many ways, it's the hardest work we've done as writers."
However the reviewers greet it, the film seems likely to be the comedy hit of the summer. Partridge's second, if not third – or seventh – wind is largely down to its two new writers, twins Neil and Rob Gibbons, 36, both comparative newcomers to comedy. Picked up by Coogan's production company Baby Cow a few years ago, they co-wrote Mid Morning Matters, which started out as a series of 15-minute YouTube videos before transferring to Sky Atlantic, and also crafted Partridge's autobiography – a bestseller that fellow comedian David Baddiel suggested, with an entirely straight face, "should be nominated for the Booker", so postmodernly clever was it.
"It's all been a bit daunting, really," Neil Gibbons admits. "Ideally when you get your big break, you want to be the sole authors, so no one else can tell you that you got it wrong. But there was a real sense of standing on the shoulders of giants here, and a very high chance that we would fuck it up." Acutely aware of this, he and his brother have shown portions of the film to friends. It is with great relief in his voice that he says, "And they laughed long and loud."
Alan Partridge made his debut broadcast to the nation in 1991 on Radio 4's On the Hour, a show whose fertile pool of writers and performers – Iannucci alongside Chris Morris, Rebecca Front, Peter Baynham, Patrick Marber – would go on to redefine the British comedy landscape. Two years later, the format transferred to television as The Day Today, a merciless satire on the modern TV news format. Partridge was its fledgling sports reporter, genial if somewhat dim. His unwitting speciality was the sort of slip-of-the-tongue that would seem wildly improbable of professional broadcasters had not so many of them – and John Inverdale is merely the latest – proved that they each perpetually teeter on the highwire of political incorrectness.
On a show overflowing with brilliant caricatures, it was Partridge that shone brightest. David Schneider, part of the original On the Hour team, recalls his early genesis. "My memories of Alan's birth are of us all sat around a table, discussing him endlessly, and working out every last detail," he says. He explains that it was first suggested that Partridge hail from Milton Keynes, but that Milton Keynes was too obvious. The key to Partridge, even early on, was subtlety, and a determined avoidance of the cheap laugh. Norwich had more finesse than Milton Keynes. A similar example lies in the names of his two children, Fernando and Denise.
"They could have called them Fernando and Chiquitita, but again that wouldn't have worked." By having her called Denise, the viewer immediately conjures the marital arguments this must have caused – how his wife's ultimate good sense beat out Alan's eternally flimsy grasp of the exotic. "Alan always was irritating, but he was not two-dimensional," Schneider says. "He's a complex character; that's why he's endured."
By the time The Day Today came along, Steve Coogan was already established as one of our most promising comedy performers, a regular impressionist on Spitting Image, and a Perrier Award winner for his stand-up. But it was Partridge that would make him a comedy legend, and where Basil Fawlty before him, and David Brent after, would bow out early to preserve their immortality, Partridge continued, albeit in deliberate bite-sized chunks.
His ill-fated chat show, Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge, ran between 1994 and 1995 before being cancelled. In 1997, he was on his uppers in I'm Alan Partridge, living in a travel tavern "equidistant", as he had it, between London and Norwich, and desperate to get back on to mainstream television. By 2002, he was resigned to his fate as a presenter on Radio Norwich, and eight years later he found himself compartmentalised further still on a digital station, whose scope was limited to a tiny corner of his native Norfolk.
Coogan himself, meanwhile, seemed to have a complicated relationship with his most famous character, often at pains to distance himself from anything Alan-related. His private life became a colourful one, for which the tabloids were endlessly grateful, and he went to Hollywood in search of a level of fame that was ultimately denied him but afforded to his bastard offspring Ricky Gervais instead. (When asked whether he was jealous of Gervais, Coogan replied: "Obviously I'd like an Emmy, a Golden Globe. He's got them; I haven't.") If his Hollywood output has been patchy – and 2004's Around the World in 80 Days very much so – then his British films, particularly 24 Hour Party People (2002) and A Cock and Bull Story (2005), have much to recommend them. His small-screen efforts, particularly Saxondale (2006) and The Trip, alongside Rob Brydon (2010), have been very nearly, if not quite, Partridge's equal. And he was terrific in the Leveson Inquiry, raging against tabloid excesses.
Comedy overlord Armando Iannucci once said of the second series of I'm Alan Partridge that it was "terrible". He smiles when I bring this up now. It's early morning when we speak, before eight. He is in New York on HBO business, and has been up since 4.30am due to jetlag and, one suspects, his work ethic. "Ah yes, well…" he says of his Partridge slur. "Calling it 'terrible' may have been an overreaction, but it's just that we felt we got the first series so right, so there was a lot of expectation for the second. The process of making it was much tougher. In retrospect, maybe we thought about it a little too hard."
No wonder they returned to him only sparingly. It was Coogan himself, Iannucci suggests, who got the ball rolling on Mid Morning Matters, the success of which then prompted the autobiography, and now Alpha Papa. "After doing Alan, Steve always wants to do something completely different," he says. "But being judged alongside the likes of Monty Python is obviously great, and Steve is clearly very proud of that."
Film wrapped, they are now ready to go their separate ways again, Iannucci to the glorious Veep and beyond; Coogan co-writing and starring in Philomena alongside Dame Judi Dench, the true story of a girl in 1950s Ireland whose baby was "sold" by the church to America. So might Alpha Papa prove their Partridge swansong? Iannucci chuckles. "No, no. I think that, like James Bond, he will always be back. And the older he gets, the more possibilities we have to run with. That great middle-aged splodge," he muses, "really suits Alan, don't you think?"
How I became a national treasure He was a failed chat show host, now he's a movie star: Here Alan charts a remarkable life journey in his own words
July 27th 2013
Last week on Mid-Morning Matters, my radio and TV show (there's a webcam), I hosted a phone-in that questioned for the first time Jesus's ability to walk on water. My own theories include "thick layer of ice below surface" and "submerged jetty". Yet many of my callers refused to scrutinise Jesus's deeds at all, preferring to take them at face value, even if that betrayed a lack of intellectual curiosity. I was saddened by that, so when I was asked to sum up why I've become a national treasure, I wanted to look at the facts.
What is a national treasure? When does a man or, to a lesser extent, woman go from being roundly liked (James May) to loved – sewn into the fabric of British life like an ear grafted on to a mouse's back? It's a funny thing, national treasurehood. It's not like other hoods, such as "neighbourhood" or "Robin Hood" or "extractor fan hood". It's a concept that's hard to define and even harder to grasp.
Yet it's the Holy Grail (a kind of Middle Eastern cup) for those in the public eye. Kay Burley has a ringbinder on the subject, a dossier of newspaper cuttings she uses to work out why Clare Balding, say, is adored, whereas she has to spend her summer holidays writing to universities to ask for honorary degrees.
In the male TV presenter category, the field is more crowded but I think it's fair to say I'm there or thereabouts. For whatever reason, Eamonn Holmes and myself have broken away from the peloton of over-50s male broadcasters. Alastair Stewart, John Stapleton and Nick Owen huff and puff without gaining ground, while Schofield and Madeley have had to stop by a safety car to be sick (still metaphor). Eamonn and I seem to have gone from strength to strength. Watching him in a bar, working the room, helping himself to crisps and nuts, it's easy to see why he insists the make-up girls at Sky call him Mr Brilliant.
I like to think I share that standing. "How can you? You're not even on the telly," he jokes, before laughing while making a "dzaaah" sound with his mouth which would make some people want to thump him in his stupid throat, but which I find genuinely endearing. He's forgetting that I've done all that. In the 90s, I broadcast to nationwide audiences thanks to two series of my TV chat show Knowing Me, Knowing You (only one was broadcast, the other mapped out on a flipchart). More recently, on local radio, I've sought to refine my audience to a smaller group – sometimes as low as 200 in half-term holidays. But it means I'm making an ever-more personal connection with the public.
So why me? Why am I clutched to the nation's breasts? It's because I'm normal. I'm one of you. I do what you guys do. Get up on a Saturday, make a batch of granola, put some toast on before doing a dozen lunges in front of Saturday Kitchen. (Note to the producers: drop the Omelette Challenge. Just admit it's not working. It reveals next to nothing about the respective culinary skills of the competitors and the raw product served up sets back public confidence in eggs two decades or more. Grow up.)
And that normality, that common touch, that easy way of using slang expressions instead of big words when addressing workmen, has elevated me to national treasurehood. And for that, I thank each and every one of you. Thank you. Each and every one of you.
Alan Partridge: a look inside his mind Partridge writers Peter Baynham and Neil and Rob Gibbons reveal what they've learned about East Anglia's everyman philosopher
July 27th 2013
Mr Partridge will see you now
Peter Baynham When I first heard Alan on On The Hour, which I wasn't involved in, it felt like a new kind of comedy. I hadn't seen or heard anything like it before. As I became more involved, I remember thinking he didn't feel like a one-joke character; there was something three-dimensional about this guy, something real. Without someone as talented as Steve Coogan, he could just have been "the comedy sports presenter".
Rob Gibbons Neil and I had been on the writing circuit for a while when we ended up writing for Steve's live tour in 2008. We were really on board to do Paul and Pauline Calf because Steve thought that would fit with our northern mindset. But we decided to pitch some Alan stuff on spec and that led to Mid-Morning Matters.
Neil Gibbons We weren't Partridge obsessives but we obviously knew the character. Anyone who's our age is into Partridge. But we didn't have a checklist that we applied when writing Alan, it was about creating a much more nebulous worldview. So no Bond, no Wings, no Corby trouser presses …
RG Now we've been doing Partridge for over three years straight. It's great that Steve and Armando [Iannucci] gave us that level of trust because if that character was my baby I'd find it hard to hand over that much responsibility. It was flattering that they thought we were up to the job. What we've tried to do is move Alan along a bit. You can't change him fundamentally, but he now has the worldview of someone slightly older.
Finding Alan's Voice
RG A great deal of getting into Alan's headspace is me, Neil and Steve sitting around a table saying things that Alan would say. It can be tricky because although Steve doesn't really do the voice, you can tell he's doing a bit of the voice – and then you feel you have to do the voice. But how can you be Alan in front of Alan?
PB In theory, when you're writing a character, you're supposed to create subtext, put someone's real opinions and feelings beneath a layer of something else. But with Alan, it's almost the opposite. He can't contain what's happening in his head, there's no brake on his mouth. You can instantly see whatever pain or confusion he's going through. It's a terrible admission, but Alan used to say the stuff that went through my mind in social situations, the stuff that I tried not to say.
Familiarity breeds cliche
NG When Rob and I started writing Alan, I think if we'd known what cereal he had for breakfast, what brands he wore and what films he loved, it might have straitjacketed us. I did go back and revisit the earlier shows, though. Partly, it was revising, because Steve doesn't really rewatch his own stuff or know it by heart, so sometimes he might come up with a similar joke.
RG People will shout stuff at Steve in the street and he thinks they're abusing him but it's actually a line from Alan. They're trying to be nice to him.
The power of positive thinking
PB There is a desperation to Alan but he's generally an incredibly positive person. We saw the dark time in I'm Alan Partridge when he put on all that weight and did Crash! Bang! Wallop! What A Video! But you really don't want to see Alan be consciously navel-gazing and wearing that desperation on his sleeve. At the same time, in the second series of I'm Alan Partridge we struggled over giving him a girlfriend because when you see Alan with a girlfriend, he's almost got more than you want him to have. So we had to make the relationship between him and Sonja the most dysfunctional, terrible relationship imaginable. Despite the fact that people say he's awful, a lot of the time we were trying to build empathy: you're watching a man suffer but also at some level identifying with his pain.
NG When Mid-Morning Matters first came out and he was working for an even smaller digital radio station, people thought it would be even sadder and darker, but we actually felt he was more at peace with himself. So even though we put Alan in farcical or embarrassing situations, he's never a particularly tragic figure to us.
RG If he had more self-awareness, that would be the tragedy. It's the fact that he lacks that knowledge of who he is that actually saves him in some way. He is quite content, I think.
For ever a man out of time
PB Alan was actually ahead of the curve. There are so many reality shows now and a cult of people just wanting to be famous, and he really was one of the originals. He just wanted to be on telly and he stated that very baldly. He wanted to have a profile. But he's mellowed as he's got older. Rob and Neil are amazing writers, and Alan has become ever more fleshed out.
Writing the book on Alan
NG Writing Alan's autobiography [2011 bestseller I, Partridge] was real Partridge saturation. Rob and I would do a chapter each, and I'd be sat there in silence on my own at home, with no small talk. What you see in the book is the inner workings of Alan. We could mine a different style of comedy.
RG Because of the amount of words and level of detail required we couldn't actually create it round a table. We were terrified because we only had a short time to write it.
NG It helped that we could take Alan's approach to writing. If I was sat there trying to think of an appropriate simile, I'd literally use the first one I came up with. I could get through a fair amount of words each day by applying the same slapdash approach to quality control that Alan would have.
RG It did make you want to lie down on your bed afterwards, though.
gibbons bros Neil and Rob Gibbons
The boy who cried "chat"
PB Alan still has this childlike side to him. There's a bit in Alpha Papa where he's with Lynn and he thinks things are going really well and then suddenly they aren't, and he looks just like a little boy who thought he was going to Disneyland and suddenly it's not happening. And that physicality is what Steve brings to the role. It's a complex performance.
Even in his own movie, he struggles to be a hero
RG I'm sure Alan has fantasised millions of times about being in an armed siege like in Alpha Papa, but when you put him in that situation he can't really enjoy it because he's terrified. He might try and do something that Bruce Willis would do but obviously it will just fail.
PB On Knowing Me, Knowing You, he may have been a terrible presenter with poor social skills but he would take down a lot of pretentious people every week, exposing a puffed-up fashion designer or a pompous author. That's quite heroic.
There's a bit of Alan in all of us
NG Alan is constantly attempting some version of himself and the reason he's such a laughable figure is because he doesn't have a sense of who he is, because he's trying to come across as cool or tough or intelligent. But that's something we all do. It's when you take a leap at one of those versions of yourself and fail that I think your Partridgeness comes out.
PB I certainly feel more like Partridge as I get older. I hope Steve never stops playing Alan, and can't imagine anyone ever replacing him. Unless Alan actually exists, in which case God help us all!
A-ha! Alan Partridge’s guide to Christmas gifts Struggling with what to buy that special person in your life? Writing exclusively for Metro, Alan Partridge saves the day…
A lot of people gripe and grumble about present buying. For some, this is simply because they’re tight (I’m looking at you, Mark Goodier). For others it’s the challenge of having to think up genuinely personal gifts for their loved ones and parents-in-law. Fortunately, I have no such concerns because I live within spitting distance (not literally) of a Tesco Extra. And I think we’d all agree that if it ain’t available there, it ain’t worth having.
While most men see it as some sort of pathetic badge of honour to leave their shopping until the very last minute, I like to be done and dusted by the end of September.
The modern gent
Kestrel handling (half-day course)
In the hustle of 21st-century life, it’s all too easy to lose touch with our rural past. So, once a quarter, I put my electronic devices on flight mode, pop on a massive leather glove and stand in terror as a massive bird of prey flies at my face. Google your nearest falconry school or, if you live in Norfolk, just ask around the local pub. I’ve suggested the half-day course because it gets a bit samey after the first few hours. Also, these places generally have terrible catering so it’s best to get off before lunch.
Gone are the days when being well-groomed was the preserve of the fairer sex. Today there’s absolutely no shame in moisturising, tinting your eyelashes or having testes as smooth and hair-free as a baby’s face. Ditto spray tanning. Why look pale and ill while the woman in your life looks orange and fit? Simply buy a bottle of spray tan (any brand) and apply liberally all over the body, from the top of your head to the tip of your member. First-time users should also remember to remove their clothes.
You literally can’t go wrong with these. Only once have I given this as a gift and not seen the recipient punch the air for ages. And that was a bloke who’d just been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Either that or he’d just got a parking ticket, I forget which. But, like I say, a solid gift, because whatever you think of the decision to have Neil Morrissey and Leslie Ash front their TV adverts (a huge error), there’s no quibbling with the stores themselves.
A charity donation
Invented by Guardian readers, this isn’t actually a gift per se. Instead, you make a donation so the guy you’re buying for can bask in the warm glow of knowing he’s helped someone less fortunate than himself, rather than receiving the new pair of driving gloves he actually wanted. Think carefully about your chosen cause – only give to the truly needy, rather than, say, animals or drug addicts.
An Evil Cradling by Brian Keenan
The best book about an Irishman taken hostage in Beirut in the late-1980s, bar none.
Quality time could impress the lady in your life, reckons Alan Partridge (Pictures: supplied)Quality time could impress the lady in your life, reckons Alan Partridge (Pictures: supplied)
The modern lady
Women love make-up, especially at Christmas when the social whirl leaves them with blotchy skin, broken veins, unsightly pimples and eye bags. Personally, I love women as they are – warts and all (except for warts) – but that doesn’t stop me visiting Boots, coming out £500 lighter then randomly stuffing handfuls of make-up into carrier bags for the many females I know.
Mug in the shape of a canary
When I was handed the name of a female colleague in an office Secret Santa, I immediately knew what to buy. She was a bird-fancier who enjoyed herbal teas so a mug in the shape of a canary seemed perfect. I never found that mug (gave her the fiver instead) and have yet to come across one in the 20 years since but it would still make a nice gift for a lady (who likes canaries and hot drinks).
Bosch PBH 2100 Rotary Hammer
Hang on, Alan! Isn’t this a gift guide for ladies? Welcome to the 21st century, mate. One of the biggest power tool aficionados I know is a woman and ladies are among the finest Do-It-Yourselfers in Britain. That’s why I’ve gone for this powerful but lightweight rotary hammer with high-impact pneumatic mechanism. Ignore the idiots who suggest women’s power tools come from Ann Summers – with this baby, there’s no contoured shaft or tri-speed vibrating beads in sight.
When your wife tells you she wants perfume, jewellery or £500 in cash, what is she really asking for? Sure, some of the time she’ll genuinely want perfume, jewellery, or a ‘monkey’. But sometimes? Sometimes she’s seeking something much more valuable: your time. Instead of showering her with high-ticket gifts, try sitting down and asking her about her day, her feelings, her concerns, what foods she’s eaten (this one can sound controlling). She might just thank you for it*. (*High risk)
For 11 months of the year, candle shops pollute shopping centres with a thick fug of lavender, like a floral-based CS gas. But come Christmas, they’re a godsend. Recent studies show scented candles are 88 per cent popular (adjusted) among more than 50 per cent of the women who make up 51 per cent of the country. Buy one for the lady in your life or pop it in a communal toilet to burn off unwanted odour.
Alan Partridge: How I’ll be spending Christmas
19 Dec 2013
What of the twelve days of Christmas? For me, the biggie is always Christmas Day (often referred to as ‘Xmas Day’). I hate missing out on any of the action so always set my alarm for 10am. I tend to begin proceedings with a period of quiet reflection, either as I lie alone in bed or as I sit on the toilet (also alone). In the rush to exchange material possessions it’s easy to forget the origin of the celebration. Namely, the birth of a very special baby Jew. But it’s his Mummy I like to dwell upon. Poor Mary, in an age before epidurals, or indeed any form of anesthetic, howling into the night like an injured wolf or an uninjured jackal, begging for the agony to end, ideally before she succumbed to infection from the animal excreta that was bound to have littered the stable block where she lay. Then I tend to just have a sausage butty.
But really Christmas Day is all about the extravagant lunch. Try-hard friends of mine have started to snub turkey in favour of goose or duck, like they’re in the 1850s. I’m surprised they don’t have a clothes mangle and a pale aunt who coughs blood into a hanky! No, turkey is the best choice for a modern Christmas lunch. While high in sodium, it’s a rich source of protein and typically has a higher ratio of less fatty white meat to dark meat (around 70:30). The flesh also provides plenty of iron, zinc, potassium and phosphorus as well as selenium, which is essential for thyroid hormone metabolism. But have what you want.
After lunch, I’ll put the dirty crockery back onto the tray and leave it outside the front door for my assistant to collect. Personally I get a real buzz from spending Boxing Day alone. My family and friends must be well aware of this because they never call. I like to get the decorations packed away and back up the loft by noon. Then I focus on catching up on all those chores that never got done the previous year. Re-grouting the bathroom, updating my pre-recorded voicemail message, or just pulling out the tweezers and having a nasal spring clean. Perfick.
Over Christmas Day and Boxing Day I tend to gain about ten pounds, so the days leading up to New Year’s Eve are all about losing that weight. Each morning I’ll jog to my local gym then, as I’m not a member, jog back again. It’s good exercise, and totally free of charge. I then spend an hour or so sat in my car with the heaters on. I’ll comfortably sweat out a pound or two per session. It means my car seat reeks of sweat until about June but it’s a price well worth paying. As either Kate Moss or Kate Winslet once said (internet not working at the moment), ‘Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.’ Actually, thinking about it, it was probably Kate Moss.
I also dramatically slash my food intake, surviving on two super-food smoothies a day (coconut water, acai berries, raw cacao, goji berries, spirulina and leftover turkey). It’s a grueling regime so the key is to make sure you stay motivated. I‘ll do this by making sure I weigh myself roughly every fifteen minutes. Try to get the most favourable weight by stripping naked and not standing on the scales for too long. But sometimes of course you just have to be brutally honest. For me that means getting to December 30 and realising my diet never works, before reaching for the plastic tubing in the garage and making preparations for my annual Nescafe enema. Painful, but necessary.
Tradition dictates that December 31 presages the transition from one year to the next. I tend to spend the afternoon working out which days in the following year have some kind of numerical significance. For example, in 1978 I’d circle June 5 because that would be written as 5/6/78 – and at 12.34 I’d look at my watch and have a pretty sweet nod to myself. Next year bears a few of these ‘red number days’. November 10 might be one: 10/11, 12:13, ’14. But I’ve had to put the time in the middle to make that work so at best it’d be a small nod and probably not even that. Just trying to think if there are any others. December 10 maybe, if you stick with even numbers? 6:08, 10/12, ’14. But ideally you’d want the time to be 4:68 and there’s no such time unless I carry the 8 over and do it at 5:08 and then you’re really effing the system up.
By now I’m pretty annoyed so I’ll pop to Choristers and see if any of the lads are there. Usually one or two are but they’re with their wives on the way to a restaurant or house party so I wait for them to leave and then go home to ring in the New Year in front of BBC1. Never ever ITV, ever (I chose ITV a few years back and my wife left me 11 and a half months later), then I go to bed.
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