Brownlegg at Large: May 2001 

1 May 2001

So many of you offered your assistance to my good self after last month’s epistle that, while I say I am truly touched, you are now all conscripted into my ragged army – the newly-founded Assembly for Middle England – so you are all now under my command, so you may not smoke while I deliver my monthly briefing on my Grand Plan. Stand easy. This plan was mentioned last month, briefly, so I hope you are keeping up.

As my good friend Alastair once said, as always with diplomacy, it is not the argument that matters, but the way it is put, and the avoidance of accidental misunderstanding. You know, in my day, you really knew that when you saw an Adastral, you were expecting the best in entertainment, not like those arrows from Sid’s common lot at Grandad Television. So they broadcast “from t’North”, and it’s very clever and all that, but that station has always shown the most appalling manners in pointing away from London, detracting from my station, and old Seth Davey could never entertain like Michael Miles. Maybe the rot did set in with “Ready Steady Go” after all. Granular Television is still pointing to the bloody North now, and as a result no one looks at Cartoon Television. But then, who would want to anyway? Margaret, fetch me another glass of whatever this was, will you?

Also in London – which as far as I am concerned is truly God’s Country and really belongs to Adored-Readmeoften – I have seen the REAL BBC. From here in the London Eye, where, as you know, the bin men kindly deposited my coffin last month, the Television Centre gives away the game, for it resembles a huge “?”. Certainly after Bert and Dyck, the BBC has become a questionable organisation, now looking for talent… proves that some of these sideshow charlatans mustn’t have had any to start with.

And what of the Bradshaw of Broadcasting, the “Radio Times”? You used to get every single piece of information about the programme. Here’s one example:

“Diagnosis Murder”, starring Dick Van Dyke as a crime-solving doctor”

I wonder how long that took to write? The “RT” costs 85p in this odd new metric money, or something now, so as the price went up, the amount of words went down. I rather liked the Third Programme, so I looked to see what was on. Three hours of recorded music, with no artists. So which recording of Haydn’s Horn Concert am I getting now? The Radio Times is now completely typical of the BBC – all style and no content! No, it’s okay, leave the bottle, but bring me some more ice, there’s a good chap.

I got a train to somewhere called “Birmingham” the other day – Lew and Howard were always bickering about it, but I’m at a loss to remember why. An embarrassing incident as people complained about a 30-year-old corpse in First Class (I looked around, but couldn’t see him). However, I note that Pebble Mill looks like a closed-down branch of Tesco’s, not that shiny bright structure I used to look at from my cloud every lunchtime. Whither Judi Spiers and Alan Titchmarsh now? Still, “The Archers” are still being broadcast from there, which is all the more reason to burn it down. I may forget, but I never forgive!

Speaking of rats – we weren’t, but someone has to stop you people from rambling off topic – especially that one rat, Ronald I think his name was – what about that breakfast TV station, TV-am, which always had eggs on the roof. What kind of pigeons laid those? There was only one egg every year after all. I wonder was it the vultures of the Infernal Broadcasting Authority, waiting for TV-am to die? No wonder they were “gutted”. Probably by the vultures. Where’s that ice, infernal woman?

When I first departed this earth, Ronald Matlock was an awfully common shifty little man, a jumped-up colonial who owned a few scandal sheets full of naked women. Never read them of course. He did help out those smug arty metropolitan coves at Longboring Weekend, but they deserved it! German plays instead of variety on a Sunday evening? Well, that suits me down to the ground, but it had Lew crying into his Reme Martin. He was so distraught at the events early on at Culloden Weekend he fell to the floor in tears, beating the ground with his fists and clutching at his sides in obvious pain. I felt for him, I really did.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, Ronald Matlock. Now I discover that he owns the Voice of Britain, the newspaper I have read every day for 60 years! What has happened to Fleet Street? Actually I know the reason – it’s all relocated to Wapping! I have also learned that he owns a satellite television empire, which means you have to put a big ugly dish up on the side of your house. I’ve listened in on the wireless to see if Matlock’s Sputnik is moving overhead, but I can’t hear it – I think it’s all a confidence trick. Can’t trust those Soviet devils, although I’m told they make a passable beverage. Wouldn’t know myself, being practically teetotal. So this Matlock shows live football matches almost every day of the week – in my day Gerry Loftinsulation was lucky if he could negotiate with the Old Wykehamists in Lancaster Gate to show one match a season! And this, the perennial pursuit of the ill-educated working people, at a time when the greatest pursuit of educated classes is being threatened from within. My suggestion is that Mr Matlock should show televised foxhunts in place of football matches, so that within a few weeks, all public opposition to this beautiful sport will have ceased forthwith. Margaret! The fire’s going out, fetch some more copies of the TV Times!

Ah, those golden days, when we all had the station symbol to rally around. ABC’s lives on, in a box of Quality Street (“Noisette Triangle”, my favourite – makes a change to devour ABC instead of them devouring us!), ATV’s disappeared (saw Lord Grade the other day at lunch, didn’t ask him if the old ATV logo is in TV Heaven) and where can you see Adored-Readmeoften’s? IN THE TOILET! I’m shocked and appalled.

Wash your hands after the ablutions, you know, and there it is on the hand dryer. That Victor Lewisham-Smythe bought A-R in name, thought and deed, and what happens then? Doesn’t it fall off the background? And where’s the station clock, which I believe you all called “Mitch”? Is it languishing, unloved and broken in the storage cupboard? And then I see packets of shortbread biscuits with the Adastral design? I have had enough of this discourtesy and cavalier behaviour.

This brings me to one of my mission objectives for you men – I want to assemble a crack team to steal our dear old Adastral back under the cover of night. Take a secure carrier, handle it carefully, don’t touch the spikes and don’t forget to wear a disguise. Any volunteers should take one step forward now…

Your legend will be written large. You will be remembered as the Dan Busters of broadcasting. Note to self: he was a famous RAF johnny in the war, wasn’t he?

As for the rest of you, one last instruction. Battle Order Number 1, issued by myself. From now on, certain words in the English Language for cipher purposes will be replaced by Carton. Carton will ensure than Carton’s Carton may be only used as Carton except in cases where Carton otherwise applies as Carton, for Carton Carton Carton. Carton Carton Carton.

I’m sure this all makes perfect sense. Man the barricades! Margaret, do be a dear and fetch me a glass of port, just to rub on.

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