miscellany

26 june 2018


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           2014, 2015, 2016, 2017,            2018        Ian McLauchlin

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GRIFF RHYS-JONES AT EXETER CORN EXCHANGE


Exeter Corn Exchange, where people used to swap bits of callussed foot, similar to the later cigarette card fad. Now a venue for swapping corny jokes.

Up on the train again. New carriages with USB sockets. Label said “Do not charge your phone when the train is standing at a station”. Got there very early, according to my personal creed, which only failed me once, when I got there dead on time, but the day before. Quite co-incidentally, this gave us time for a glass of wine. "What'll you have, a small one? Medium? OK, two enormously large glasses of wine please."

The tour was called "Where was I?", swiftly changed to that when it was pointed out that "Where am I?" gave away something about his age. A fond and almost completely truthful look back over his broadcasting career - Mountains, Rivers, MInt Cake, Judy Dench and Burning  Ships all featured. Strange how "It'll be Alright on the Night" didn't.

I'm going to be sitting there for some time. Better go to the loo first. Stood there for ages. Nothing. Ah well, worth a try. Better wash my hands anyway. Soap all over hands. No water in taps. The start of an evening of good clean fun.

He came bounding onto the stage from the right. That was disconcerting for a start. Stage Right? No, bounding.

This was the 35th night of the tour. Redruth last night. (Time for some local references - always worth a bit of local colour to get the audience warmed up.) Some cracks about Car Parks, Cornwall, Bodmin Moor, precise order of jam and cream on scones . . . . That'll just about do it, now for the performance itself. Well, the question and answer session.

Anyone here under 20? No? Under 40? No? Ah, I see. We have an audience of Over-60s. Anyone here had a gap year? No thought not. We didn't have gap years in our day did we. My son's had one. Well a gap-18yrs actually.

Anyone done any kayaking?  Abseiling? What, never sailed an ab? Anyone have difficulty climbing the stairs?

Who's been on holiday abroad in the last year? Airports eh? Kids screaming and hating every moment - just like I feel like inside. So, as she does with the kids, the wife gets me to count the planes then gives me a colouring book.

Then onto the real stuff.

A word of advice. When you're about to go abseiling, stand like this, feet wide apart, when they're fitting the harness round your hips. Otherwise appendages can get trapped. Went over the edge once on the way to abseil down a water fall. "Ouch, hah, ooo, and this geological feature was formed in the pleistocene   . . . aaghh, ugh, ouch . . .       period.  "Did you get that Director?" No, you'll have to do it again.

Look out for a climbing instructor with a broad Lancashire accent. "Matterhorn? Everest? That's just walkin' that is. Now for t’REAL climbing you need Great Gable in't Lake District." A slide (the talk was littered with slides) of Great Gable was shown. Not just any slide. A slide from a carefully chosen angle in a certain light from an unusual direction. That way, you can get a cheap laugh based on the tenuous appearance of a rock pillar shaped like an erect male organ. Laugh? I thought I'd never start.

And when you're in New York, there are lots of areas of glass, very high up. And someone has to clean them. Luckily I had my Camera Crew and Director with me. And a dodgy window cleaning outfit who no insurance company would touch with a skyscraper. "You sit on the slim wooden seat like this. If you sit like this you can slide off then that's you finished. Sit with it under your thighs with your bottom sticking out behind. Like you can still shit . . "I'm telling you that's just what I felt like doing at that moment." Stop!! Don't go any lower. (I was just two floors below the top.) "Why?" We've run out of rope! That position on the slim wooden seat was ideal . . .

Kendal Mint Cake. Anyone had Kendal Mint Cake? Marvellous innit, you don't know what a kayak is, what abseiling is, what a gap year is, how to climb stairs but EVERYONE knows what Kendal Mint Cake is.

He once had to read a poem in front of Prince Charles and the Duchess of something or other. (Don't recall how that came about. I've never had to do it, I'll tell yer that. Though I've often wanted to . . . not )  Everyone else had learned their poem and delivered it flawlessly in the usual actor’s overemphatic voice. "Oh dear, I hadn't even decided what my poem was. What do I remember word for word? I know one. " 'Twas on the good ship Venus . . " Shock, horror. Dame Judy Dench just did that one before my turn . . . .   complete with actions.

On one occasion a boat he was filming on caught fire. Now the English must stay calm at all times. So having spotted a flicker of flame, he was tempted to knock quietly on the Purser's Cabin and say "Excuse me, Sir, sorry to bother you at this time of night but you may possibly be interested to know that the boat's a tiny bit alight." Instead he rushed madly about in his underpants in all directions shouting "FIRE, FIRE, LOWER THE LIFEBOATS". At this point he observed that, if your ship's on fire, it might be a good idea not to have rubber inflatable lifeboats. He'd have to swim for it. etc.

He needed something to finish. So what better than to show a clip confirming that he was watching that boat on fire from a safe distance and had probably not been near it at all, ever. Pity, 'cos that makes me wonder how much of the rest was true. No, you're right, probably all of it.

It was a late finish and then there was the obligatory book signing. I got him to sign my Ed Byrne book as, at the last show I’d been to, Ed didn't do book signing.

We missed the train home by 5 minutes. Next one in an hour. I found that walking in the rain through crowds of (under-60) Friday night revellers wasn't easy and had to keep stopping to catch my breath which was always several yards behind. Son-in-law drove to Exeter to pick us up. Very kind of him. It was his birthday so that saved me buying him a present.

Anyone want to buy two pristine late night return rail tickets from Exeter Central to Exmouth, unused, never raced or rallied, only slightly damp? No thought not.