DICKIE FANTASTIC ON THE SCHMOOZE

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The Independent Culture
Iwas told that the Great Yarmouth Leisure Ball - to celebrate the opening of the latest Mr Blobby Theme Park - was to be a Black Tie affair, so I make a special effort. Somewhere along the line, however, they changed their minds, made it "Smart But Casual", and forgot to tell me. Consequently, I am the only guest in a tuxedo and everyone thinks I'm a waiter. Whenever I start schmoozing, some local businessman or other interrupts to ask where the toilet is, or enquire testily about when the new batch of canapes will arrive. The canapes run out at 7.30pm and there is a savage tension in the air. Everybody is looking for a scapegoat, and I'm worried that the East Anglian Lions Club (dressed as Vikings) will turn on me and rip me to shreds with their horns.

The strain is dissipated a little by the arrival of the band - Mike Jolson's Rockin' Rabble - who have a neat line in inter-song repartee.

"I was walking down the street the other day," begins Mike, "and I saw a woman..." (pause). "Only it wasn't a woman. It was Mick Jagger!... This one's called 'Satisfaction' "... And so on.

The Star Attractions, the Guests of Honour - Noel and Mr Blobby - make the briefest of appearances - an appearance conspicuous by its briefness - adding further unease to the evening. They all but poke their heads around the door and count to 10, before scampering off to their helicopter, parked in a nearby field. This is a shame. The invitation said "...In The Presence Of Mr Noel Edmunds" and most here would admit that they were rather looking forward to a chat.

"I feel snubbed, I do, boy," says Joe, a local businessman who's just bought a share in the pier and is hoping to renovate it soon. "We in the local community have put a lot into Blobby, and we'd like Blobby to put something back." He pauses. "Social-wise I mean. You know. Bit of chat."

"Won't he just say 'Blobby'?" I ask.

"Oh no," he replies. "The man in the costume is very cultured, very refined. He used to be in Shakespeare."

"When's the pier going to be renovated?" I ask.

"Oh you bloody journalists," he replies. "You're just like the locals. I'll tell you what I tell them - mind your own bloody business!"

As the dance band launches into "The Lady in Red", I get chatting to Paul Wilkinson, an entrepreneur from Scratchby.

"We love Blobby here," he explains. "There's been so much bad press - what with that elephant getting shot at the other Blobby theme park, and all. But we in the Yarmouth district don't care about all that. Noel himself told me about the knock-on effect of Blobby's financial pulling- power, and I think we can all take a share of the cake."

"Do you think Blobby will herald a renaissance in Yarmouth's fortunes, tourism-wise?" I ask.

"Steady on," replies Paul. "I wouldn't go that far. But a few crumbs here and there." He pauses. "By the way - do you know when the sandwiches are going to arrive?"

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