Monday Book: Sex in the suburbs - and the BBC

FORTYSOMETHING BY NIGEL WILLIAMS, VIKING, pounds 15.99

I THINK I have been seeing Nigel Williams hovering around painfully fashionable Crouch End. A terribly pallid figure, with a marked resemblance to the comic novelist and BBC producer, has been sighted trying to pick a path through north London's cafe society. It may not be the man in person but some wraith or apparition. By Williams's own testament, the suburbs of London are full of strangeness, and doppelganger novelists would fit into his vision of the city's weird edges.

Harrowed by fear and wonder at the sight of this pasty presence, I have taken to hanging around the streets of Wimbledon - his home turf. No sign of the strangely pale writer there. No sign, either, of the SW19 described in his works. Williams has devoted his fictional life to these far from mean streets, but they fail to live up to his vision. I haunt the Common and the windmill but I see no Mr and Mrs Plonkers. I wander through Crooked Billet but there are no Linda Haddocks, no Snozzers, no Porkers.

Not the faintest hint of "The Nazi who escaped Justice" or the Twenty- fourth Imam of the Wimbledon Dharjees comes to my senses. All I see are expensively dressed second wives talking on mobile phones to their au pairs. Can he see a madness in the suburbs undetectable to the rest of us? Could he, and what joy it would be if he were, be looking to find that same rich seam in fashionable Crouch End? What joy if he were!

This latest report from the unhinged suburbs, comes from the fevered diary of the self-obsessed, fortysomething actor Paul Slippery.

Slippery plays the part of a doctor in a BBC radio soap called General Practice. Management reform blows through the corridors of Broadcasting House and it seems that Slippery's character, if not the whole soap itself, is for the chop. Desperate to survive, Slippery spies on the higher layers of the corporation's management. This is a sexually ambivalent crew. Indeed, many of them are awaiting a sex change - waiting, as it were, for their own special chop.

Back in Wimbledon, the sexual boundaries are equally blurred. Is Slippery's wife - the big, muscular, tanned Estelle - having a lesbian relationship, or an affair with a dwarf called Hamish? Are there any heterosexual teachers at his son's school? Is Porker over the road getting it?

A consignment of Lovejuice and assorted goods arrive from a sex products firm in Wolverhampton. Like some ageing Puck, Slippery administers them to the wrong people, at the same time monkeying around with the hormone tablets of his sexually transmuting BBC bosses.

Slippery himself claims to be suffering from a condition known, at least to him, as Prynne's disease. Named, no doubt, after the repressive 17th- century puritan, it leaves its victims unable to recall when they last had intercourse. Slippery's three rampant sons are quite free of the complaint and the woodwork of 52 Mafeking Road groans often to the rhythm of the Slippery boys.

Meanwhile, a sex-unto-death woman stalks Slippery's oldest friends. Every so often, the hope rises in Slippery's breast that one of the strong-minded women who stride the streets of SW19 will offer him congress. But what with the misapplications of Lovejuice and its antidote, not to mention his own slippery nature and unprepossessing appearance, the chances are slim.

Slippery tries to show his love for his family by preparing them elaborate, yet disgusting, meals garnered from the four corners of the earth - even though Mrs Slippery is on a turnips-only diet and his sons would survive happily on alcohol and assorted seafood goujons.

Surprisingly - and this is a trick Williams always pulls off - the high farce and low comedy is interspersed with moments of real love and tenderness. Amongst his frequent diary bulletins, written urgently and often from places of hiding, Slippery reveals a disarming depth of feeling for his overwhelming wife and randy sons. The book careers along at its own mad, funny pace as Slippery tries to get laid, save his career, get the right people to fall in love with each other and survive to his 50th birthday.

Its a fine, funny, deranged piece of work that reads as if it has been written at furious pace. As with so many English comic novels, sexual fear and frisson, and particularly fear of the female, supply the laughs.

No wonder that Williams looks as white as a ghost.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'