In my salad days, yours truly broke innumerable nibs over a cycle of Petrarchan sonnets addressed to a graphic designer called Gavin. (That dress! That summer! That fist-fight in the gents' at the Barbican!) A lot of mascara has flowed under the bridge since then, and my magnum opus still gathers dust in the Tante drawers. However, some of my absinthe- bibbing chums have recently brought my attention to the extraordinary stunts pulled by unpublished Geordie mystic poet Andrew Tait to get his work printed. At the point when I resolved to aim lower and write for a Sunday newspaper, he threatened to jump off the Tyne Bridge unless a publisher came to his aid. (Instead, a police helicopter turned up.) Plan B, a hunger strike, failed to summon the Faber board to Jesmond with a contract and a plate of sarnies. Despite this lack of success, Tait has a trove of testimonials from the most gifted wordsmiths of our time, from Poet Laureate Ted Hughes to Doc Cox, that man who used to read out misprints on That's Life. "Beautiful," cooed the Queen Mum's vole-gutting bard-by- appointment. "Brilliant," enthused the ex-Rantzen henchperson, describing the pleasure he took from Tait's meisterwerks, "Damson" and "Feeling Myself". (What's his doctorate in, I wonder?) Sting, Richard Stilgoe, Sir Tim Rice and Stephen Fry have all offered their encouragement, and, spurred on by their kind words, Tait set off from his Tyneside home on Good Friday to march on 10 Downing Street, where he will arrive on 2 May to deliver his as-yet-unpublished manuscript. It's an epic journey that makes Wordsworth's trek around the Lakes look like a Saga Awayday.
"A great day for the Isle of Wight," was how ex-ice cream man Anthony Minghella described the triumph of The English Patient, so I took a ticket to Ryde to help deck the seafront with bunting. Much to my dismay, there wasn't a brass band in sight. "Most people here don't really know who he is," confessed one local. "His dad's raspberry ripple is more famous than those films." However, as the island's two fleapits plump for the pleasures of Space Jam and Star Wars, Mr Minghella's sister has organised a series of screenings of bruv's Oscar-laden epic in the school where she teaches. (PS. Can anyone tell me what happened at the end? I was bored unconscious at some point during the first reel, just when that rubber prosthetic muppet was fantasising about being Bruce Chatwin.) (PPS. I have a theory that the whole film was an elaborate attempt to sell vanilla tubs and Kia-Ora: all that arid desert, you see, and I'm certain they'd upped the cinema's central heating. When I woke up there were people literally crying with thirst.)
My anorak-bound readers will have noticed the appearance in Doctor Who Magazine of a column which bears a startling resemblance to that of the Independent's very own diarist Bridget Jones. Whilst Ms Jones's problems revolve around Mr Darcy and drinking alone, Jackie Jenkins angsts over the problems of marshalling an expanding Doctor Who video collection: "You should turn move Mark of the Rani up a shelf and stop moaning. More coffee?" I shall keep my telescopic eye out for their Dalek Tante column.