I see Ned Sherrin is presenting the "Nibbies" this year. What on earth are they? They're awards for people in the book trade: booksellers, publishers and so on. They're spiffing little objects in the shape of a nib, hence the name.

And what's that got to do with Ned?

Nothing much, except that, like the British book industry, he has been more successful producing books - novels, short stories, humour, autobiography - than selling them. He's probably best known for his collections of anecdotes, such as In His Anecdotage.

Very droll. And what kind of anecdotes are they?

Familiar ones. For instance, there's the one about the time when Madame de Gaulle was asked what she most wanted in life and she replied "A penis". And then the General stepped in and told her, "In English, it is pronounced `'appiness'." That's the sort of thing.

There must be more to him than that, surely?

Well, he is an energetic broadcaster, in which capacity he gave Esther Rantzen her first break in broadcasting.

His Radio 4 Loose Ends survives year in, year out, even though it's mostly Ned droning on about ``Binkie'' Beaumont with the three or four other people left in Britain who know who he was.

And he does a panel game, doesn't he?

Yes, Counterpoint, a musical quiz show covering everything "from Boney M to La Boheme", as Radio Times put it.

Very upmarket. But how did he acquire this breathtaking command of show-business?

It started after he arrived at Oxford, the star-struck scion of a down-to-earth Somerset farming family, and immediately got stuck into student theatre. The Sleeping Beauty he directed for the Oxford University Dramatic Society was widely considered a great improvement on the previous year's effort.


Because that had starred Ned Sherrin as the Fairy Queen. And Nigel Lawson was in the chorus.

I see. Was that the end of his acting career?

It seems to have been. After Oxford, he read for the Bar, but changed his mind and went into television. He created That Was The Week That Was, of course, along with Bernard Levin and David Frost, and has produced and directed films, plays, musicals, radio and television programmes ever since. Prolific is his middle name.

I thought that was George?

Don't be so literal minded.