Dom Joly: My tumbleweed moment

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The Independent Online

I knew that there was something I wasn't looking forward to doing when I got back from Canada. I couldn't quite remember what it was until I happened to come across it in my diary. I don't normally put anything in my diary as I then have an excuse for forgetting it. For some reason I'd put this particular thing in there. There it was staring up at me: "Saturday - open Steam Fair", straight out of an Alan Partridge episode.

I have a real problem saying "no" to things. When I'm invited to do things months in advance I always say "yes", actually meaning to say "no" at a later date. But, come Saturday, I duly trotted up to my local town where the fair was on. Last year, Huxley went missing and Stacey insisted that I drive round the encampment of caravans that collect at the fair every year to look for him. She was sure that the "travelling people" had stolen our dog in order to teach him to dance on two legs for pennies. In the end, he wandered home on his own but I was a tad worried that someone might recognise me from the previous year as the one who accused everyone of being thieving gypsies.

As it turned out, no one recognised me from anywhere. The old lady at the gate flatly refused to let me in as I didn't have a ticket. I'd brought my daughter, Parker, with me and she helpfully told the lady that I was "Dom Joly off the TV" and that I was going to ride around on a steamroller.

"Not without a ticket he isn't my darling," replied the Cerberean harridan. I could see Parker's respect for the entity that is "Dom Joly" disappearing fast.

I finally fished around in my musty wallet and dropped a crumpled tenner on to the plastic table.

"Keep the change," I muttered grandly as Parker and I strode into the arena.

"It's £14 for two," screeched the Medusa figure. I walked back semi-haughtily and scrabbled around for four more pounds in my pocket. By now there was a long and amused queue of locals enjoying seeing this townie getting his comeuppance. This enjoyment was delicately balanced with their desire to get in as quickly as possible to see all the things made of steam and to try and spot the top celebrity that the organisers had laid on to open the event.

"I hope it's Bo' Selecta!" one little chav muttered.

"There's no way he'd do a little thing like this, lad," proclaimed the chav's father confidently. "It'll be some loser from Vet School or something."

I dragged Parker through to the main cabin where I was told that I was on in five minutes.

"Anything that you want me to mention?" I asked.

"No, whatever you want, just keep it short and sweet. You must be used to this sort of thing, aren't you?" asked the 80-year-old organiser trying to pretend that he knew who or what I was. And then I was off, whisked into the centre of a large field, a microphone in my hand and surrounded by century-old steamrollers and a sparse crowd of people not that much younger munching on egg sandwiches.

"Hello!" I shouted to an ominous silence.

"Hello and welcome to the Steam Fair that I now declare... open!" There was silence save for the hiss of the steamrollers that had started moving at 4mph round the field.

"Is that it?" asked the 80-year-old organiser. "That was short and sweet. Sharron Davies spoke for 10 minutes last year, had the crowd in stitches. Mind you, she's an Olympian."

I wandered out of the fair in a daze, Parker's little hand clenched tightly in mine.

"Is that it then Daddy?" she asked, her little blue eyes gazing up at me in trusting confusion.

"Yes Parkie, that's it," I replied distantly.

"I don't understand what you were doing, Daddy. Were you being Dom Joly?"

"I don't know what I was doing Parkie - I really, honestly, don't know."

"Daddy, let's go home."

"Good idea Parkie, let's go home, I'm... tired, Parkie... so goddamn tired."

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