Monday 15 September 2008
Days Like Those: 'Pete Murray spoke fondly, Stewpot did his Crackerjack routine – and Matthew yearned to see DLT'
Matthew is always asking me baffling and insulting questions, but not since he asked me if I had filled an Evian bottle with antifreeze in an attempt to kill him can I recall one as baffling and insulting as the one he posed recently.
"You spiked my wine with mescaline, didn't you?" he asked me. "You were hoping that the outcome would be my committal to a psychiatric institution. Weren't you?
"Otherwise," he continued, "how do you explain the incredibly vivid dream I had in which Ed 'Stewpot' Stewart told me he couldn't stay at the party to hear Mike Read play guitar and sing for us because he had to get off to Bobby Davro's barbecue?"
I didn't answer. I didn't have to. Matthew was being arch. "Ah, I've got it," he continued archly, "it's Life on Mars. I've been knocked down by a car and I've woken up in the Seventies. That would explain the giant photograph of Diddy David Hamilton with Stewpot and Wonder Woman."
The truth is in fact more bizarre than this pretend dream, because on that very day we – and by "we", I mean not only Matthew, Louis and I, but my mother, stepfather, brother Noel, his wife Penny and their two-year-old daughter, Ellie, had been to Diddy David Hamilton's 70th birthday party in a marquee in West Sussex.
We went as a result of Noel's long-term obsession with former Radio One DJs in general, and Diddy in particular.
Matthew spent much of the day sitting next to Pete Murray, who asked him about the tall man circling the room with a camcorder in his hand and beatific smile on his face. "Yes," said Matthew, "He does look happy, doesn't he? That is my brother in law, Noel. He was Diddy David's stalker. You've heard of Stockholm Syndrome?" Mr Murray nodded. "Well, that's the story here. In the end Diddy, the stalkee, became friends with Noel, his stalker, and here we are today. The stalker, as you can see, brought his whole family along."
Diddy approached the necessarily raised podium at the end of the marquee to make his speech and we all applauded. "Thank you for the clap," he shouted on reaching the microphone, "the clap I so richly deserve." To which a heckler in the far corner shouted, "You've had the clap for years!" and how we all fell about.
The birthday boy's speech was full of "gags" and Noel was forced to work very hard to prevent his mirth from shaking the camcorder and ruining the quality of the footage. He positioned himself right in front of the stage and even from behind, from the slight tilt of his ears, it was possible to tell that he was wearing that beatific grin at all times.
It never wavered, even when his daughter, Ellie, could be seen through the windows behind the raised podium, racing across the lawn towards a swollen, fast flowing river. Diddy was telling us about the last time Ed "Stewpot" Stewart came to West Sussex, with his wallet chained to his belt – "He swam under the Dartford Toll Bridge!" We fell about again and Noel clearly noticed Ellie because, suppressing laughter at the "Stewpot" joke, he momentarily followed her progress with the camera before remembering his responsibilities and returning to Diddy.
Moments later my mother and Noel's wife Penny could be seen chasing Ellie and, thankfully, catching her before she reached the river.
After that, Pete Murray gave a fond and funny speech, Ed Stewart took to the stage and did his Crackerjack! routine, and Matthew expressed a sudden yearning to see Dave Lee Travis. And this made Noel a bit cross, "Isn't this enough for you? For heaven's sake, you've got Diddy and Stewpot and Mike Read and Pete Murray and now, look! Over there! That's Steve Garlick!"
"Who?" "Steve Garlick," he repeated. "Don't tell me you don't recognise him; the boy who had the chamber pot stuck on his head in Carry on Doctor. Oh my goodness, there goes Mike Read, up to the podium with his guitar. I must get back to my camcorder!"
Matthew said there and then that we had to leave, but it was too late and as the opening chords of "The Young Ones" floated towards us all that we could do was put in a request for "Relax", by Frankie Goes To Hollywood.
Our departure came soon after Mike had ignored our requests and polished off "Peggy Sue". We thanked Diddy and his wife, Dreena, for inviting us to such a fabulous party and off we went.
I called in on Noel the next day and found him surprisingly out of sorts. "It was one of the greatest days of my life," he said morosely, "but when I think how close we came to tragedy."
"Oh, no," I said, "you mustn't beat yourself up about it. You were busy filming and there were plenty of others on hand to save Ellie from the river."
"What?" said Noel. "What are you talking about? I nearly messed up the only record Diddy will have of his 70th birthday party. I, the person he entrusted to film the event, nearly failed. Look, the entire thing is only just in focus."
A tragedy indeed, I thought, as we settled down to watch the entire event all over again.
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