Matthew is shaking his head and muttering over a kipper and a cup of tea. Not that there is anything thing new in that. He has been shaking his head and muttering for much of his life. And it's unlikely that the kipper is bothering him unduly. It'll be something else that is preoccupying Matthew, and I have learned over the last 15 years that it's best not to ask what that might be. In making any kind of inquiry, one puts oneself in a precarious position at the top of a long and slippery slope.
So I take no notice and get on with my phone call to my brother, Noel, who is in a flap about the arrangements for his baby daughter Ellie's christening -a naming ceremony, in fact - in a Dorset village hall on Saturday. He is specifically concerned not about the catering or his speech, or whether Ellie, a normally serene and pliable baby, will choose her big moment in the spotlight to hold forth on some issues of her own, but about whether or not the former Radio One DJ, Diddy David Hamilton and his wife Mrs Diddy, otherwise known as Dreena, will be there. I am specifically concerned that the dog-sitter has let me down and I am hoping Noel won't mind if our Labrador and Westie come along too.
I am holding the line when Matthew, who, crucially, is Ellie's godfather as well as her uncle by marriage (he has to make a speech at the naming ceremony), stops shaking his head and muttering for a moment, looks up from his plate, removes a fish-bone from between his lips and says: "It could have been worse, it could have been Andy Peebles."
I imagine what he means is that "Eleanor Louise Hamilton Tyrrel", as my scrumptious niece is being christened, is a lot more stylish than "Eleanor Louise Peebles Tyrrel". The explanation for having the name of any former Radio 1 DJ inserted at all is this: my brother, an otherwise rational man, is obsessed with Diddy. He has been since 1976 and has followed his idol's career from that day to this - Diddy currently broadcasts shows for Big L radio.
My brother's relationship with him reminds me of an episode of Alan Partridge in which a crazed fan turns a room in his house into a shrine to his hero. My brother has been creating something similar in a shed featuring posters, several shoe boxes containing tapes of mentions (menshes) Diddy has given him over the years and, his most prized possession of all, a Diddy David Hamilton tea towel, which hangs in pride of place on the wall, like a Big Brother tea towel, overseeing all the other Diddy-abilia which, though treasured, is of far less import.
"It's not just that Hamilton is a much more stylish name than Peebles," says Matthew, before returning to his kipper, and the shaking and his muttering, "it's to do with the fundamental characters of the two men.
"You see, while Diddy is a good man and a fine broadcaster, I can't help but feel Peebles has faults. I cannot forget the time I heard him introduce a traffic bulletin with a reference to 'the motorway we call One'." And then, after polishing off the kipper and scraping its remains into the bin, he returned once more to his own shed with its on-line poker and plasma TV - a shrine to no-one but himself. When I finally manage to speak to Noel, we have a protracted and stressful conversation about the tea towel, which was taken down to be washed and has now gone missing.
Of course I do worry from time to time about my brother, but Matthew has often urged me not to think of him as being like the nutter from Alan Partridge. "Instead you must invoke Rupert Pupkin, as played by Robert de Niro in The King of Comedy," he insists. "While he did go to the extreme lengths of kidnapping Jerry Lewis at gunpoint, remember it all worked out for him in the end." Strangely I find this to be of no comfort whatsoever.
The other thing that is bothering Noel is the dog problem. I am now insisting on taking them. Noel, however, maintains that having them there will make the whole thing that little bit too eccentric. I tell him that naming your daughter after a Radio 1 DJ and then threatening to call off her christening because of a missing tea towel is hardly un-eccentric. A froideur has been established and there is no further contact for 48 hours until I receive a curt e-mail: "Tea towel turned up in fast coloureds." I return with: "So pleased for you and don't worry about dogs, have found willing sitter."
Later I receive a phone call from him. It is now imperative that I do, "...repeat DO", bring the dogs. Diddy and Dreena's dogsitter has also let them down - clearly there is a dog-sitters' convention this weekend. The result is that the Hamiltons are bringing Max, a Gordon setter. Noel, of course, has told them that all dogs are welcome and that anyone without a dog will probably feel left out.
Diddy and lovely Dreena are happily settled in the front row, handsome Max is at their feet, my Westie is at mine and the Labrador has taken refuge with my mother further along the line. Matthew, who is driving down separately, is already 15 minutes late and the assembled throng, dogs and all, awaits him. Noel takes to the microphone to explain that the ceremony will begin just as soon as Ellie's godfather (and uncle by marriage) gets through some horrendous traffic "on that motorway we call Three".Reuse content