Lord of the manor in Wood Lane

Share
Related Topics
TODAY I am proud to present extracts from the sensational best- selling book by John Birt, 'A Year in the Provinces', due to be dramatised on television next week, starring John Thaw as John Birt.

It tells the story of a television executive who, tired of his success at London Weekend Television, decides to leave the Big City and settle quietly in the little-known region known as Wood Lane. His first encounter is with the man he has hired to help to rethink the look of his living room . . . .

'John Birt?'

I looked up. At my door stood a middle-aged man with a stoop, respectfully holding his clipboard. He had a twinkle in his eye, which I was to come to know well, and which would light up his features every time I suggested a radical change. I would also get to know the stoop very well, as it was shared by all inhabitants of Wood Lane. On seeing me, they would bend forward in that curious half-obeisant, half-mocking stance, as if tempted to kneel, yet as soon as they left my presence, they would straighten up and I would hear their refreshing, honest laughter behind my back.

'Yes?' I said.

'Ahder,' he said.

'Ahder?' I said, startled. When I first moved to Wood Lane, I had no idea what people were talking about - indeed, I would still have no idea what they are talking about if I had not taught them how to talk properly as befits a modern organisation or, in other words, how to employ the correct objective-oriented idiom.

'AHDER,' he said. 'Assistant Head of Decor and Executive Renovation. We heard you was needing a respray job on your office suite.'

'I certainly do,' I cried. 'And that's not all] I aim to turn this whole place into a wonderful centre of excellence] I shall open it up to thrusting new ideas and balanced coverage] I shall make sure that everyone who works on my estate knows exactly what to do and how to exercise their own individuality exactly as I want them to]'

'Right,' said AHDER, taking notes. 'New broom, sweep clean, repaint, move furniture around, same as usual, OK, Mr Birt, can do.'

'NOT the same as usual,' I said. 'Very different this time.'

He smiled and said nothing. I must watch this lovable rogue.

As the seasons pass, the spring schedule followed by the summer repeats, followed by the autumn schedule and so on, John Birt gets into the rhythm of the Wood Lane year, and learns local customs.

Most people in Wood Lane eat in the 'canteen', as they call it, or at their desks, but now and again it is nice to go to a local restaurant, and I have recently been going to one in the quaintly named 'Shepherd's Bush'. The restaurant is named after the French writer Balzac, and is patronised by many of the workers on my estate, whose names I intend to get to know as soon as possible. Mr Powell, who runs my entertainment video library, and Mr Yentob, who looks after the serious side of things, are often there. Perhaps they would know the names of the other people. I must ask them.

Yesterday I overheard a fascinating conversation at the table behind me.

'I can't stand it,' said the first speaker. 'He doesn't know what's going on, and if he doesn't understand anything he merely closes it down.'

'I can't take much more,' said the other man. 'If he doesn't change his ideas soon, I'll have to go elsewhere.'

I wondered who they could be talking about, and took a quick look over the table divide. It was Mr Powell and Mr Yentob, sitting together. How curious]

In 1992, John Birt decides money is a bit tight and looks around for economies.

Today I went exploring west of the estate and, in Christchurch, found an amazing cottage industry called 'radio'. I asked one of the old characters what happened there.

'Well,' he said, 'we make noises here, like talking and music, and they go through the air and folks do listen to 'em in their homes.'

'How splendid]' I said. 'How long has this been going on?'

'Since way back, but not for much longer if that bloke Birt goes on the way he is.'

'Oh, does 'that bloke Birt' own this place?' I asked.

'Aye, worse luck.'

He has certainly given me an idea or two . . .]

Coming next: Jonathan Powell goes Awol, and John Birt has poor Michael Checkland evicted from the estate.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nicola Sturgeon could have considerable influence over David Cameron in a hung parliament  

General Election 2015: What if Cameron were to end up in hock to the SNP?

Steve Richards
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before