My secret love for the golden girl of the BBC

The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold

Share
Related Topics
AS ONE of the longest-serving members of the Board of Governors of the British Broadcasting Corporation (I think my old quaffing partner Woodrow Wyatt beats me by a head!) I am ashamed to admit that I have a very great deal of time for that veritable jewel in our proverbial crown, Miss (Msss!) Esther Rantzen.

Ah, memories, memories! Let me start at the beginning - or, if you would rather, at the end! This morning, as I was working hard on Future Projects in my BBC office suite, a young lady from a department colloquially known as "Talent" arrived with her clipboard and pince-nez, requesting 10 minutes of my time. Leaning over to Dukey Hussey, I asked him to play my hand for me, and assured him that if by any chance the hand was lost I would remove the appropriate article of clothing on my return.

I then took my leave of my fellow governors and zipped along the corridor to a more relaxed and less ribald environment. "I am yours for the full 10 minutes," I said, charmingly, to the young lady with the clipboard. "Fire Away!"

"Orders from Mr Birt, sir," she began. "We're conducting a survey on suitable treatment - hospitality and so forth - of our major stars."

"Birt? Birt? Remind me," I said.

"Director General, sir."

"Ah!" I replied. "Too keen by half, clothes too big for his body, silly- arse grin. I'm with you."

"He wants feedback."

"Dread word!"

"Sorry?"

"Continue."

"He wants feedback as to how we should make our major stars feel wanted. Cocktail parties, seats at Wimbledon, that sort of thing. For instance - Esther Rantzen."

That name! At the very mention of it, my heart leapt back 20 or more years, back to those far-off days when I inhabited that legendary armchair in the corner of the That's Life! set, later to bear the chucklesome posterior of that most estimable of mirth-makers, Uncle Cyril Fletcher.

"Wallace - what have you got for us this week?" Esther would chime, after a particularly harrowing item about, say, a singing hamster crushed to death by a faulty washing machine. All eyes would look to me to provide the "light relief".

"Well, Esther," I would say. "I hear tell of a gardener who hails from Ullapool who rejoices in the name of Mr BARROW!!!" And then, just in case some of the audience had not understood the pun, I would add: "Let us hope he's got `WHEELY' green fingers!!!"

Needless to say, the audience fell about. They simply could not get enough of my "Names That Make You Chuckle". But before their merriment had come to its end, I would chip in with a hand-picked example of one of my immortal "Arnold's Bloopers". For instance: "Many thanks to Mr Robertson from Tring, who sent me this picture caption from the Hertfordshire Gazette; `Mothers and Children seen here competing in the Egg and Poo race'!!! - well, Esther, let's hope it didn't drive them all `POTTY'!!!" Result - collapse of stout audience!

Golden days indeed. Many people already know that, around this time, I was briefly engaged to Miss Rantzen. This is neither the time nor the place to go into any detail about this most intimate of experiences. Let it suffice to say that her eye soon fell upon Mr Desmond Wilcox, a liaison that was to earn its place in the very annals of romance, and that the pair of them have two lovely children, Desmond, 14, and Esther, 11, to whom I am an honorary Godfather.

Deep breath, Wallace, deep breath. If this particular copy of the Independent on Sunday, dear reader, should happen to be marked with a tear stain, you must find it in your heart to forgive an old man a little trip down Memory Lane. Let me add that I remain an avid admirer of Esther.

But I digress. Let us return to the lady with the clipboard. "How, for instance," she asked me, "would you make Esther Rantzen aware of the affection in which she is held by the BBC?"

"Might a `chip buttie' do the trick?" I replied.

React Now

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

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The economy expanded by 0.8 per cent in the second quarter of 2014  

Government hails latest GDP figures, but there is still room for scepticism over this 'glorious recovery'

Ben Chu
Comedy queen: Miranda Hart has said that she is excited about working on the new film  

There is no such thing as a middle-class laugh

David Lister
Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little