William Donaldson's Week: And what was in the toolbox?

Click to follow
It's ironic that someone who has coached as widely as I have in the NFL should, at the moment, be leaving the toolbox open. I'm as stretched, frankly, as the Oilers' secondary was against the Eagles on Monday night.

You'll have seen it for yourselves. On third and long, the Eagles' running-back lines up next to a big mother of a tight end, who pulls to the left, taking the linebackers with him. The Oilers' secondary leaves the toolbox open and the running-back's off to the races.

As with the Oilers' secondary, there are too many holes in my arrangements; I've got too much on my plate. I'm not worried about the thing for the Corpse at the BBC, other than that I can't remember what it was. We delivered it a month ago and can't expect a response from the Corpse till 1996, so that's OK. And, thanks to your suggestions, my toilet book for Methuen - How To Tell If Your Parents Aren't On Drugs - is coming along nicely.

This week's packet of cannabis seeds goes to Mr Rod Ellis of North Street, Clapham, for the following excellent entry. 'They get tiddly at their daughter's wedding, tap-dance on a table, end arse-up in the grate and send the video to Beadle.'

I'm having problems, however, with El Independo (Mr David Liddiment, the BBC's gifted head of entertainment, is becoming a little impatient, I think) and, in spite of having my hand held by Geoff Atkinson, I have been unable still to compose an acceptable skit for Rory Bremner - Who Else?

He's amazing is Geoff. If he'd been on the Oilers' secondary, he wouldn't have left the toolbox open. He'd have stayed with the Eagles' running-back and flattened him. Nor is he accomplished merely on defense. He runs some lovely routes himself, never gets blocked and remains courteous, unfussed and sunny-tempered.

Not an easy man to catch off guard, and it's all the more surprising, then, that on Tuesday I evolved a plan to do just that: to break into his toolbox when he wasn't looking, thereafter presenting him with a skit which he'd composed 20 years ago and which I could now pass off as mine. First, however, I lulled him with a little flattery. 'I take my hat off to you,' I said. 'You can work on 17 things at once, whereas I, at the moment, can't do one thing at once. You must have a first-class brain.'

Geoff, a modest man in spite of his many achievements, demurred most gracefully. 'No, no, come now, really . . . .'

I said that I was serious, pointing out that some took it as a sign of intelligence that you could hold two quite separate ideas in your head at once, adding that the police, generally, failed by this criterion, and a good thing, too. If a policeman came to arrest you for the non-payment of a parking fine, he would be unlikely to notice the dead body in the corner.

'I have proof of this,' I said. 'Some 15 years ago, and if I may throw some unsubstantiated mud in my direction . . .'

'Will this take long?' said Geoff. 'I'll be 40 next year and I've got a lot of skits to write.'

I pressed on anyway, telling him of an experience I'd had in 1978. I, like most people, was in the music business at the time, and, among other things, I looked after the affairs in this country of Dr John, the jazz pianist from New Orleans, and of his girlfriend, Libby Titus.

One evening, when Dr John was in the recording studio, Libby came round to my place with a bagful of heroin, which was to be delivered later to Dr John. She had just put it on the coffee-table next to a lump of cannabis the size of a Cadbury bar, when there was a ring at my front door.

'Chelsea police,' said a voice on the intercom.

I snatched up the heroin and threw it out of the window, causing Libby to have a nervous breakdown on the spot, and one which she was still having when a uniformed officer walked in with the news that my boy Charlie had left his suitcase on the train and that he was now returning it.

While Libby spun frantically round the room ('Shit] That was good gear]') and while I, in my distracted state, continued to roll joints the size of baseball bats, the officer methodically made out a form for me to sign, quite failing to notice all the other activity in the room.

After he'd gone, we realised that the bag of heroin would have fallen into a small patio belonging to Colonel and Lady Mallett, the owners of the basement flat. We knocked on their door (they were holding an old-style dinner-party at the time - candles, conversation, Vivaldi in the background, that sort of stuff) and I explained that my fiancee and I had had a row, in the course of which she had thrown her engagement ring out of the window.

The assembled old folk abandoned the souffle au saumon and, armed with torches, helped us to search the patio, but the heroin was nowhere to be seen.

'Bollocks,' said Libby, 'I'll score some more.' And, leaving the old folk to continue with the search, we returned to my flat, where Libby was making arrangements on the telephone, when there was a knock on the door. 'We've found the engagement ring,' said Colonel Mallett, handing me the little bag.

'You'd have expected Libby to be pleased,' I now said to Geoff, 'but all she was concerned about was whether Colonel Mallett and his guests had nicked any of her stash. That's not the point, however. The point is that the police hadn't noticed . . . hullo, where's he gone?'

Geoff must have paddled out mid-anecdote and this gave me the opportunity to break into his toolbox; more accurately, to hack into his computer, which I imagined stored 20 years' worth of skits.

I punched a button and imagine my surprise when, instead of stuff for Lenny Henry and Cannon and Ball, up popped on the screen How To Tell If Your Parents Aren't on Drugs, a proposal for Michael O'Mara Books by Geoff Atkinson and Roger From Chicago ('They send you to Ludgrove, attend sports day in a hat and participate too keenly in the mothers' sack race').

'Oh dear,' said Geoff, returning to the office, 'I appear to have left my toolbox open.'

Mr Rod Ellis of Clapham and I are engaged in a sack-race of our own it seems, with Geoff and Roger From Chicago.