Cheers Ken, you've earned the tortoise vote

Hunter Davies
Thursday 15 August 2013 21:15

I never thought I'd be grateful to Ken Livingstone. But over the weekend, while the rest of the planet has been concentrating on Silverstone, I've been out trying to save a life. All thanks to Ken's wise words. So cheers, Ken.

The reason I thought I could never be grateful to him was because I've never been a fan. Many years ago I was on a late-night television series with him. It lasted 13 weeks and I was dying for the end, not just because I was useless, but because the other two main presenters were just so dominant. One was Janet Street-Porter, not exactly a shrinking violet, and the other dear Ken, not exactly a timid newt.

There was a live audience and I used to sit there transfixed and stunned by Ken's ego. He was so nakedly desperate to hog the limelight, be centre stage, soak up every possible second of public attention.

One to one, while we were getting ready or chatting off camera, he was charming, amusing, unaffected, but once the lights were on, dear God, he was uncontrollable, an egomaniac running wild, the most extreme example of - now what's the word I'm looking for? that's it - a politician.

I'm against the idea of a London mayor anyway. Waste of time, money, buildings. Who needs it? Just another a layer of bureaucracy. But the thought of Ken running the show is a nightmayor. Then last week in his column on these pages, he said something jolly interesting. In passing, chuntering on about something else, ie himself, he mentioned "the untimely end meted out to my pet tortoise by an urban fox".

Straightaway, I was into the garden, searching for Tortee. Yes, a silly name for a dear creature we have had for 20 years now, but the children, when they were young, christened her.

We decided she was a she after we examined her underneath bit and saw it was concave, or it could have been convex.

That's the clue to whether it's female or male. One of the two. Oh I can't remember the test right now, it was such a long time ago. No doubt Ken will work it into his next column. He's desperate for the tortoise vote.

Tortee re-appeared in the garden two weeks ago, when we had that sudden flash of heat and sun, blink and you missed it, then she disappeared. I didn't really worry. She's looked after herself perfectly all these years, no need to feed or water her, if only children were as easy. But then we heard this funny yelping noise in the night. I said to my neighbour next day, was that your Charlie barking? Charlie's a spaniel, not a child. No, he said, that's our urban fox. It hunts at night. Didn't you know?

How interesting, I thought, and did nothing. Till reading Ken. Since then, I've been out in the garden, searching everywhere.

"All of Britain is on its knees, praying for Johnny Herbert, such a super bloke." That's a quote from some berk who was doing the TV commentary for Silverstone. "Oh no it's not," I shouted back.

I could hear him chuntering on in the back ground as I hunted for Tortee. I'd meant to watch the Grand Prix because it's such a weird event with such hysterical commentators who make Jonathan Pearce sound like a shrinking newt. And the adverts are truly remarkable, covering every item of machinery, every piece of clothing, every inch of screen, a veritable cathedral of commercial sponsorship. How do they get away with it? It makes Manchester United's marketing look restrained.

Anyway, late last evening I found her. I've now put her safe in the garage for the moment. Good on you, Ken, for warning me. She did look a bit shocked, though. I can't tell whether she's been alarmed by the Grand Prix screaming and shouting or the thought of Ken Livingstone becoming Mayor.

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