The Bard of Berkhamsted Ed Reardon
FOR SOME time I have allowed an indulgent – though as I must now acknowledge, patronising – smile to cross my features whenever I see the Specsavers television commercials showing the elderly couple who mistakenly sit on a seaside rollercoaster instead of a bench to eat their sandwiches, or the short-sighted shepherd who shears his sheepdog. As likely to happen, I thought, as any of the so-called dramas either side of ITV’S advertising breaks: can there have been a time more populated by gruesomely murdered prostitutes since the era of Jack the Ripper? Let alone the number of alcoholic detectives with dysfunctional domestic lives; at least the Scotland Yard flatfoots on the trail of the Ripper were merely stupid (or freemasons) and in no need of counselling for their parental inadequacies vis-à-vis the School Run etc. Incidentally, I have always admired – indeed taken off my fishing hat to – Conan Doyle for his canny handling of the Sherlock Holmes/inspector Lestrade rivalry. Holmes solved the case, Lestrade invariably got all the glory and nobody was ever the wiser … except for several hundred billion readers. But to return to the present, specifically the morning I dropped one of the half-dozen tablets which constitute my twice-daily medication. In my defence, as at that time of day I usually have a steady hand, I was obliged to clutch them in my left one, the right hand being still bandaged after an unseemly fracas with a fellow (possibly also freelance) shopper at the supermarket checkout on the last Sunday afternoon before a five pence charge was imposed on plastic bags. Searching for the errant pill necessitated getting down on my hands and knees and, to cut a long story short, I eventually found it under the sofa. I was about to pop it into my mouth when I realized that it was in fact not a tablet but a similarly sized white crumb from my cat Elgar’s litter tray. I wonder what would have happened had I swallowed it: not much I imagine, as for some time I’ve suspected that in the current market-be-sotted NHS doctors have been handing out placebos for high cholesterol, blood sugar and the like, depending on whichever huckster with a plastic attaché case and free pens has barged into the surgery that morning. Nevertheless the phrase ‘Should have gone to Specsavers’ came immediately to mind and I am happy to offer this scenario to the company’s advertising agency for a future commercial, though it will need to be ‘edited for content’ as they say in the TV listings, as it took a full four minutes to get to my feet again. I’m sure I’m not the only person in the country who won’t be sorry when the Met Office relinquishes control of the BBC’S weather forecasts, with all the talk of ‘spits and spots in the Vale of York’ and sunny periods being ‘fewer and further between’ which though grammatically correct is somehow extraordinarily irritating. We who have moved out of the capital will also be glad to see the back of the habit whereby a list of UK temperatures is read out, finishing with London, which always seems to be several degrees balmier than the rest of the country, shivering in its north-of-the-m4-corridor fastness. This metropolitan bias is clearly one of the factors behind the resurgence in Scottish nationalism.
Ed Reardon’s Week Series 10 will be available on CD from 3rd December.
‘He does it to boost my self-esteem’