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’

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