Gyles Brandreth’s Diary
A passion for Maureen Lipman could easily be kindled
‘I’m a vegetarian and therefore unwilling to eat kangaroo testicles’
I am excited that my friend, the actress Maureen Lipman, 72, has just rejoined the cast of Britain’s longing-running soap opera, Coronation Street. This time round, Maureen is playing Corrie’s new battle-axe, a 21st-century Ena Sharples with added sex appeal. Because I still have ambition, I’m hoping to join her.
I’ve asked my agent to tell the Corrie guys that I’m available if wanted. I see myself as a defrocked clergyman who has moved into the Street in the hope of rebuilding his life. No one knows his secret, but Maureen has her suspicions – and he, of course, has a crush on her. Is his passion for her real or is it all a cruel ruse to rob her of her dignity and her life’s savings? Watch this space.
Thanks to Scotland’s second most successful living author, I am shedding weight at the rate of 2lb a week. While I was in Edinburgh recently, strutting my stuff at the Edinburgh Fringe, the bestselling novelist Alexander Mccall Smith kindly invited me to lunch. It was a light lunch, but tasty, and it explained my host’s new, svelte look. ‘Welcome to the low-carb community,’ said the creator of The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency, eyeing my wobbly jowls while indicating his own collar size – down from a tight 17 to a loose 15. ‘No bread, rice, pasta or potato’ – that’s the essence of it. ‘And no cakes, biscuits or bananas, either.’
Mccall Smith and I are of an age (all the best people are deciding to turn 70 this year) and soon we will be of a weight. The diet works, no question. If you fancy dropping a stone between now and Christmas, give it a go – bearing in mind, of course, it’s ‘low-carb’ not ‘no-carb’. As our leader says, ‘We are a community, not a cult.’
In 2006, you may recall, pop singer Mylene Klass (once the toast of Hear’say, now a classical music DJ), caused a bit of a sensation showering in an assortment of skimpy bikinis while taking part in the ITV series I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here. Possibly having got wind of my new, trim, beach-ready figure, two of the producers of the show flew up to Edinburgh to persuade me to sign on for the 2018 series starting any moment now.
Despite the inducements of a six-figure fee and a special role as a novelty ‘late arrival’ at the jungle camp, I declined – not only because I’m a vegetarian and therefore unwilling to eat kangaroo testicles (the kind of challenge the contestants are invited to rise to), but principally because I still have ambition. I don’t see myself as a bit-part player in a reality TV show: I see myself centre stage. As I told the nice producers, ‘Occasionally I co-host The One Show on BBC1 with Alex Jones. If you’d like me to co-host your show, with Ant or Dec or whichever one of the duo is not in rehab, I’m your man.’ They simply looked at me, bemused.
On 4th October, Michael Joseph publishes my new book. It’s called Have You Eaten Grandma? and it’s both a (corrective) rant about grammar, spelling and punctuation (OMG, how I hate those misplaced apostrophes!) and an exploration of the use and misuse of English in our time.
Our language is ever-evolving, of course, and keeping up isn’t easy. You are familiar with OMG, I’m sure (and with WTF, I fear), and I know you know the difference between LOL and lol (upper case = LAUGH OUT LOUD; lower case = lots of love), but since the advent of email in the 1970s, the start of text-messaging in the 1990s, the arrival of Twitter in 2006 and the growth of every kind of social media platform since, the explosion of new abbreviations and acronyms has been extraordinary. Wig! (Wig = an expression of delight, something that’s so exciting it blows your wig off.)
These tell you something about the Snapchat and Whatsapp generations: ASL (age? sex? location?), B3 (blah, blah, blah), CTN (cannot talk now), KPC (keeping parents clueless), POS (parent over shoulder). SLAP (sounds like a plan) I like, and TL;DR comes in handy when someone sends you an email that’s too wordy for words and you want a concise rejoinder. TL;DR = too long; didn’t read.
The good news is that there are now acronyms for oldies to use. ATD = at the doctor’s; BTW = bring the wheelchair; FWIW = forgot where I was; GGPBL = gotta go pacemaker battery low; IMHO = is my hearing aid on?; LMDO = laughed my dentures out.
In the world of words, we are currently mourning the death of Alan F G Lewis (1936-2018), whose lifelong passion was creating puns. No one writer has produced more of them, I am sure, and few, I reckon, can have produced many as good as Alan’s – or as bad.
That’s the point of a pun: the more excruciating it is, the more it delights us. Of the thousands that poured out of him, these three were among those fondly recalled at his funeral: ‘A Puritan is a man who noes what he likes’; ‘The hard part of being broke is watching the rest of the world go buy’; ‘The guru refused to let his dentist freeze his jaw because he wanted to transcend dental medication.’ Ouch. Wig! TTFN.
‘Have You Eaten Grandma?’ is published by Michael Joseph/penguin on 4th October