Noel’s rac­ing to turn into Alan Par­tridge

The Mail on Sunday - Event - - BOOKS -

Eight Go Ral­ly­ing: The Road To Saigon fea­tures eight mi­nor celebri­ties driv­ing clas­sic cars from Thai­land through Cam­bo­dia to Viet­nam, al­though by the close of the sec­ond day it had be­come Two Go Ral­ly­ing, Two Go By Taxi And Four Go By Minibus.

Only Noel Ed­monds and his wife Liz were still prop­erly in the game, but Noel did have a sin­gu­lar ad­van­tage as he wears driv­ing gloves. Alan Par­tridge al­ways rec­om­mended the string-backed ones – ‘just gives you a lit­tle bit of ex­tra pur­chase’ – but Ed­monds opted for leather, closed back with those lit­tle open­ings over the knuck­les. So there any sim­i­lar­ity ends. ‘We must re­mem­ber,’ Ed­monds told his wife at one point, ‘that this isn’t a race. It’s an ex­pe­ri­ence. Which we have to win.’ And that wouldn’t have put you in mind of Par­tridge at all.

Much of the pre-pub­lic­ity for this show had, in fact, come from Ed­monds, who lam­basted it for ‘fak­ery’ and not be­ing a ‘proper com­pe­ti­tion’ – or a proper ex­pe­ri­ence you have to win, if you pre­fer – but he stopped at throw­ing down a glove and chal­leng­ing the BBC to a duel. Guess they’re not cheap, those gloves. Hard to fathom where Ed­monds was com­ing from, given that the pro­gramme showed all the be­hind-thescenes trick­ery, and all the low-load­ers and taxis and minibuses and five-star ho­tels.

Sup­pos­edly, the group were meant to be joining a fa­mous clas­sic-car rally, but as was also made clear from the start, they weren’t ac­tu­ally al­lowed to take part in the main event and would be com­pet­ing for their own ‘rally spirit’ cup. Ed­monds has spent many years in tele­vi­sion – as he said him­self, he has quite a ‘track record’ work­ing in ‘the highly com­pet­i­tive world of broad­cast­ing’ – and some may say that, as a con­se­quence, he knows how to draw attention to a show.

I can say only that he did not com­plain when he saw that he and Liz would be driv­ing a pretty lit­tle clas­sic MG with a 1900cc en­gine, whereas the mu­si­cians Tinchy Stry­der and Jor­dan Stephens were awarded a Hill­man Imp (900cc). He did not com­plain that this would surely put him at an ad­van­tage… on top of the driv­ing gloves too!

Mean­while, the other celebrity duos in­volved in this four-parter are Martin and Shirlie Kemp driv­ing a ’72 Mini, plus TV pre­sen­ter Miq­uita Oliver and her mother Andi in a ’59 Mor­ris Mi­nor. And it’s sur­pris­ingly hard­core. They started out in Chi­ang Mai, which is where Ed­monds first snapped on his driv­ing gloves – ‘I’m the only one with the proper gloves!’ he said, with as­ton­ish­ment – and where they had to ne­go­ti­ate the traf­fic-choked city us­ing only rudi­men­tary maps.

This led to a lot of cir­cling, U-turn­ing and bickering, while I hoped and prayed they wouldn’t knock over that moped with the baby on the back. dan­ger­ous.)

Next, they had to drive up Thai­land’s steep­est moun­tain range, where the Hill­man be­gan to smoke. The car, the voiceover said, ‘needs top­ping up with petrol, oil and wa­ter, but as rally vir­gins the boys have no idea how much’. You did won­der: might some­one not have told them? The Hill­man’s en­gine even­tu­ally seized and the boys had to con­tinue by minibus. The Mor­ris Mi­nor also couldn’t make the hill, so Miq­uita and mum had to re­treat and drive around the moun­tain range, which added many ex­tra hours to their jour­ney, and in the end Andi was too tired to carry on at the wheel, so they had to be put in a taxi. Noel had no prob­lems with the MG but then, as he said, ‘I know what to do with an old girl ap­proach­ing 50. And the car.’ That also wouldn’t re­mind you of any­one at all.

On the sec­ond day, af­ter Mr and Mrs Ed­monds had per­formed their morn­ing salu­ta­tions – ‘Good morn­ing, Mrs Ed­monds, I love you.’ ‘Good morn­ing, hubby. I love you too.’ – they were all told they’d be tak­ing part in an off-road time trial, which also seemed phe­nom­e­nally dan­ger­ous, and was. The Kemps rolled their Mini, and Martin ended up in hospi­tal but Shirlie sim­ply said ‘it could have been worse’ and did not pro­ceed to lam­bast the BBC for nearly killing them, but then she has only ever been a Wham! back­ing singer and does not have a ‘track record’ work­ing ‘in the highly com­pet­i­tive world of broad­cast­ing’. The Mini was writ­ten off so they joined Tinchy and Jor­dan on the minibus, while Andi said she was now in too much shock to con­tinue driv­ing, which meant she and Miq­uita had to be put in a taxi again.

So to sum­marise: one pair nearly died, one pair had a car that was use­less and one pair stopped due to shock, yet all the while Noel kept go­ing and go­ing and go­ing with­out mishap. Must be the driv­ing gloves. Has to be. (It did feel phe­nom­e­nally

Noel and Liz Ed­monds in Eight Go Ral­ly­ing: The Road To Saigon

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.