Gyles Bran­dreth’s Di­ary

A pas­sion for Mau­reen Lip­man could eas­ily be kin­dled

The Oldie - - CONTENTS - Fol­low Gyles on Twit­ter @Gylesb1

‘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

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