Wednesday and it's off to London to where they make the telly at the BBC. We have tickets to go and see the Paul O'Grady show going out live to the nation. Yes, I know it's on C4 but it's made at the BBC because that's where they make all the telly.
We would prefer to go to Manchester because that London is a long way away and the parking's terrible but you have to take what you can get. We have to be there for 4pm so, because our journey involves the M6, M1 and the most accident prone section of the M25 (J16-17, Maple Cross) we set off from Crewe at 9.29am. For once we didn't have to go back for anything. Deciding we didn't want to risk parking in White City or Shepherd's Bush we head instead for the end of the Central Line at West Ruislip and catch the tube. We arrive at White City horrendously early after a completely hassle free trip. Coming out the tube, we see our first celeb walking right in front of us. "Look," I say, pointing."It's the squashy faced bloke who does the Dragons." It is indeed Evan Davis
With plenty of time to kill, we catch a bus down to Shepherd's Bush and find a café on the Green. It's a levantine one, not sure if they're Arabs or Berbers but it's nice and cheap. Fantastic cakes and a huge slice of pizza for just £1.20. I cant believe it, we have two slices of very pleasant pizza, an egg mayo baguette, tea, chocolate and a cup of milk (they are confused by a request for a glass of milk - this is cosmopolitan London, the girls are French but look at us with astonishment. I can't believe this is the first time they have heard of this English speciality) all for just £5.70. Similar on a motorway would be nearer £20. Maybe they're not all robbing bastards in the smoke after all.
Back at the studio and we're all standing in a queue outside. It's cold and Sharon's legs are giving up so we go back and wait in TV Centre Reception. It's full of people looking important all looking at everybody else wondering whether they're important enough to be going on the telly too or whether they're just staying out of the cold, like us. 3.25 and we go back to the queue. We spot our second celeb. Jonathan Ross arrives in his impossibly flash orange convertible, the make of which I couldn't discern, hood down and smoking a big stoagie. He tips the wink at the security guys and is let in to take his rightful place in top celeb parking slot No 1 right by the glass doors as befits the man who is worth the whole of Hull in licence fees (136,000 or so go to make up his contract). I don't care, I like him. He seems comfortable with his celebrity and does not seem the kind of person who would enjoy Harrods being opened after hours and be pawed by the slimy conspiracist, Al Fayed into the bargain. I like to think he was not showing off by driving with the top down past the queues, rather he was pandering to the public's natural inclination to gawp and was happy to let them have a piece of him. His interview last week with Borat almost caused me incontinence and that's good enough for me.
We have to remove everything from our pockets and even our belts in order to go through security. Sharon is divested of the nail scissors she has brought along to attack anyone she sees who she can't stand (Emma Bunton and Carol Smillie at the moment) and we are allowed to proceed. We are herded toward the marshalling area/foyer/café andBBC shop. Sharon goes and buys a pen and fridge magnet, I go and get a cup of coffee and a free glass of milk. Our luck appears to be in regarding the milk and the coffee is relatively cheap at £1.15. I also asked for "a coffee" not some weirdo cryptographic nonsense that only Americans and pseuds understand.
Then we're ushered into Studio 6 to be greeted by the enthusiastic warm-up man. He tells us we are the stars and that we have to go mental and wave our arms about. I'm struck by the shoddiness of the set. It looks elaborate and ornate on screen but you can see nails and sloppy paint on it. Paul's desk is over to the left, with the settee and the organ he uses for his quiz a few yards away stage right. The warm-up primes us with a game. Two women are selected to prat about in the front and collect items from the audience. These are decided on a whim by warm-up man. A man's right shoe, a left sock, a handbag and a coat are produced. Warm up guy tries his luck. "A set of false teeth" he calls. Miraculously, someone produces a set and they are given to one of the girls. They are still wet. She puts them inside the shoe. He tries his luck even further "A pair of trousers." Lad behind us removes his kecks and wings them across the audience's heads. "A bra." This lot are up for anything. I rather think if he'd said, "Right, two of you out front and go at it doggy style" he would have got a result.
Paul appears momentarily from a door to be greeted by hoots and cheers. He's very popular, the people's drag queen he is. And I know where he lives in Aldington, five minutes from Mum and Dad's. It is
a farm. Warm up complete and Paul is introduced, along with Buster, his dog. The crowd go mental as instructed. The dog is the real star of the first quarter and he's totally unfazed by the noise. It's good he's there because Paul isn't really firing. He's a pro and there are no mistakes even though it's live but jeez, he's recently had two heart attacks and one immediately thinks of Eric Morecambe. He walks delicately and appears to be in slight discomfort. I don't watch the show as a rule but what I see on telly, I'm getting here. It's live, no re-takes and everyone knows what to do. First guest is Sir Roger Moore. He's a regular guest and is good value. He gets it, as he always seems to, be it on Steve Wright's radio show or here. He's sharp and he's also 79. Bloody hell, Simon Templar is 79! Sir Rog has always been a bit of a hero and I'm well chuffed he was on.
They break for ads and the next guest is brought in, an ex-homeless young man who's now sorting himself out. Rog shuffles down the sofa, puts his feet up on the cross-brace of the coffee table in front of him and breaks it. Buster is a bit yappy so Paul tells him to go and have a walk. He promptly does, behind the Welsh dresser that forms Paul's backdrop. Stage manager appears with some kitchen roll, Buster is unceremoniously carried off. Guest 2 is dealt with and Fearne Cotton is brought out for guest 3. I'm not familiar with her oeuvre; the crowd go mental. There is some VT of a reality show. We go mental. Ad break. These are surprisingly long. The voice over for the phone-in is done live and not fed in. The crowd go mental. The organ quiz thingy is next. The crowd go mental. This section is a bit of a washout as the crowd goes mental to such an extent that nobody, let alone Paul and the contestant can hear what's going on. During the next ad break the floor is prepared with black plastic and four microphones are brought out.
The men in the audience also have to do a silly dance. Ho hum. We are kidded that it's being filmed but the lack of cameras pointing in our direction rather gives the game away. Thank you. The restart and an over-confidant American is brought out who has made a career out of his party trick. This noteworthy talent is the ability to click his fingers fast and do a dance to a standard rock and roll karaoke track. He is probably late 30s, is this going to be his life?. Paul, Fearne and Sir Rog all have a go. They are pros and are not worried about making tits of themselves. The only tit is the guest. His act is shite but apparently he's a legend in Vegas. Americans, it seems, will do anything to get on telly, I quietly reflect, also pondering the willingness of the English audience to divest themselves of their clothing/mouth furniture for no reason other than it's in a TV studio. End of show. We go mental.
On the way back to the tube we pass Holly from Eastenders going the other way. She doesn't look stupid.