A final flood of colours
We’ve recently said adieu to a quartet of well known faces in the UK: Gary Rhodes: Jonathan Miller, Clive James and, most recently, Bob Willis. It was the latter two that most engaged me over the years.
Celebrity chefs like Rhodes are not my ‘thing’ and Miller may have been an incredible polymath, but I found him a bit too full of himself to warm to (and according to the BBC’s obituary of him, he was also “famously cantankerous and grumpy, and on occasions devastatingly rude”, so not my tas de thé).
But, to a cricket-watching teen in the 70s (whole summers of free-to-air test matches on the tele!), Willis was a fast bowler who was always worth a spell. And although England’s 1981 series win against Australia is known as Botham’s Ashes, Willis’ 8-43 in the third test after England had been forced to follow on remains firmly lodged in cricketing folklore – the stuff of legends! (If my last boss was to read that sentence I can only imagine the look of contemptuous bewilderment on her face as she tried to fathom what on earth it means!).
Clive James was altogether different. His ‘bouncers’ were not hurled the length of a cricket pitch, but fashioned from words with a turn of phrase that would take out the middle stump of any conceit and pretence whilst standing in awe of his own literary heroes.
He could also bowl a verbal googly if required and although he started out as a literary critic, it was as a TV critic that he bowled to more popular acclaim. Both in writing and onscreen he never failed to delight in wordsmithing his take on the sometimes ludicrous world of the box in the corner of the lounge.
His autobiographical ramblings were humorously illuminating and clear evidence that unlike the Jonathan Millers of this world, he never took himself too seriously. Nevertheless, he never feigned gormlessness or a lack of intellect:
“I see the pain on your face when you say the word intellectual, because it has so many syllables in it.”
I wonder what the critic in him would make of this (not much, I suspect) …
There once was a literary critic
Whose words were quite sybaritic,
But sadly for Clive
He’s no longer alive
Cos his B-cells became lymphocytic.
Postscript: As it’s getting on for Christmas (again) it’s time for me to look back (again) to the story of Lovell’s bride. It’s traditional and it’s here…