COLUMN: January 19, 2011

HELLO, readers. Is there something that you once loved on television and would love to see back on free-to-air television? I do not mean revivals of shows – like the Upstairs Downstairs thing that was on over Christmas, the one which took a chance on little-known actress Keeley Hawes.

No, I mean actual shows which should be repeated for the benefit of the next generation, shows like Fawlty Towers and Father Ted. Or films, like the 2004 Michael Mann thriller, Collateral.

In that case, might I recommend that you give me a call and tell me to go out and spend actual money on the appropriate DVDs? 

I will happily go out and buy them, secure in the knowledge that within one week of the purchase, the programmes in question will be broadcast on television, probably along with a comprehensive documentary explaining how the series was made, and how Nicholas Lyndhurst was in the frame for the lead role until he gave David Jason a horsey ride and did his back in.

I have been stung in precisely that way more often in recent years than I would like to admit. And bearing in mind that I have admitted to placing my hand in a urine puddle on a bus seat in this column, you have to see I must mean it has happened a lot.

But, then, I have always had a poor sense of timing, comic or otherwise. As a young reporter, full of vim about the job and desperate to impress, I happened upon a court story about a drug baron’s wife and sister- in-law, who had been found guilty of living on her husband’s immoral earnings. Central to the story was a mansion in a leafy suburb.

(As an aside, why is it that criminals who run drug gangs are known as barons? Are the owners of illegal gambling dens known as earls? Are sex traffickers known as viceroys? Actually, that would be a good name for them).

I convinced my editor that we should get a photo of the property. He suggested that we might wait until the following Monday, but I said there was no time like the present, grabbed the reluctant photographer, and off we toddled in my little car, like an early 90s Noddy and Big Ears.

We arrived at the house, which was surrounded by a seven-feet tall wall, and briefly pondered the ethics of such a situation. But this was the early 90s – bandit country – and they were criminals. This was in the public interest, probably.

I left the engine running in my car and we walked over to the wall. We argued for a moment about who was going to give whom a bunk up to get the picture. In the end, Dave the photographer won, as he was the photographer. I bent over, fingers interlaced and up he went. I staggered a little . . . 

“Leg it!” shouted Dave. He leapt from my hands like a salmon showing off on Britain’s Got Talent. “What? What?” I cried as we raced to the car.

I flung the car into first, floored the accelerator, didn’t move, took the handbrake off, stalled, started the engine again and tore away. In my rear view mirror, I saw three men, of such burliness that light itself bent around them, rush into the street.

It was a full five minutes before I’d gathered myself enough to ask Dave what had happened. And I would ask you to put yourself in the place of the owners of the property.

“Gracious me,” you might think, “Close family members have just been found guilty in a court of law. The last thing I feel like doing right now is hosting this flipping outdoor children’s party.

“Hang on a moment, who is that man with the camera, whose head has appeared atop the security wall? Should I call the police? I’d better not, lest I be thrown out of the Desperate Criminals club. I’ll just send Bruiser, Fists of Death and Declan out to give him a good talking to. Honestly, what atrocious timing!”

I left reporting not long after that incident. I didn’t fancy a repeat.

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