Thursday, 23 October 2014

Meeting Richard and Judy

Many of the Appledore Book Festival bookwriters/speakers were very well known. That didn't mean they were all approachable. From their point of view, the Book Festival Circuit was a good way to talk about their new book and stimulate sales, but rather tiring. You know: Henley yesterday, Appledore today, Hay-on-Wye tomorrow; living out of a suitcase for two or three weeks at a time. I don't think I'd like it much, if I had written a book, was a Name, and an intense series of public appearances were expected by publisher and public alike. All that relentless travelling, while having to look fresh and creative, and always witty and interesting, even if really brain-dead and fed up.

Enough to put you off beginning a book, in case it becomes a runaway success!

So I had sympathy with people like Lord Owen, who at his age had to pace himself carefully; and sympathy even for younger writers, who might be more inclined to seek the public adulation (or at least the public fascination) there for the asking. But whatever their age or inclination, a writer has a human need for space and some private moments of peace, away from the attentions of admirers, and it was understandable that some of them did not linger long to chat.

But not all. I was impressed to find that Richard Madeley (who had just brought out a psychological thriller called The Way You Look Tonight) and his wife Judy Finnigan were very relaxed about the excitement they generated at Appledore.


Richard in particular seemed to like the fuss. And there was a lot of that. Hoards of Devon housewives turned up, plus sundry other visiting women (myself included) who eagerly jumped on the 'I love Richard' bandwagon! More on that shortly.

The couple are both famous for presenting (from 1988 through to 2009) the long-running TV shows This Morning (ITV) and Richard and Judy (Channel 4) that followed - with offshoot developments such as the Richard and Judy Book Club, which involved their interviewing new writers, recommending books to read, and ultimately choosing an annual prizewinner. Originally journalists, then TV presenters, both have since become popular novelists in their own right.

Richard's ABF spot at 6.00pm on Saturday 4th October took the form of a conversation on stage (in the large Parish Church) with a woman interviewer determined to give him an easy and flattering time. These (rather poor) shots of his arrival, and settling down, will give you an idea:


As you can see, I managed to get a reasonably good view.

Just after I sat down I realised that I was in the row immediately in front of a friendly woman from Barnstaple called Ros, whom I'd encountered earlier in the week. She said hello with gusto. She was there with her sister Liz, also delighted to see me.

Then a man sat next to me. He was friendly too. He seemed all ready to take a lot of notes. I asked him whether he had a good enough view. Yes, thanks, he had. It turned out that he was a journalist engaged in writing a feature article for a leisure-interest magazine that was connected with The Economist. The article was about book festivals. His name was Anthony Gardner. He'd already been to Cheltenham, Henley and Havant. Today was Appledore. Next day he was going to yet another festival somewhere else. A punishing schedule, I thought.

Several things struck me about Richard Madeley's 'performance'. First, he was very much at ease. He spoke well and clearly; and the combination of suntan, open-necked white shirt, well-cut suit, studied unshavenness, and slightly dishevelled hair had their combined effect. Every woman's eyes were fixed on him. He was every bit as as good as his TV persona. And just now and then he verged on saying the 'wrong' thing (the sort of thing men get under-the-table kicks from their wives about) which kept him from being too smooth. No suave politician this. And yet he was undoubtedly clever, and interesting to hear. I saw that on the table he had two drinks: one was the regulation tumbler of water. The other was a wine glass. I wondered if it contained white wine. He drank sparingly from both. I also noticed that his boots were meticulously clean. In fact they shone like a parade guardsman's. I approved of that. I was very tempted to ask my journalist companion whether he had noticed the wine glass and the boots, but stopped myself - surely a trained journalist wouldn't fail to notice such things, and I was loath to tell him his business.

The new thriller was a sequel to an earlier book, with the same heroine, now twelve years older, and it sounded like a cat-and-mouse story involving a psychopathic killer. I wondered if it might have the atmosphere of the terrifying 1962 Gregory Peck/Robert Mitchum film Cape Fear (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cape_Fear_(1962_film)) but with a different twist. I resolved to buy a copy afterwards.

And I did. Here's the view I had in the nearby Church Hall of the long, snaking queue to buy the book, and then have it signed by Richard. That's Liz in the foreground, wearing mauve.


It took time, but we gradually shuffled forward until right at the signing table. The three of us (Ros, Liz and myself) exchanged cameras in a fluster of excitement, so that we could each be seated with Richard, and the shot of a lifetime then taken. Here, Ros (left) is checking that she got the photo she wanted, while Richard asks me what I'd like written in my copy of his book:


'To Lucy from Richard Madeley', please!


Then I too sat like a star-struck schoolgirl with this man, absolutely chuffed to bits.


Judy, who had been sitting next to Richard, had wandered off to look at some of the other books on display. Once again the three of us hurriedly exchanged cameras so that we could each pose with her. If she was seriously put out, then she didn't show it!


She was wearing very well for a mother of four - and Richard to cope with. She's actually four years older than me, while Richard is four years younger. This was taken only a week and a bit before she joined the panel of Loose Women on daytime TV.

Richard is about the same age that my brother Wayne would have been, were he still around. Funny how he seemed older than me, but then nearly everyone always seems older than me. Maybe I am forever stuck, psychologically speaking, in childhood, in my early teens. I'll have to ponder that.

Meanwhile, this was a pleasant and memorable brush with celebrity!

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