I, Partridge: We Need To Talk About Alan, page 1
WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT ALAN
With Rob Gibbons, Neil Gibbons, Armando Iannucci and Steve Coogan
For Fernando. And Denise.
Introducing What Follows
Chapter 1. Beginnings
Chapter 2. Scouts and Schooling
Chapter 3. East Anglia Polytechnic
Chapter 4. Carol
Chapter 5. Hospital Radio
Chapter 6. Local/Commercial Radio
Chapter 7. Joining the BBC
Chapter 8. A Mighty Big Fish for a Pond This Size
Chapter 9. The Move to TV
Chapter 10. My Own Show
Chapter 11. Radio’s Loss
Chapter 12. Glen Ponder, Musician
Chapter 13. Lift Off, Show-Wise
Chapter 14. The Death of Forbes McAllister
Chapter 15. Splitting from Carol
Chapter 16. Yule Be Sorry!
Chapter 17. Return to Norwich
Chapter 18. Linton Travel Tavern
Chapter 19. Me v Hayers
Chapter 20. Proof That the Public Loved Me
Chapter 21. Hayers: Dead
Chapter 22. Homeslessnessness
Chapter 23. Swallow
Chapter 24. Other, Better TV Work
Chapter 25. Marching On: Skirmish
Chapter 26. My Drink and Drugs Heck
Chapter 27. Chin Up
Chapter 28. Bouncing Back
Chapter 29. Good Grief
Chapter 30. Classic House
Chapter 31. Forward Solutions™
Chapter 32. North Norfolk Digital
Chapter 33. A Sidekick
Chapter 34. Hanging Up the Headphones
About the Publisher
ALAN PARTRIDGE IS A DJ who presents Mid-Morning Matters. He is hard-working and enthusiastic, with a broad appeal to our regional listenership. He has worked at the station since 2009 and was previously employed by its sister station Radio Norwich.
I have always found Alan to be honest and trustworthy and a relatively good ambassador for the station and for Gordale Media as a whole.
Alan is smart, punctual and his attendance record is very good, with an average of 1.5 sick days taken per year of employment.
I would have no hesitation in recommending him.
MD, Gordale Media
Introducing What Follows
Hi, Alan. Tell me – what is this page?
It’s the introduction to my book.
Written as a short interview with yourself?
That’s brave and unusual. Why?
Well, questions and answers are my bread and butter; my meat and drink; my sausage, beans and chips. I’m an accomplished broadcaster, presenter and interviewer. Chat is what I do.
You’re not going to write the whole book like this, are you?
What do you want the book to say?
That I am Alan Gordon Partridge, a respected broadcaster, but also so much more than that. Son to a dead father, father to a living son, TV personality, businessman, brand, rambler, writer, thinker, sayer, doer. I think that’s everything.1
Today, I’m the presenter of Mid-Morning Matters, an award-worthy weekday morning-thru-lunchtime radio show on North Norfolk Digital – North Norfolk’s best music mix. In fact, you join me in my studio, as I scribble these opening thoughts in the 3 minutes 36 seconds of downtime I enjoy as a record plays.2
So what can people expect from the book?
They can expect quality throughout and excellence in places. These memoirs are a serious, thoughtful and grammatically sound body of work, a welcome antidote to the kind of crank ’em out, pile ’em high shit-lit that passes for most modern autobiographies.
Well, put it this way. In terms of craftsmanship, it’s less Bewes, Madeley, Parsons and more Clancey, Archer, Rushdie. What’s more, it’s accessible enough to capture a market as wide as that of Rowling, Brown, Smith, McNab, Lama3.4
Is there anything in the book that ‘breaks the mould’?
Yes, a soundtrack. I spent three days with my ‘iPod’ creating a list of tracks that would provide the perfect mood music to accompany my life.
My publishers HarperCollins said that this wasn’t necessary. In fact they specifically told me not to bother, as they weren’t willing to pay for the production or dispatch of a CD and certainly weren’t going to seek clearance from, or pay royalties to, the artists I’d chosen.
But they can’t stop me providing you, the reader, with a list of songs plus directions as to where in the book they should be played. You’ll find the tracklist on page 311. My instructions can be found within the text. Please note: the soundtrack is mandatory.
What kind of research did the book involve?
Content: six consecutive afternoons of remembering. Style: reading ten pages from each of the writers mentioned above.
And have you been honest?
Searingly honest. Brutally honest. Painfully honest. Needlessly honest. Distressingly honest. HarperCollins asked for full disclosure and that’s what I delivered. I’ve opened myself up (not literally), put my balls on the line (not literally) and written it all down (literally).
Having read your book, I see you’ve had your fair share of run-ins. Indeed, Phil Wiley’s behaviour at school and in Scouts seems particularly sickening. Do you agree with those people who say that he’s proven himself to be a pretty scummy human?
Phil Wiley. [Chuckles] In all honesty? I don’t give the guy a second thought. I just let bygones be bygones.
And what about Nick Peacock and his cowardly refusal to give you the Radio Norwich breakfast show, even though it leaves a sour taste in the mouth of even the most casual observer? That must rankle?
Look, Nick did what he did. I’m fairly zen about the whole episode.
Given the success of this book, there’ll be a pretty loud clamour for a follow-up. Are you ready for that?
I take whatever comes my way. I roll with the punches and I ride the tsunami of life.
Does the book have an ISBN number?
Yes, I insisted on it.
What is it?
You’ll find it on the back of the book. But for ease of reference it’s ISBN-10: 0007449178 and ISBN-13: 978-0007449170
Goodbye and God bless.
1 I also have a daughter.
2 Hue & Cry’s ‘Labour of Love’. I thought I’d choose a song from their debut album as it’s one I’ve heard of, something I can’t say about any of the songs from their subsequent 15 albums.
3 Rodney. Richard. Tony. Tom. Jeffrey. Salman. Joanna. Dan. Wilbur. Andrew. Dalai.
4 This is a footnote, by the way. I’ll be using these to pepper and garnish the body copy, so keep an eye out for them. Or as I say: If you see a number, look down under! Which either rhymes or nearly rhymes.
WHEN I WAS EIGHT years old, I suffered a nose bleed so profuse and generous, I bolted from the schoolyard and sought solace in the first-class countryside of Norfolk.
Nose bleeds were a pretty common feature of my childhood, caused variously by physical exercise, spicy food, bright sunlight,
But this nose bleed was hefty, brought on by a perfect storm of country dancing, hot weather and the high pollen count. As it spread and dried on my face and neck, I knew I couldn’t face the juvenile tittering of my class colleagues.
Which is how I came to wander the leafy idylls on the outskirts of Norwich.5 Had this been 2011, I’d have probably returned to the school with some Uzis to give my classmates something to really laugh about, but this was a different – and better – time. So I walked though the countryside, and I bathed in the majesty of nature in quite a mature way for an eight-year-old.
It was quiet, peaceful. The only soul I encountered was a lady rambler, who literally ran when I smiled at her. (The bleeding was very profuse.)
Eventually, I found myself stood at the verge of a copse, directly in front of a tree. I didn’t remember approaching it, but there I was, standing and gawping at a single tree. Why, I thought? Why this tree? What is it about this simple field maple that makes it stand out from the others? It’s not the biggest, the strongest, the coolest, the best at PE. Why am I being hauled into the tractor beam of this tree over and above the millions of other ordinary trees? I guess it had a certain something. At ease with itself and blessed with a gentle authority, it had class and spunk.6
Then it hit me (the thought). It’s me, I exclaimed. I am that tree. I personify its stand-out quality. Some people might say that’s arrogant. Arrogant? Actually, accurate.
What’s made me different from the others? How – and these were pretty much my exact words, even at the age of eight – did I come to be born with this aura of otherness, this je ne sais quoi?7
I stood and looked at the tree, and thoughts tumbled around my head like trainers in a washing machine. What made me thus? What made me thus? What made me thus?
And as the memories swirled around like the trainers I mentioned in the previous paragraph, all that could be heard was the pitter-patter of blood – my nose was still piddling the stuff – as it dripped from my nose and chin and on to my shoes. Pitter-patter, pitter-patter, pitter-patter …
Pitter-patter goes the rain on the window. Pitter-patter, pitter-patter, and outside cars zoom up and down the road, some of them dropping down to second to turn right into Gayton Road. On the pavement, people hurry and scurry, both to and fro. A clap of thunder – BAM! – and some really gusty wind. Everyone agrees it’s a pretty dramatic evening all round.
Pan right. It’s a hospital room. A clammy pregnant woman lies spread-eagled on the bed and is about to produce pitter-patter of her own. She’s not going to wet herself – although that’s often a distressing side effect of childbirth. I’m referring to the pitter-patter of children’s feet. ‘Stand back,’ says the midwife. ‘Her contraptions are massive. Get ready!’
‘Looks like Anthony Eden’s about to be named Prime Minister,’ mutters a nurse as she strolls past the door. ‘And Chelsea are about to win the First Division title!’ replies an orderly, almost certainly not educated enough to follow politics. In the corner of the room, ‘Rock Around the Clock’ by Bill Haley blasts from the radio quietly.
You see, this wasn’t now. It’s then. The present tense used in this passage is just a literary device so that this next bit comes as a surprise. The scene is actually unfurling in 1955! The hospital? The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn. The sweaty woman? Mrs Dorothy Partridge, my mother. And the child’s head slithering from her legs? It belongs to me. The child was I, Partridge.
‘You’ve done it! Brilliant pushing!’ says the midwife. She holds the newborn aloft like a captain lifting a fleshy World Cup. And then the child throws his head back and roars the roar of freedom. The noise is relatively nonsensical but no less intelligent than most babies would produce. In fact, probably a bit more switched on than average.
In many ways, the proud wail that burst from my lungs was my first broadcast. Delivered to an audience of no more than eight, that still equated to an audience share – in the delivery room at least – of a cool 100%. Not bad, I probably thought. Not bad at all.
As I write these words I’m noisily chomping away on not one, but two Murray Mints. I’ve a powerful suck and soon they’ll be whittled away to nothing. But for the time being at least they have each other. For the time being, they are brothers. Which is more than could be said for me, for I was an only child. I will now talk more about being an only child.8
Why my parents never had more kids I don’t know, though as a youngster I’d often lie in bed wondering. Maybe it was financial reasons. Maybe I’d bust Mum’s cervix. Maybe Dad had just perfected the withdrawal method.
But I would have loved a little brother to play football with or bully. I’d rush downstairs every Christmas morning and rip open my presents, hoping against hope that one of the boxes contained a human baby. It rarely did. In fact it never did.
The sad fact was, my parents (although not Communists) were unconsciously adhering to the same one-child-only policy espoused by the People’s Republic of China. And, like billions of Chinese children, I consequently had to endure a home life of intense loneliness.
This meant there was extra pressure on me to be sociable. I didn’t have a motto growing up, but had I done it would almost certainly have been ‘I’d love some friends, please’. But maybe in Latin.
I’d look on with longing as I saw my fellow children greedily enjoying their friendships. I remember being especially jealous of a lad called Graham Rigg. Graham was too cool for school (though he did still attend). He’d not only been the winner of the sports day slow bicycle race for three straight years, he was also the first boy in our class to properly kiss a girl. There’d been cheek pecks before, not to mention inter-sex handshakes, but he was the first kid in the playground to ‘go French’. None of the rest of us could figure out where he’d learnt to do this, but the general consensus was ‘from porno films’.
Eight-year-old Jennie Lancashire was the cock-a-hoop recipient, and she was rightly grateful.9 But when I look back I often think how fortunate it was that Graham was the same age as her, because if he’d been 20 years older he would have been up in Crown Court. And quite right too!
I bumped into him for the first time in decades the other week. It was at the returns desk in my local Homebase. We were both taking back kettles (him – faulty filament; me – didn’t like colour).
‘Still French-kissing eight-year-olds?’ I said, pointing an accusing finger at his potentially paedophilic mouth.
‘No,’ he replied.
‘Good,’ I said. Then for extra emphasis I said it again, but slightly more slowly. ‘Gooood.’
I’d made my point. Anyway, after that, talk naturally turned to motor vehicles and I was bowled over to learn that Graham had been the first person in Norwich to own a car with a catalytic converter. From playground lothario to environmental trailblazer in under 50 years. It quickly dawned on me that here was a man whose number I needed to take, but before I had the chance he’d collected his refund, mimed taking his hat off to me and disappeared off into the sunset/down the paint aisle.
Without love (parental or matey) to sustain me, I turned to myself, Alan Partridge, for comfort. Eager to keep myself occupied, I was from a young age deeply inquisitive. Learning was my friend; knowledge, my bosom buddy. Indeed, in my quest for self-education, I once put a bumblebee in the freezer. It was to see if I could freeze it and then bring it back to life. I couldn’t. Of course I couldn’t, it was dead.10 (I put it in a matchbox, l
And so, this young, neglected but resourceful young man would guzzle down knowledge like other kids would guzzle down fizzy pop. Or full-cream milk. Either works. For a time, I was fixated with butterflies – an interest that my father did much to encourage. We’d go into the garden on a summer’s evening and when we saw the gentle flitter-flutter of a butterfly, he’d smash it to the ground with his tennis racket.
‘Fifteen love!’ he’d roar. Either that or some other tennis-related phrase. (‘Advantage, Dad’ was my favourite.) ‘You know what you need to do now, Alan,’ he’d continue.
‘Yes, father. I’m to collect the remains, piece them back together and do my utmost to identify the genus.’