Just A Minute blog

A blog on the BBC radio programme Just A Minute

Location: Wellington, New Zealand

September 22, 2007

Stratford-upon-Avon (part one: trip there)

Okay here's the big report on my trip to see a JAM live. I'll write in four parts as there's a lot to say.

Note it was the second recording I'd witnessed - I saw Clement, Paul, Ross Noble, Greg Proops and Sean Lock at Edinburgh in 2002.

So my friend Keith Matthews and I travelled to Stratford on the train from London. We spotted a good seat and grabbed it. And who - entirely coincidentally - should be seated at the seats beside us than Sir Clement Freud and a young blonde woman?

I'm assuming most people know what Clement looks like. Last time I saw him in 2002 he really was shaped like a bowling ball on legs, short and fat. I think he has lost weight since then - he's still round but he just didn't look quite so big. He is grey and bald and I guess he now looks his age (mid 80s). He was dressed formidably and conservatively in grey suit and tie.

I'm not sure what the relationship was with the woman friend, I don't think she was in his family.

Keith and I (under our breaths) decided not to approach Clement - he is well-known for being shy and avoiding the fans and not enjoying signing autographs and the like. We did listen in to his conversation - we couldn't avoid that as he was sitting about a metre away from me. As it was just a private conversation I won't go into all the details, but I'll instead try to give you a bit of an idea what he was like in person.

Firstly, although the woman was clearly very intelligent and all, Clement dominates conversation. Not in that he talked more than she did - his comments were terse as you might expect - but his views on subjects tended to be the "final word". He would correct her on facts from time to time, and was witty as he is on the radio in his succinct sort of way. She clearly enjoyed the conversation, laughing a lot at his remarks

He said he had been on holiday in Portugal and hadn't been all that well, but was beginning to feel better.

She asked him a bit about JAM - she hadn't been to a recording before - but it's here where I feel the veil should be drawn. She asked him about various JAM stars and he gave fairly pungent but usually one-word opinions on most of them. He did praise one player, and on another the woman gushed about this occasional guest at some length, to which Clement replied "mmmmm". He wasn't complimentary about some. But it did come through that he loves playing the game a lot.

Amusingly, he was in the paper I was reading. The Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe was appearing in a TV ad, something a sitting MP hadn't done before and she mentioned Clement as a precedent. Clement appeared in a series of ads for dog food in the 60s, but that was before he was a MP which Clement pointed out in the article.

Clement and friend had brought what looked like a delicious picnic lunch which they consumed on the train. It wasn't enough though, at one point he went looking for the refreshments area, which long trains on Britain usually have. This trip though was just for two and a half hours and didn't have one.

At one point when we stopped at a station, a man got on holding an unlit cigarette in his mouth, in the way people do when they are about to light it. Now we all know how Clement hates smoking. The man sat behind me and Clement where the woman could see but he couldn't. He asked the woman if the man had lit the cigarette and she said "no he hasn't, but I wouldn't tell you if he had, because you'd get up and make a scene!"

Now sadly my friend Keith became ill on the trip, and Clement and the woman were very kind and helpful about it and actually gave up some of their picnic so Keith had something to drink.

And the trip through the English countryside was beautiful... Stratford-upon-Avon is in the English midlands and it was a delightful start to the excursion.


Post a Comment

<< Home