Just A Minute blog

A blog on the BBC radio programme Just A Minute

Location: Wellington, New Zealand

October 31, 2009

website - http://just-a-minute.info

Just to note that the website can now be found at http://just-a-minute.info/

This is because of the geocities close down but as I am a paying customer, people going to the geocities site will be automatically redirected to the new location.

However there are approximately a zillion links to change so i hope people can be patient while I fix them. But all the pages are still online so if a link isn't working you can still get to the right page by putting the new address where the geocities one was and keeping the page reference, for example to get to the series 55 page change http://www.geocities.com/deanbedford/jam55.html to http://just-a-minute.info/jam55.html

Anyway at least I have a snappy address out of this!

October 27, 2009

Website future

I've had a few worried emails this morning about the Geocities shutdown which is apparently due to happen in the next couple of hours.

I should say that Geocities and Yahoo have never at any stage written to me about this even though I am a paying customer.

But the information I have is that as I am a paying customer, the site will simply redirect to a new one, once I have filled out the correct form. No-one should be affected.

We will see.

Long term I will move I think, but I want to do things like get a new PC and switch to broadband first, so that should happen in the next few months - assuming this change is not disruptive.

October 22, 2009

Gyles on his rivalry with Nicholas

Gyles Brandreth has burst into print with his diaries again and the latest extract published in The Daily Mail has some interesting comments on Nicholas Parsons and Kenneth Williams among others.

Broadcaster, novelist and former MP Gyles Brandreth has enjoyed unique access to everyone from prime ministers and royalty to pop stars and actors.

For more than 50 years he has faithfully recorded every encounter, every shared secret and wild indiscretion, in his diary. Something Sensational To Read In The Train is a rollercoaster ride through what Gyles happily admits has been, at times, a ridiculous life.

Here, we join him in the Seventies, where he begins what will prove to be an intense and enduring rivalry with fellow broadcaster Nicholas Parsons.
Gyles Brandreth has recorded 50 years of his encounters with everyone from prime ministers and royalty to pop stars and actors

Tuesday, April 6, 1976

Just returned from meeting the gang at Action Research For The Crippled Child. They have had a novel idea: get 100 'personalities' to break 100 records from the Guinness Book Of Records, raising £1,000 in sponsorship each time.

I am to make an attempt on the world record for the longest after-dinner speech. The current holder is a Victorian clergyman who spoke at the Rainbow Tavern, Fleet Street, in January 1874, without pause or notes, for just on three hours. Beat that. (I will.)

Monday, May 17, 1976

At the Mayfair Hotel, London, this evening I established a new world record when I talked non-stop for four hours, 19 minutes and 34 seconds.

I am hopeful that with sponsorship and donations we shall comfortably exceed our target and that the record will stand long enough for me to feature in the GBR. I am just looking down the list of donors again. Terry Jones, Janet Suzman, Sinead Cusack and the Marquess of Londonderry each sent £10. Nicholas Parsons gave £1.

Monday, August 2, 1976

Michael Winner is a monster. We booked him to speak at the Oxford Theatre Festival [an event staged twice by Gyles in the mid-Seventies] and that's when the trouble started.

The fuss, the bother, the phone calls from assistants with preposterous demands - e.g. on the stage Mr Winner will require a side table, a large ashtray and a new box of long Swan Vesta matches: the match heads must be checked and must all be in the box pointing in the same direction.

We billed the evening as 'A Man and his Movies'. He came (in powder-blue Roller) with dark glasses and cigar: I introduced him; he did his stuff. He was not very funny and the films are self-evidently not very good.

Thursday, February 3, 1977

Last night, at 11.57pm, at the Middlesex Hospital, London W1, Saethryd Charity Brandreth [the second of Gyles's three children] was born. Mother and baby both doing well. Everyone is non-plussed by the name.

I now rattle off the explanation - 'Saint Saethryd was the daughter of King Anna, the King of the East Angles in the late 600s. My friend Noel Davis said: "Let's hope the poor child doesn't have a lisp."'

Saturday, February 5, 1977

The whole thing of the broken nights is suddenly coming back to me. (I say that having children is 'the most beautiful thing that has ever happened to me' and I mean it - but, at the same time, there's a part of me that isn't really interested at all.)

Tuesday, May 3, 1977

I am working like a demon. I've just finished the Pears Quiz Book. Today I start on The Big Book Of Secrets. I work every hour there is, but still, steadily, the overdraft grows. It's a bugger.

Friday, June 24, 1977

A horrid experience. I went to my publishers Hamish Hamilton to have lunch with my editor, John Henderson. I was sitting opposite him at his desk when his telephone rang. He picked it up and I heard the voice on the line ask: 'Is the appalling Gyles Brandreth with you yet?'

Tuesday, February 14, 1978

Last night, at 6.30pm, I arrived at the Hyde Park Hotel to make my second attempt on the world record for the longest-ever after-dinner speech. Since I got into the Guinness Book Of Records in 1976, Nicholas Parsons has established a new record by speaking for seven hours, eight minutes and three seconds.

Again to raise funds for Action Research For The Crippled Child, we had a play-off: Nicholas and I, in adjacent rooms in the same hotel, vying to see which of us could speak the longer.

My real anxiety had been the matter of going to the loo. I was confident I could talk through the night, but could I survive the night without needing a pee? That was my dilemma - resolved by Action Research who sent me to the London pharmacy John, Bell & Croyden to be fitted with a surgical appliance.

As JB&C's kindly Mr Park explained, when he produced the extraordinary contraption: 'This isn't just for the incontinent. This is used by generals and field marshals on parade grounds when taking the salute.

Wear this and you can stand out in the freezing cold for hours without having to worry about a thing. The Duke of Edinburgh has one. They're invaluable.'

Essentially, the device is a lengthy piece of rubber tubing that you strap to your leg. It has a four-pint capacity and a 'no spillage' guarantee.

All strapped up, ready and willing, a little after 7.30pm, Nicholas and I shook hands, smiled for the cameras, bowed to the toastmasters and moved into our separate dining rooms. My voice held. I paced it nicely.

At about 2am, I began to feel the need for the loo. I thought: 'When am I going to do this? What will it feel like? How much is four pints?'

The more I thought about it, the more eager I was to pee and the more inhibited I became. The problem was knowing that I would be peeing in front of people. Of course, they wouldn't be able to see what was happening, but would they be able to tell?
And would there be a noise - a terrible swooshing? I thought I'd 'go for it' at the end of a story, on the punchline - letting it happen 'masked' by laughter or applause...

Anyway, the moment came. I finished the story: there was laughter, a smattering of applause and I said to myself: 'Now - now, Gyles - now! Let it flow.'

Then I looked down and suddenly saw it - a long, thin sausage-skin of pale white rubber tubing snaking its way from my left trouser-leg and slowly moving across the floor. My contraption had shifted its moorings and come adrift.

At once (and, oddly, without difficulty) I put the notion of peeing right behind me and forged on with the speech. (Interestingly, it's now 12 hours later: I am writing this at 2pm and still I haven't been for a pee. Perhaps I never will again?)

But the pee that didn't come in the night was not the worst of it. The worst of it was this. At about 6am, one of the Action Research people passed me a note asking: 'Are you ready to stop?'

I declared I was just warming up. Another note came, then another. Apparently, Nicholas was still going strong and so was I. The organisers had therefore decided we should both stop, simultaneously, at 7am and share the new world record: 11 hours. I thought: 'F*** that.' Another note came: 'We are worried about Nicholas's heart. We're a health charity. You must both stop.'

At 7am, the toastmaster got up and said: 'It's over.' I was very angry. It was a challenge. It was a duel. And, suddenly, for no good reason, the wretched organisers had decided it was to be a draw. I'm afraid I did not behave graciously or well. I gathered up my notes, collected my coat and went.

I am still angry now. Of course, it's only a stupid little competition to raise money for charity. But I am going to have to share a world record with Nicholas Parsons. Of course, I'm effing angry.

Tuesday, July 4, 1978

Yesterday, we went to Norland Place School. It is the school for Benet [Gyles's eldest child, then aged three]. Only problem: no room. We should have put Benet down the minute he was born. (Seriously.) We didn't and consequently he's way, way down the waiting list.

I did my best to flutter my eyelids at Mrs Garnsey, headmistress. She said there was very little hope. I said: 'Nevermind, I'll keep badgering you.' She said: 'You do that, Mr Brandreth. Keep badgering.'

So I did. Yesterday afternoon I went to the Harrods toy department and, at vast expense, bought a huge, soft, cuddly toy badger. I delivered it to the school in person. The school secretary has just called. Benet starts in September. Yes!

Tuesday, July 18, 1978

This morning at 11.05am, our lovely little baby girl - Aphra Kendal Alice Brandreth - was born. Aphra is named in honour of Mrs Aphra Behn - the first woman to earn her living as a writer. She's healthy and all's well with the world.

Friday, September 22, 1978

This afternoon packing my case for the flight to America tomorrow, I dug out my passport and, to my horror, discovered that it had expired. By Underground and on foot - running all the way - I reached St James's Park Station at 4.27pm and the Passport Office at Petty France at 4.29pm.

As I reached the doors they were being closed. 'Sorry, sir, we're closed now until Monday.' 'But I need my passport renewed.' 'Sorry, sir.' 'But I must have my passport renewed, I must.' 'Sorry, sir. We're closed.'

Suddenly, exhausted and overwhelmed, I burst into tears. 'I need my passport. I must go to New York tomorrow. My mother has died.' Within 40 minutes, I had the new passport in my hand. I perjured myself: on the form they gave me I declared my mother's date and place of death as 21 September 1978, Brooklyn, New York.

To secure my American visa, at 6pm I repeated the whole exercise (tears and all) at the U.S. Embassy in Grosvenor Square. May God and my mother forgive me. If she dies tonight, I shall feel guilty indeed. (Mrs Brandreth is still alive, aged 95, and living in Kew).

Saturday, September 30, 1978

I am writing this at JFK Airport. When I get home I shall speak of the trip as a triumph, but in truth it's been a disaster. Why did I come? To promote The Great Big Funny Book - my first children's book to be published in the U.S.

What did I expect? To wow the nation, I suppose. In fact, my one and only TV show was on a channel no one appears to have heard of a long way out of town.

They did all the talking.

I was just brought in at the end. I told my story - ridiculous, absurd, every word of it a fabrication - and as the host leant towards me, clearly urging me to finish, I rounded off my hysterical spiel with this: 'Pope John Paul was a lovely man, a happy man.

He had laughter in his soul. And I have a feeling that when he gets to Heaven he will be going straight to the celestial bookstore and ordering this' - and here I held my tome up to the camera - 'The Great Big Funny Book by Gyles Brandreth'.

Monday, July 9, 1979

Lunch with Kenneth Williams at Pomme d'Amour. He is so funny - if not totally easy. He arrived, all demure and buttoned up, keeping himself to himself, hiding under a hat so as not to be recognised; then, over lunch, he began telling stories so loudly that no one in the restaurant (or possibly within one mile of the restaurant!) could have had any doubt as to who was there.

He is obsessed with his health (his bowels mostly) and money (his lack of it; and the amount of tax he has to pay on the little he does earn; the maximum he got for any of the Carry On films was £5,000).

Wednesday, December 2, 1981

Went to the BBC at lunchtime to record two editions of Just A Minute. Nicholas Parsons said the only reason they hadn't asked me before is that I sound too like Derek Nimmo and they didn't want to 'confuse the listeners'.

The truth is I was only there because Kenneth Williams badgered them on my behalf.

Sunday, April 4, 1982

At around 9pm last night, at the Embassy Hotel on the Bayswater Road, as they were clearing away dinner, I got to my feet and began to speak.

At around 9.30 this morning, as they were clearing away breakfast, I sat down again. I spoke non-stop for 12-and-a-half hours. Once more, and this time without having to share it with Master Parsons, I hold the record for making the world's longest-ever after-dinner speech.

As well as making his many television and radio appearances, Gyles set up a lucrative sideline, ghost-writing books for celebrities. In 1980, this led to an excruciatingly awkward encounter with one of the nation's best-loved comedians. For once, Gyles was lost for words.

Tuesday, December 9, 1980

John Lennon has been shot dead in New York. The world is reeling.

I am reeling, too - but for a slightly different reason. I have had a curious afternoon with Frankie Howerd. We took a taxi to his agent's office in Mayfair to work on his book. I followed Frank up the wide wooden staircase as he called down to the receptionist: 'This young man and I have a great deal of work to do. We do not wish to be disturbed. Is that understood, Madam?'

On the first floor, Frank showed me into a spacious panelled room and gestured towards a leather sofa.

As I went towards it, I heard him locking the door. I turned. He was putting the key into his pocket. 'We don't want intruders.'

I opened my briefcase and pulled out the manuscript we were supposed to be working on. 'Never mind that,' he said. 'I need to take the weight off my leg.'

He began to ease himself on to the sofa next to me, but halfway down, suddenly, his face contorted, he clutched his thigh and began to yelp with pain. 'What is it?' 'It's my groin! No, ooh, ah, ow. . .' Clutching himself, he collapsed in a heap at my side.

He closed his eyes and murmured: 'You know what to do.'

'I don't,' I blanched. 'You do.' 'I don't.' I did not know what to say or do. I couldn't make my excuses and leave because the door was locked and the key was in Frank's trouser pocket. I walked to the window and stood there staring out.

Then, as if nothing had happened, Frank said: 'Now, let's get down to it, young man. There's work to be done.' We did the work and shared a taxi back to Kensington. As he got out of the cab, I hugged him. Odd as this may seem, I felt somehow that I had let him down. 'You won't tell Dennis [Heymer, Frankie's partner for 30 years] will you?' he pleaded, looking at me pathetically. 'Promise?' 'Promise,' I said.

POSTSCRIPT: Nine years later, on Tuesday, September 5, 1989, Gyles wrote:

At breakfast, Max Bygraves told me that the experience I had with Frankie Howerd is exactly the experience he had with Frank when they appeared in panto together almost 40 years ago. 'He's doing it all the time,' said Max.

October 17, 2009

Jack Dee gets a Clue

Jack Dee is to chair all the shows in the coming I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue series.

The BBC is still hedging over whether he will be the permanent chairman but it seems he probably will - unless there is a very negative reaction.

See here and there.

Derby recording

the team was Tony Hawks, Josie Lawrence, Dave Gorman and Justin Moorhouse. Sounds like it was fun!

October 15, 2009

JAM at Derby

It's a bit late on notice but they are recording tonight in Derby.

The University there says the panel is Tony Hawks, Josie Lawrence, Dave Gorman and Justin Moorhouse.

I rather think someone more experienced will be added in and Dave and Justin will do one show each, as the team looks a bit thin on experience otherwise. But maybe they have had difficulties booking people to travel to Derby?

Fred MacAulay's debut

He told this story about his JAM debut on BBC7 a few days ago...

He arrived early, and was wandering around the theatre when be ran into Nicholas Parsons, and introduced himself & saying he was here for the show. "Yes, well, go into the theatre & wait for the rest of the audience to be admitted" Parsons said.

October 10, 2009

Happy birthday!

Nicholas Parsons is 86 today!

October 07, 2009


Ant picked up that my Stephen Fry ranking involved text from the previous year. An editing error which I have now fixed up.