Thursday, November 02, 2006

Bushell on the Radio

I put on the radio for ten minutes a day. Radio 4 at 6.25 a.m. A bit of news. A bit of waffle from some correspendent who seems to repeat whatever is said by the bod in the studio. A bit of sports news. And quite often a plug for a radio comedy show.

It wasn't that long before Linda Smith died that they previewed a show by taking the piss out of the strange accents of comedians like Smith and Mark Steele. Betty's much better at doing the uniquely wanky voice of Steele than I am, which is strange because he grew up not that far from where I did.

Linda Smith grew up a lot nearer, just up the road in Erith. She had an accent like no-one else in Erith. I wasn't really taken with her humour.

Just after her death, I saw the repeat of the Room 101 show she did. She seemed a nice, genuine person and it made for heartbreaking viewing. And then I had a dream where I walked into a courtyard and there were people milling around, waiting for the unveiling of a memorial to Linda. Her death was obviously affecting me in ways her life didn't.

Then this morning I hear the trailer for yet another tribute to her. Steele, Jo Brand, and the OTT-voiced professional Londoner Arthur Smith all have their memories. The joke Brand remembers is the one that Linda is probably most famous for, the one I've heard about 1,000 times.

"I grew up in Erith, a place that is so crap it's not twinned with anywhere. But it does have a suicide pact with Dagenham."

I'm sure she could have been remembered for many witticisms but this is the one we are stuck with as her legacy.

Yes, Erith is crap (as I am sure Dagenham must be). But it's no more crap than most places. Most of us still live in these crap places and did not escape to exciting old London or to the safe cossetted yet exciting BBC land of panel shows. Most of us get on with living in dull suburbia with its lack of excitement, its houses with gardens and flats without, its roads and pavements, its bits of green, and hot and cold running water and heating in the winter. I'm quite happy to be bored in these circumstances. Erith and Dagenham don't have particularly high rates of poverty or crime. We can't all lead exciting lives but most of us are fed and warm and feel safe.

Erith and Dagenham are also two of the few places in Greater London a lot of us can afford to buy property. So we're really stuck in the crap, aren't we?

I'm sure Linda had some withering put-downs of arsehole politicians in her repertoire so why do the BBC highlight this particularly crap, offensive joke?

Do I really need to answer that?


  1. I thought it was normally the one where she approaches people buying lottery tickets and enquires "Do like Opera, then?".

    I loved the Erith joke but now you've made me choked with guilt and self-loathing at my selfish thoughtlessness.

    Cor Blimey, as Arthur Smith would say to his accountant.

  2. It's funny how television personalities hang around in the memory, almost as if they were actual friends or something. I still find myself Les Dawson and Russell Harty, for no particular reason. I wasn't even a fan, but they were sort of... familiar, in a way that other celebrities (pardon the word) aren't.

    Ditto Linda Smith, though I was a fan. Go figure.

  3. Ha ha, I have to laarf as I've heard the quote before but it does seem a rather bizarre thing to say about Erith when you consider the area in which Linda lived and died. She was actually Sharon's mum's next door neighbour in Stratford although she kept herself to herself. Mum didn't know who she was, only her name and that she "wrote for the BBC". I never met her. It's not exactly celebrity corner, it was a modest 2 up, 2 down. There isn't much green in Stratford although there was a green space for dogs to shit on opposite her house. There isn't much of a river there either. Strange.

  4. Never laughed once at Linda Smith, as I harbour a secret contempt for Radio4-land and its denizens. Being feted on Radio4 is always the mark of a certain kind of blandness. She was the Lloyd Cole and the Commotions of comedy, far as I was concerned.

    The only person more likely to make me switch off Just a Minute was Wendy Richard.

    Don't consider this comment to be provocative in any way. I'm not looking for the cut and thrust of debate, either. Two comments in one, there.

  5. Murph - The Opera one would have been a more fitting memorial. Little bit of politics as Elton Ben* used to say.

    Mark - I always felt Russell Harty would have been familiar if I'd met him in my prime.

    Richard - But Stratford's near all those happening East End comedy clubs. You have to go all the way to Greenwich from Erith.

    Rob - Just a Minute is alien to me. I don't think I could get through ten seconds let alone sixty without hesitating or repeating myself. So I bow down to the panelists. So long as I don't have to listen to them.

    * copyright Betty's dad

  6. Did Betty's Dad like that John Elton and his Candle in the Whatsit?

  7. The opera joke is excellent. I don't mind Smith, Steel, Smith etc. but I really don't like the News Quiz much. Their other shows are better.

  8. I've always thought it was fair game to mock your own hometown. A bit like taking the piss out of your own race, religion or politics. It's a self defence mechanism really.