Wednesday, August 10, 2016

 

IT’S NO SWEAT FOR DR WHO TO HELP OUT AGAIN – 40 YEARS ON SINCE A BAKING BAKER SIGNED FOR ME

 

It’s a long-ago year when British heatwaves are measured in 80s and 90s F rather than 30s and high 20s C. 

The setting is the annual Gadebridge Park fair in Hemel Hempstead. 

Even the shade of a tent in which a 40-something Tom Baker now sits offers little respite against the unpitying heat. 

He is there signing autographs in all his Dr Who regalia. 

This comprises tilted fedora hat, tweed waistcoat, velvet jacket, and infinite scarf coiled around his neck like some giant woollen python.

 

NO SWEAT: Tom Baker back in the heatwave summer of 1976

 

Yet in all this suffocating attire, Tom betrays his character’s extra-terrestrial origins by not sweating at all. 

He seems at this moment more than ever the King of Cool

Deep down, however, his two over-heated hearts will surely be racing and he cannot get away from his fans quick enough?

Not a bit of it. 

Despite the serpentine queue, he is at ease taking his time to answer this then 11-year-old future hack’s question as to why he thinks his Doc is a wonderful part to play.

He says: “Here you have a character who, strangely enough, does not fall in love, is not greedy or acquisitive in any sense, has no property, is obviously without fashion sense, non-violent, witty and nice to be with.” 

I thank him. 

“Isn’t that the sort of person any person would aspire to be?” he beams, all teeth, Roman nose, and wide, hypnotic eyes flirting ever so slightly with madness.

I nod while thinking, ‘Yep, except for the not falling in love bit’.

Tom cheerfully signs my autograph book and I re-brave the outside’s unsheltered warmth, skipping on Cloud 99.

 

82-YEARS-YOUNG: Thomas Stewart Baker

 

That was four decades ago. More recently I told the now 82-year-young Tom (time catches up even with timelords in the end) about that day and asked him if I could borrow his fairground quote for my new book WARTWORLD AND OTHER QUIRKY SHORT STORIES.

He could indeed … providing he could see a pre-production copy of the short story it was meant to introduce – CURIOSITY KILLED THE CAT: A STORY ABOUT TIME TRAVEL.

I promised him a free copy of the book if he sanctioned the quote.

He did.

On Monday (August 8) I had the immense satisfaction of posting a signed copy to one of my all-time heroes – nearly 40 years to the day since he signed my long since lost autograph book.

Life doesn’t get much more sweet, especially in these troubled times …

WARTWORLD AND OTHER QUIRKY SHORT STORIES (now available from www.keephumanbooks.co.uk, priced £6.50).

 

 

STILLMAN ON SUNDAY is back – over 10 years since my column was mysteriously banned, sorry, pulled from its regular weekly newspaper slot.

 

STILLMAN on SUNDAY …  

on Wednesday, April 20, 2016

 

SEE ME GO HEAD-TO-HEAD WITH PAUL SINHA ON TV’s THE CHASE QUIZ SHOW NEXT WEEK       

 

FAIL TO PREPARE, PREPARE TO FAIL: My Big Pink Quiz Book

 

This is the A4 spiral notebook I came to know as The Big Pink Quiz Book that became my life, my obsession across most of last year.

But how did it come to this?

In November 2014 I applied to be a contestant on The Chase quiz show.

I’ve never gone into anything in life half-cock, despite what my ex-girlfriends may claim to the contrary.

So to give myself the best chance in the unlikely event of being accepted onto the programme, I bought the notebook for £1.49 from Poundstretcher.

I resolved to fill it with every fact known to man, hand-written, of course.

This would mean I could swot away to my heart’s content without adding to my already excessive, eye-wearying online usage.

And I could add to it whenever I came across a fascinating fact that show host Bradley Walsh might one day throw at me.

 

FROM BRAD TO WORSE: The Chase host Bradley Walsh after hearing one of my jokes

 

But would it work?

At the age of four I was a strange Village of the Damned/The Midwich Cuckoos-style changeling.

I would amaze and scare relatives in equal measure by working out three-figure square roots in my head and reciting the last 50 years’ Grand National winners.

But years of brain cell-eroding drinking had taken its toll of my capacity for general knowledge stardom.

I was nowadays more DENSA than MENSA … or so I thought.

In the months ahead all 120 once virginal pages became filled, nay, drowned, with pieces of useless information.

I had an eclectic mix of subjects in there: kings and queens, capitals, currencies, prime ministers, the planets, US presidents and state capitals, James Bond films … all the staples of the quiz show circuit.

 

DROWNING IN A SEA OF FACTS: The inside of my Big Pink Quiz Show

 

Empowered by my faithful pink notebook, the facts began to effortlessly bed in, just like they had all those years ago. And I became confident.

Very early on I revised every Olympic Games venue and they stuck within an hour.

I knew the currency of Bhutan is the Ngultrum, that pentheraphobia is a fear of mother-in-laws and I knew the population of Mozambique and could name every one of them (OK, so perhaps I’m exaggerating a tad with those last two).

 

CLASH OF THE COMICS: Paul Sinha

 

But would all my cerebral labours be for nowt?

There were times when I thought it would have been easier to get into the KGB than be accepted to go on The Chase quiz show, so rigorous and protracted was the vetting process.

But then, this is not surprising when you consider 39,000 original applicants have to be whittled down to just a final 640 contestants for the new series.

Online forms, phone interviews, Sheffield-based auditions, more online forms and phone interviews, phone quizzes, more phone quizzes, the list was endless.

And then the words I had longed for finally came - 11 months after I first applied: ‘You’re definitely on the show.’

The show was filmed on October 11 last year and will be screened next Tuesday (April 26) at 5pm on ITV1 (6pm on ITV+1).

 

THE PROOF: Sky-Plus says I’m on The Chase next Tuesday (April 26)

 

All I am contractually allowed to mention is that I said with any winnings I would reinvest in this book business and have another crack at the World Crazy Golf Championships (my best finish is 39th in 2008). Oh, and I can tell you that my team was up against Paul Sinha in a clash of the comics (I was once the Edinburgh Festival’s Mister Stillers – Bedfordshire’s Premier Topless Stand-Up Comedian).

The so-called ‘Sinnerman’ has been fourth in Mastermind and third in the Brain of Britain.

But will Paul be any match for me and my Big Pink Quiz Book?

Tune in next week to find out …

 

 

Come, join us for the official book launch and signing party on Saturday, August 20!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

STILLMAN ON SUNDAY is back – 10 years after my column was mysteriously banned, sorry, pulled from its regular weekly newspaper slot.

 

STILLMAN on SUNDAY …  

on Sunday, December 6, 2015

 

A JOB TOO FAR FOR SEAN CONNERY?

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IT WAS ANOTHER re-make of The Italian Job. 

As bad casting went, 85-year-old Sean Connery reprising the old Michael Caine role of Charlie Croker was surely the worst thing since Telly ‘Kojak’ Savalas played a unisex Rapunzel.

The van exploded. The venerable Scotsman lamented: ‘You’re only supposhed to blow the bloody doorsh off.’

‘Cut! Cut!’ screamed the apoplectic director, ‘No, no, no, Sean! You’re playing a Cockney! You’re supposed to drop your aitches, not add them!’

‘Shurely shome mishtake? …’

 

OH-OH-7! Sean Connery and The Italian Job