Tuesday, February 13, 2024

About Gregg and Timmy

I mentioned a few years ago that the two best ever instalments of the Sunday Times magazine’s venerable A Life in the Day feature were both by actors called Tom. What I hadn’t realised, because like so many others, I’ve lost the habit of burrowing into the weekend papers, is that the Telegraph has for some time been running its own pallid simulacrum of ALitD and, unsurprisingly, it’s not as good.

Well, until the gurning greengrocer Gregg Wallace took his turn and, well, it still wasn’t good but at least it was funny.

The problem was that, unlike the Toms’ takes on their respective days, Wallace wasn’t trying to be funny, and the fact that his pride in being able to get into the gym half an hour before mere civilians, his staunch defence of Harvester, his wargaming, his lack of body fat, all speak of someone with such a total lack of self-awareness that Alan Partridge comparisons were inevitable. “Is this a parody?” we chorused.

No, it wasn’t. But this is:

This, Brian Blessed gong, Frazzles, the ghost of Patrick Macnee and all, is the work of Mark Bowsher but inevitably the whole thing developed a life of its own within hours and several people thought it was genuine. Well, genuine in the sense that Timmy Mallett himself had written it, not that it was in any way an accurate representation of his life.

Because ultimately all of the other articles are artifices, constructions hovering in a liminal space between objective reality and how the subject wishes to be presented. The difference is that the two Toms (and Jeffrey Bernard, who collaborated on Baker’s piece) were fully aware of what they were doing and Gregg Wallace wasn’t. And I’d like to think that if Timmy Mallett (with whom I once shared a lift, sandwiched between him and Tony Blackburn, which does demonstrate how easy it is to drift into Partridge territory) were to do a real article on these lines, it would be closer to the Toms than to what Gregg did. But a tiny bit like the parody version as well. Just to keep us guessing.

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