I came to Switzerland when I was 10 on a school trip and I am not sure I have been back since, though perhaps one of my family camping trips was here or hereabouts (I have a vague memory of coming up Mont Blanc for a second time). But anyway I certainly came here on a school trip that I remember little about apart from the fact that I was in love with Bridget Sealey (unrequited despite me writing her love poems) and that I had a wonderful, unforgettable moment with a woman on a balcony
. As we drove from Lausenne to Geneva I saw plenty of houses with balconies just off the road and wondered if they might have been the one my Timotei woman had been in (even though my memory was that that happened in France- could've been wrong). Maybe she was still in the same house, in her fifties, thinking about what she had lost.
Once I got to Geneva I was also thinking about the last time I was here, on that same school trip. I remember nothing about it, except that while I was standing by the lake with a few of my friends I saw a man who looked somewhat familiar in the near distance. I looked at him again and was fairly sure it was Chris Tarrant, who was one of my heroes at the time as he was host of my favourite comedy show TISWAS. It was this Saturday morning kids show above all others that introduced me to the world of anarchic comedy, though sadly when I had moved from Loughborough to Cheddar I discovered that it wasn't shown in the Westward TV region and I cried bitter tears of regret. Genuinely. My sister, the lucky 13 year old bitch was delighted to hear that Shangalang, her favourite show, starring the Bay City Rollers was shown in the West Country, but these South Western idiots thought that they had a better idea of how to make a Saturday morning kids show. They were very, very badly mistaken. Their show was fucking shit.
Once I had entered a competition on Tiswas and Chris Tarrant had drawn out an envelope and said "It's from Richard....." and then he paused and I went ape shit, until he said a surname that was most definitely NOT Herring and I was heartbroken. I fucking loved that show, almost as much as life itself. It was absolutely the best thing ever, to the eight year old me.
Even when I was 10, and in Geneva, and hadn't seen Tiswas for a couple of years I was absolutely flabbergasted and amazed to see a man who might have been Chris Tarrant just fifty metres away.
"It's Chris Tarrant!" I screamed to my friends and they seeing him, (even though presumably could have little idea who he was) were equally excited and started screaming and running towards him. Chris Tarrant, as his actions proved he most certainly was, saw us coming, gathered up his wife and kids, ran to his car and immediately shot off.
Even though he was no doubt enjoying a family holiday I remember being crushed by the fact that he hadn't even been prepared to say hello. That he had just taken off like a fugitive when confronted with the prospect of some tiny childish fans. I can understand why he did that in hindsight, but I don't think anyone could have loved him as much as I did and I wouldn't have been all that much bother to him. It broke my tiny heart that he had gone. Never meet your heroes, they say and luckily, thanks to Tarrant's fleet footwork I never got the chance.
Years later my friend Al Murray appeared on Celebrity Who Wants To Be a Millionaire and rang me up and asked me to be his phone a friend. I really, really wanted to do it, because I love that show as well and it would have been amazing to take part, but I was doing a gig that evening and couldn't guarantee that I would be by the phone.
Which was a massive shame because I had the whole conversation planned.
"Hello, it's Chris Tarrant here....."
"What, from Tiswas?"
"Seriously, I used to love you. That was a brilliant show.... what are you up to these days"
"Um, well, I'm doing a little show called "Who Wants to be a Millionaire."
"Oh, I'm glad you're still working. It's no TISWAS though is it?"
"Well, actually it's probably more successful...."
"Never mind that, how about that time you were in Geneva and I was 10 and I recognised you and you just ran away before I could tell you how brilliant you were? What was that about?"
"Hee hee. Well, never mind that. I've got Al Murray here and..."
"Fuck you. Fuck you Tarrant! You want to be my friend. But where were you back then. Too high and fucking mighty."
"But you're an, admittedly minor, celebrity now..."
"Fuck off Tarrant. A bloke from BA recognised me yesterday and whilst he was unable to give me an upgrade did locate me some seats where I could sit in a row of three on my own. I am not a minor celebrity."
"I think you are."
"Surely you must know what it's like to be hassled when you're on holiday?"
"No I don't. I will give time to almost anyone, unless they are clearly mentally ill in which case I'll try and keep a wide berth. But if 10 year olds liked what I do - and they really would do if they ever got a chance to see it - then I wouldn't run away from them. I would say hello. So if you think I am going to answer you stupid, fucking question, then you, my arrogant friend have another think coming!"
The studio audience would be stunned and then Al Murray would have started one of those slow claps that never happen in real life but only happen in films and the whole audience would have joined in and got to their feet cheering and one bloke in the crowd would have shouted, "Yeah take that Tarrant, you cunt!"
And then, just as the applause was dying down I'd have said, "I don't suppose there's any chance of getting me on as a contestant is their Chris? Not one of the celebrity ones where I have to give the money to charity, but one of the proper ones. Chris...? Chris.....?"
I've thought it all through.
This time in Geneva though I didn't have time to look around for minor childrens' TV personalities who would later go on to be big gameshow hosts.I had to stay in my hotel and write.
I did OK. It's coming along nicely.
And the show was kind of OK, though I lost the small crowd somewhere along the way.
Still fun to be in Geneva, even if I only saw two streets.