Many years ago, I wrote for a magazine for whom the TV personality and very funny writer Dr Rob Buckman was regular contributor and ‘star turn’. I cannot remember the whys and wherefores, but his copy did not turn up one week and the editor published an apology, (I think it was called ‘One of Our Doctors is Missing’) stating that he had lost him. I put pen to paper, for a ‘Dear Editor’ piece, in case the good doctor was unable to contribute the following week, but he returned and it was never used. Looking at it now, I’m not entirely certain it would have made the grade in any normal circumstances, and I was certainly not sufficiently enthused by it to rewrite it for another occasion (although I am almost certain to have paraphrased myself here and there thereafter) but reading it back it does have moments – although of what kind, I’m not entirely certain…
I have begun to understand your dismay at misplacing Dr Buckman. Fortunately, he is not the funniest writer in the world. (How could he be?) O.k, o.k., so I did once become so short of breath whilst reading Jogging from Memory that my wife had to pat me on the back with what felt like a severed leg – it means nothing. Personally I put it down to asthma, or hay fever, or something… He’d know.
Be honest, the absence of the good doctor’s one thousand words, well chosen though they might have been, will not bring down the magazine. (Will it?) Besides, he can’t be far away, it is my understanding that ‘media personalities’ such as he, seldom go anywhere that might leave them more than a couple of hours away from Fortnum and Mason’s or their personal hairdresser. No, what should concern us here is not the fact, but the manner of his disappearance.
It is strange, indeed, that he should vanish into thin air at the very moment that an apparently recent photograph of him appears in The Radio Times. More curious yet, that he is advertising a series of medical programmes in which he is to appear. If our Dr Buckman has suddenly vanished, then who is this? Is he, perhaps, an identical twin? Has he been drawn away from the world of the printed word by the lure of some strange demonic force? (Money?) These possibilities must be addressed.
Postulating on the paranormal is not something to which I devote much time these days – not since my little incident – but I feel that we must now consider such matters; particularly if there is any chance of reaching Dr Buckman’s column through a stiffly permed old lady called Doris. We have all seen these aged mediums on TV. They usually appear on the early morning magazine programmes explaining how, with the help of Ludwig Van Beethoven, they were able to sit down and knock out his 76th symphony over a cup of Earl Grey and a Malted Milk. Presumably old Ludwig’s hearing has improved since his death; he seems to hear whenever these women call. ‘Is there anybody there? Hello Mr Beethoven, can you hear me? I wonder if you’d help me knock up a quick minuet for our Beryl’s fiftieth birthday next Thursday? She’s always been a big fan of yours: loves you in that tea advert. She loves the fact that you cut your ear off for the woman you love. That was you, wasn’t it? Anyhow, it would really make her day…’ and up he pops. Surely any half decent Doris would be able to reach an actual living doctor in this way.
I am always impressed with the number of well-known dearly departeds who are willing to act as spirit guides on these little enterprises. Chinuckchook, last of the Mohicans; any one of the Emperors Napoleon; Henry VIII… Can you really be certain that Atilla the Hun didn’t speak with a Birmingham accent? Perhaps in death, as in life, there is some kind of ethereal pecking order. Graham Norton holds a peak time séance and he gets Chopin, no sweat. A new Fugue possibly. Me, I’ve only been to a séance once and I got an apprentice medium and Des O’Connor as my spirit guide. I tried to tell my Doris that he wasn’t dead yet, but she wasn’t to be persuaded. She had made contact with him on several occasions apparently and during that time he had never made any mention of still being sentient. The nearest we got to a symphony was ‘Dick-A-Dum-Dum. She did have an ectoplasmic manifestation, but I think that might have been the gin. She told me I had a blue aura. She was wrong, I have a red Vauxhall. Perhaps Doris is not the answer after all.
There are other puzzling things going on; things which simple deception cannot easily explain: the blatantly impossible. Take, for instance, the strange cases of inanimate objects springing suddenly to life, e.g. John Major, and objects that move without any visible means of support or propulsion (see Brexit). I remember many years ago, the old London Bridge disappeared and turned up in the middle of Arizona. Perhaps we should look for Dr Buckman there.
These things baffle me. There has to be a logical explanation, and yet… I remember Uri Geller. I still have a bent fork in my drawer – although there is some doubt as to whether it bent of its own accord or got stuck in the runner. I have tried to watch David Copperfield, but have never remained conscious through an entire show. I do seem to remember him making the Statue of Liberty disappear one time. A doctor would be a piece of cake.
No, those of you who know me, will know, also, that I am not normally given to such equivocation, preferring in most cases to blast away at the bush with a weapon of immense calibre rather than beat about it, as I now appear to be doing. I have to admit that I am worried. Strange things are occurring. I need advice. I have questions, all in need of answers. My mind is open, although I think it is probably only fair to point out that my wallet is firmly closed.
Perhaps it is the mystery surrounding our errant columnist that has forced me to question those things that I have never before considered. Try this for a start: why, when assembling my easi-bild ™ woodette ™ Welsh Dresser (not a product of Wales) do I never notice that the vital grockle-joint pin is absent until it is half constructed and I dare not breathe on it for fear of collapse and further injury to the cat, who has never been the same since the incident with the wardrobe. Why, when the instructions claim to be in English, do I find it easier to follow those in Urdu. Why are all the pieces upside down and back to front; drilled in all the wrong places? Why does my pen never run out until I am in the middle of an important form and then with a blot the size of South America? Why is the only other pen I can find a different colour? Why does my best friend’s laptop never develop its fatal flaw until I borrow it?
My wife says that I am becoming paranoid. Perhaps she is in on the plot. I never heard of Lenny Henry going off for an interview in a pair of black socks which turned into a pair of one black and one red socks, the moment he crossed his legs. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I do not recall hearing about Keanu Reeves buying a blue-ray player the very day before Netflix. Everything I have becomes useless at the very moment I want to use it. No, I have made my position clear: I am not ready to attribute these strange happenings to some weird, supernatural force. Well, I will certainly need a lot of persuading… I think…
I have my own theory. Not as illogical as blaming the interfering hand of the supernatural. Not as popular, perhaps, as blaming evil spirits. No, the truth is startling, but no less true for it: the Martians are after me.
I know. I know what you’re thinking. ‘Why him?’ Well, I have a theory about that too. Dr Buckman put them up to it…
NB – I dropped the Brexit reference in as I typed this up, because it fitted so neatly.
Amongst a great many other things, Dr Buckman wrote two books (‘Jogging from Memory’ and ‘Out of Practice’) both of which I still have, I still read and are timelessly, brilliantly funny. I very much doubt that they are still in print, but if you can find copies of either, I cannot recommend them highly enough…