Whicker’s World

I’m not a name dropper (moi?) but I did once appear on television with the late Alan Whicker. Natural Theatre was performing at Glasgow Mayfest in the guise of the Old Buggers, a spurious Morris dance team, complete with bells, bowler hats and banners. These latter items were elaborate flags decorated with stereotypical English motifs such as cups of tea and fish and chips, with Latin mottos (Salis et Vinegarum, anyone?). However, the thing about the Old Buggers was they never got round to actually dancing due to the copious amounts of cider they purported to consume.

We were doing a television interview in a crowded bar off Sauchiehall Street , and what with having to arrange our banners in a tasteful tableau and the highly generous offerings of the aforementioned beverage, we failed to note the identity of the chap in a blazer with his back to us occupying the adjacent bar stool. He was on first and we were supposed to be implacable in the back ground.

The cameras rolled and the interviewer asked his first question. Suddenly we heard the voice that launched a thousand impressions and realised we were within inches of the great man himself, who delivered a faultless five minute monologue, barely pausing for breath. No wonder they called him One-Take Alan!

It was so reminiscent of the Monty Python Whicker Island sketch, it was impossible not to laugh. But we were in full vision, so one by one we slowly bowed out of view and burst into uncontrollable giggles, while Alan rattled away quite unaware of the paroxysms of laughter going on behind him.

Suddenly he finished his highly accomplished answer and we were on. Halfway through our interview we realised the presenter hadn’t got the point and really was expecting a Morris dance. Eventually we ran out of excuses so I felt obliged to jump up and do a twirl, at which juncture the elastic went in my breeches and they fell down around my ankles.

A swift exit was called for, so we hefted our banners and sort of skipped out the door and off down the street. We didn’t look back, but I imagine Mr Whicker bore an expression suggesting he really would prefer to be in Monte Carlo or some other more salubrious location.

Since writing this column, this video has come to light of the Old Buggers being interviewed:


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