Unicycle, christening

The Weekly News
Unicycle, christening
2009-09-05 9:4

It’s hard to get run over when I’m walking with Barney in the fields behind my home. Most of the traffic is on the Thames, and as long as I stay out of the river I’m not going to collide with a narrowboat.

Once in a while I’ll see a 4×4, as a local farmer takes his LandRover on a cross-country shortcut. But today I was almost mown down… by a 1×1.

I couldn’t jump out of the way because I was rooted to the spot in amazement, wondering why anyone would ride a unicycle at breakneck speeds across a meadow.

The cyclist slammed to a halt in front of me — unicycles don’t need brakes, because the wheel stops turning when the pedals lock.

A young man, balancing precariously as he rocked back and forth, offered me his hand and introduced himself as Max Parfitt, a Reading University student on a mission.

With his friend Adam Case he aims to ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats, on their Coker 36” unicycles.

“I’m raising money for the Jubilee Sailing Trust,” he told me. “They own two tall ships, the Lord Nelson and the Tenacious, which give disabled people the chance to crew an old-fashioned sailing ship. Can’t stop any longer, or I’ll fall over!”

And he raced away, with Barney bounding after him. I think it’s a great charity choice, and a lunatic thing to do… so if my readers would like to donate a couple of quid to boost Max’s effort, they can do it at www.justgiving.co.uk/Tour2009

Barney had an extra spring in his bounce, because he’s in love again. Regular readers will remember he took a shine a few weeks ago to a girl greyhound from our local dog rescue charity — now he’s fallen paws over tail for another hound, called Bluebell.

The amazing thing about Bluebell is that her fur really is blue — or at least that slate-grey which has a blue sheen in sunlight. Barney’s been walking round with a soppy smile on his face since he met her.

How can a car travel round the world for 33 years, and still have just 40,000 miles on the clock? My Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham has been on display in exhibitions from the Museum of Israel in Jerusalem to the Museum of Visionary Art in Baltimore, but it is always transported and never driven.

For one thing it is literally impossible to get it insured for road use, because of the 5,000 pieces of bent cutlery that are bolted to the bodywork.

All that extra metalwork weighs an estimated half a ton, which puts a colossal strain on the suspension. But those big Seventies Caddies were built to be almost indestructible, and I’m sure the ride would be smooth if I ever dared take it out on the roads.

The springs may be fine, but I’ve been searching vintage car websites for months to find a new fender. During one of the museum loans the car suffered a crack to the bumper, and like all proud car-owners I can’t bear to think there’s any blemish on my motor.

I finally tracked down a replacement chrome fender, and had it shipped from the States for just over $100. I was delighted — until we tried to make the repair, and found it didn’t quite fit.

I tried to bend it into shape, but the problem was in the ancient black plastic moulding. And I can’t bend plastic.

So we got in touch with out local garage, HC Motors, and their mechanics Terry Burne and Shane Mahoney came over to collect the Caddy.

Shane couldn’t believe his eyes as he counted the cutlery. “You couldn’t take that through a carwash,” he said.

“We use a dishwasher,” I told him.

When I met Jade Goody on a reality TV show, five or six years ago, I could never have imagined the tragedy that lay in store for her — she was such an effervescent and fun-loving young woman.

It was Jade who gave me a peroxide hair-do, turning me into Uri Yeller… and it was another contestant on the show, the charismatic Ricardo, who rescued my head before the chemicals left me bald.

Ricardo and I have been friends ever since. Without him, I’d probably have a comb-over.

He lives in Brazil these days, after a series of clever property investments. This week he was visiting London, and we got together for a meal in Wagamama’s, which serves my favourite Japanese dishes.

“About 18 years ago,” he told me, “I bought a flat in Britain, just before the market rocketed. I sold it for about five times what I paid, and I decided to take the money and live like a millionaire in Brazil.

“So I bought a penthouse near Sao Paolo, and I have to admit — I was born to live in luxury!”

Ricardo is one of the most recognisable people I know, and women seem to adore him. He was approached by strangers asking for autographs three or four times during the meal. And nobody wanted mine!

“Don’t be hurt,” Ricardo told me. “Come and visit me in Brazil, and there will be crowds of girls, all begging for your autograph.”

I was honoured to be asked by my dear friend Matt Fiddes to be godfather to his youngest daughter. We held the ceremony in the glass pyramid in my garden, with a lady vicar officiating. Matt is holding Madison. The other girls are Lola and Savannah.


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