It truly was a fantastically pithy (and rather witty!) little statement, annihilating any possible arguments in favour of ‘gay marriage.’ Once Dan had delivered that sentence live on British television, why, then the debate would surely be over and all plans to redefine marriage abandoned permanently!
Dan and myself were in the living room of Linda’s house in Clifton, helping Linda (that’s Dan’s mum, remember!) decorate her Christmas tree whilst the Kings College choir sang “I Saw Three Ships Go Sailing By” on the CD player. What was especially apt was that Dan had just delivered this winning statement at exactly the same time as Linda had turned on the Christmas tree lights, so it was like a hundred light bulbs switching on at such genius! As Linda and myself congratulated Dan on his brainwave, we emptied the last of the tinsel and baubles from the box until there was but one last decoration to be fished out and dangled from the tree. It was a little figurine of a vicar with some string forming a noose around his neck.
“Hang daddy from the tree,” commanded Linda in a hoarse whisper as she pressed the figure into Dan’s hands. I could see tears welling up in Dan’s eyes as with trembling hands he hung the miniature clergyman from a branch and watched as it’s little feet formed tiny semi-circles as they must have done all those years ago when young Dan discovered his father’s corpse swinging from the vicarage rafters.
We had been staying at Linda’s as Dan had won tickets to be in the audience of Thursday’s edition of the BBC show Question Time, which last week was visiting nearby Bristol. It was intensely exciting, as we knew the hot topic of ‘gay marriage’ was bound to be debated and Dan was determined to make his views known!
So we arrived early at the recording venue and sat as near to the front as we possibly could. It was a long evening. Proceedings kicked off just after 8pm with a warm up act. It’s a little known fact that Question Time employs comedians to tell topical jokes before each show- to fully prep the audience so they are fully versed in the topics to be discussed, and also to ‘banter’ with them and get them out of their shells and happy to ask questions. (This is why QT audiences sometimes seem curiously well-informed and opinionated compared to the population at large.) This week it was the turn of diminutive Scottish schoolboy comic Wee Jimmy Krankie to be the warm-up act, rattling off quick-fire gags through his barely intelligible Glasweigan accent. Wee Jimmy is nobody’s idea of a topical satirist, nevertheless his quip about how his dad couldn’t be there tonight because he was “marrying Alex Salmond” sent shivers up my spine! (However, I must say it is a little concerning that such a young lad was not being chaperoned, especially considering recent revelations about the BBC!).
The recording began at 9pm (no, it is not live, and has not been ever since Mo Mowlam addressed Richard Littlejohn with the ‘C’ word on air back in 2002). On the panel were former Shooting Stars team captain Will Self, (hmm, wonder what he’s been up to since?) a foreign man called Lord Balamory (no, me neither!), a Tory woman, a Labour woman, and Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens, (it turns out this is not the same Hitchens who wrote the book Zac gave to me, confusingly it seems there are two Hitchens who look a bit similar and share the same surname). As ever, David Dimbleby chaired proceedings (little known fact; JK Rowling based the character of Dumbledore in her Satanic ‘Harry Potter’ series on this venerable and wizened broadcaster). As luck would have it, the first question was indeed regarding the backbench Tory revolt over same sex ‘marriage’. Dan’s arm immediately shot up and remained there whilst the panellists offered their responses.
The odious Will Self drawled that “can we not simply apply the principle of Ockham’s razor (?) to those who oppose gay marriage, and say ‘these people are homophobes, they don’t like gay people’?” prompting a furious response from the fine Mr Hitchens, who in a rousing speech declared that those conservatives who oppose gay marriage are now being hounded in a way gay people once were, only to be rudely interrupted by a jeering Will Self who chillingly threatened, “Yes, we will hound you, we will imprison you! We will arrest you in toilets, Peter, and force you to undergo electro-shock therapy!” He said it like it was a joke, but recall that this was a man who, moments ago, was advocating that we apply a razor to the throats of all those who oppose gay marriage!!! Be afeard, good Christians, be very afeard!
Finally Dimbleby noticed Dan. “You, there, the man in the blue shirt,” he barked, pointing straight at Dan, “what’s your opinion about all this?” It was Dan’s moment, all eyes were on Dan, the camera was trained on him, the boom mic dangling over his sweating forehead, the panellists all waiting expectantly. He seemed flustered, momentarily unable to speak, but then he spoke; “It was Adam and Steve in the Garden of Eden, not Adam and Eve!”
It took a moment to fully register what had gone wrong, and why almost everyone in the room was laughing. “Was it?” chortled Dimbleby, “I don’t remember that in my religious studies class!” whilst a sniggering Will Self remarked in his languorous nasal whine “Yes, I think I’ve seen that particular DVD on sale in Soho” to yet more merriment. Only Hitchens looked un-amused, indeed he shook his head in disgust at Dan and raised his imperious Romanesque nose in disdain. (Our only potential ally on the panel, and we’d let him down!)
“No, no, I meant to say…” protested Dan, but the boom mic had already departed to another head in the audience, for in the harsh arena of QT, you only get one shot! For the remainder of the recording, Dan sat red-faced and fuming. As soon as the show ended, Dan stormed out, with me in hot pursuit.
We arrived back at Linda’s an hour later, just as the show was being broadcast on BBC1. Linda was sat on her sofa with a cup of tea, the opening music blaring from the box.
“No, turn it off!” cried Dan, as he lurched through the front door.
“But I want to see it!” said Dan’s startled mum, almost spilling her tea.
“But there’s no point! I didn’t say anything,” lied Dan, “I had my hand up but Dimbleby never came to me.” Linda was disappointed but she shrugged and said, “oh well, I’d still like to watch it anyway.” Dan laughed, trying to mask his panic as he sat down on the sofa next to her and took the remote from her hand, switching the TV off, “but how about we spend some quality time together mummy?” Linda, however, was having none of it, and she snatched the remote back and switched the TV on again. “I want to watch Question Time, Daniel, and I shall not be gainsaid!”
So we sat in horrified anticipation, waiting for disaster to be replayed. Only it never was! Dan’s national disgrace never happened- they had cut his contribution from the final broadcast! “So there is a God!” I quipped to Dan whilst Linda had popped to the kitchen to make more tea. “Was that a joke, Matthew?” hissed Dan, “Leave the comedy to the professionals, like Wee Jimmy Crankie.”