Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Alan Titchmarsh at Mostly Books

This Friday we'll be welcoming Alan Titchmarsh to Abingdon - and I have to say, I'm a bit nervous. Not because it's a big event for us (it is), and not just because I've got to introduce him (because, between you and me, I love doing that sort of thing). No, it's because I'm a fan, and - like most fans - there's always that risk of behaving like an idiot when coming face-to-face with your heroes. I have a signed copy of How To Be A Gardener, I watched quite a bit of Gardener's World whenever it was on - but it was Ground Force that I was totally hooked on. Don't ask me what it was about that programme: was it the conflicts, the jeopardy, the ludicrous deadlines and the over-ambitious garden plans? Or perhaps it was just that you were kidding yourself that - given a whole weekend - you might just be able to transform your poor excuse of a garden into something amazing. Dream on... Anyway, for me, the absolute zenith for Ground Force was the makeover the team performed on Nelson Mandela's garden in South Africa. Broadcast (from memory) about 3 days into the new millennium (boy, does that seem a long time ago) the genius was in taking the quintessentially British GF format (complete with banter, the ludicrous deadlines, etc) and transplanting it to a completely different country - and involving a man who was arguably the world's most famous individual at the time (Mandela that is, not Titchmarsh). I couldn't find any clips on YouTube to include here (although I did find an old BBC website story here) but from memory, when Nelson eventually returns to see the garden, and gets over his surprise, he queries whether or not it is the BBC behind the transformation. Up to then, everything has been very light and easy-going (typical GF) until Mandela has his question confirmed. When he discovers it is indeed the Beeb, he suddenly becomes all serious. "Do you know how important an organisation the BBC is?" asks Nelson, intensely. Quick as a flash, Alan - probably intuitively, knowing there isn't the chance of a retake, realising the need to keep the tone light for the end of the show - replies in equally serious tones "we do indeed sir, it pays our wages.". And cuts to the end of the show. It was a masterstroke. And showed the touch of a consummate broadcaster, not just a master gardener. Anyway, I'm sure for those of you who can take or leave Mr Titchmarsh, this'll all seem a bit gushing. I'll try not to babble like an idiot when I introduce him on Friday. More about the event here. It takes place at the School of St Helen & St Katherine (the marvellous venue we hosted Joanna Trollope at back in January) and there are still tickets if you get in touch with us at the shop...

3 comments:

  1. Ooh, ooh, ooh, how fabulous. Hope the event goes mega well (how could it not?). AT is a member of the RNA - tell him you ran our conference bookstall last year.

    (On which head, I'll contact you privately about 2010...)

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  2. Someone has just phoned the shop (at 13.30) and asked if "Mr Titchmarsh himself will be there this evening.". I was happy to reassure her, but I wonder what an Alan Titchmarsh event - sans the man himself - would be like?

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  3. Strangely disappointing, I'd have thought.

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