Knowing Me, Knowing Yule
Alan Partridge, “son to a dead father, father to a living son, TV personality, businessman, brand, rambler, writer, thinker, sayer, doer”, really has had a remarkable life. Prior to reading this book I had seen him as something of a joke. Now I consider him a role model.
This autobiography tells the whole story of his meteoric rise to fame; progressing through the hospital radio years, his troubled time at the BBC and his celebrated shows for Norfolk radio stations.
But this is more than just a list of Partridge’s many accolades. There are dark sections to this story, where Alan discusses some of the more challenging moments in his life. Who could fail to be moved by his heart-wrenching description of his battle against chocoholism? (‘In the last few years I estimated that I had spent somewhere in the region of £54,000 on Toblerone’).
Partridge writes with the kind of rhetorical dexterity of a young Enid Blyton. It is, in this day and age, rare to find someone who is able to brew such a heady mix of metaphors that your mind is left reeling and your jaw wide open at his descriptive abilities. But this, Partridge achieves with aplomb:
The human brain comprises 70% water, which means it’s a similar consistency to tofu. Picture that for a second - a blob of tofu the size and shape of a brain. Now imagine taking that piece of tofu, and forcing your thumbs into it hard. It would burst wouldn’t it? Okay, now imagine those thumbs weren’t thumbs but thumb-shaped pieces of bad news. And there weren’t two of them, they were about half a dozen. Imagine you were forcing all six pieces of bad news - a divorce, multiple career snubs, accusations from the family of a dead celebrity, estranged kids, borderline homelessness, that kind of thing - into a piece of tofu. With me? Good. Now imagine it’s not tofu, but a human brain. And they’re not pieces of bad news but six human thumbs. That’s what happened to me. In 2001, my brain had half a dozen thumbs pushed into it.
It is not, however, all doom and/or gloom. The book is packed full of inspiring and educational gems, including:
… damning comments on the state of our country’s educational system:
Wikipedia has made university education all but pointless.
… leadership wisdom gleaned from years of management experience:
My management style was that of an estranged father. At times caring, at times distant and with little to no interest in the individuals under my charge. And believe me, it just works.
… insights into his philosophy of decision making and his views on ecclesiology:
At many of the pivotal points in my life I’ve found that the best way to reach a decision is to find out what a Baptist would do, then do the opposite.
… showbiz snippets, giving a behind-the-scenes look at his most famous catchphrases:
Aha! What is that? What is Aha? Well, it’s a duosyllabic exclamation that has spilled from my chops and given pleasure to millions across the globe. Some would say it has come to define me.
… technology advice from a pro in the entertainment industry:
If any of you are in the market for a headset mic – aerobic instructors, business leaders, the people at the market who sell chipped crockery – let me give you a piece of solid gold advice. The Sennheiser 152 G2 is the Piat d’Or of headset mics. Used by the likes of Mr Motivator and – weirdly – Terry Nutkins, the Sennheiser is the official headmic for both product demonstrators at the Ideal Home Exhibition and Gabrielle.
… and fearless, cryptic, and strangely prescient comments about the current state of British Broadcasting:
The BBC is like an uncaring sow, lying there fat and impassive as a host of piglets jostle to suck calcium-rich milk from her many jaded teats. (The metaphor probably doesn’t need explaining but, on the off chance that this book finds itself in one of those municipal libraries populated by adult learners, let me explain: the piglets are TV presenters, the milk is cash and the teats are job opportunities.)
With advice galore, and only slightly less product placement than in Skyfall, this book will leave you far richer than before you read it. If not in pocket, then definitely in mind. And in fact, if you can get someone else to buy it for you as a Christmas present, and then put it on ebay when you’re done, perhaps in pocket too.
As the master himself would say, “Cash back!”