Stuart Prebble is a soon-to-be 60 year old TV programme maker of considerable repute. Of the telly things I have done, the ones I felt had the greatest depth and integrity were the ones I did with Stuart’s Liberty Bell company – including a three part series on The Blair Years, and, best of all so far as I am concerned, a film on my breakdown in the mid-80s.
He knows that I am not much of a partygoer but because it was him, I made an effort, rushed back from Burnley’s 4-0 hammering at Leicester, and joined the gathering for his 60th at Draper’s Hall near the Bank of England. Splendid venue. Reminded me of the Elysee in Paris.
Modern fame and TV being what it is, Stuart is currently probably best known in the TV bubble for his hugely successful Grumpy Old Men series and books. The grumpy theme ran though procedings, not least because Stuart likes parties about as much as I do, and had to be persuaded (bullied) by a combination of his brother and his wife Marilyn, who both made very nice speeches. Stuart refused to make a speech, rather splendidly I thought, and Marilyn gave a very funny (and to Fiona very familiar) account of what it is like trying to get Stuart to go to a party … ‘do we have to? (yes)… do I have to shave? (yes) … can I wear my jeans? (no) … I’m not staying past 9.30 …’
Anyway I am glad I stayed past 9.30 because we were treated to a fabulous performance on the piano by Stuart’s mate Rick Wakeman. Really brilliant, especially when playing nursery rhymes in the manner of some of the greatest composers in history. (We left before his rock band started up but I hear that was just as brilliant).
So as we anti-socialites like to say when perilously close to enthusiasm, it was not nearly as bad as I feared, and I woke up in sufficiently good mood to join Fiona on her morning walk with the dog …
… cue an attack of major Grumpy Old Mannishness the second I arrived on the Heath.
Hampstead Heath is one of the best reasons for living in Gospel Oak (or Hampstead as the estate agents call it). This morning, just after 8, it resembled a bloody waste recycling centre. What is it about people and litter, I grumped every step of the way? What is it about fair-weather visitors to nice places that they cannot see a link between the beauty that attracted them and a lack of garbage?
Fiona, being less grumpy than I am, said the problem was a shortage of bins. Rubbish, I punned. And even if true, no excuse for the plastic bags, the crisp packets, the beer cans, the humous tubs, the vodka bottles, the fag packets, the half-eaten salads in plastic containers which a small army of Heath staff were busy trying to clear up this morning.
I don’t know what David Cameron is thinking about out in Spain, but I wonder if he might ponder how his Big Society might tackle the problem of litter louts. I know it is hard. We tried, but if the Heath this morning is anything to go by, we didn’t exactly change the national mindset on the issue. I remember Jeremy Paxman once writing a big article on the subject and when I next saw him, we had a real Grumpy Old Man conversation about it. The frustration lies in feeling it is such an obvious thing to want other people to do -take their refuse with them and dispose of it in places meant for such disposal – and yet knowing that all around us are people who couldn’t give a toss.
Walk and grump over, I went out on the bike, (more on my BMX stunt-training soon by the way). I ended up in Docklands, taking in seven different parks and their environs on the way. All heaving with people enjoying the sunshine; and yesterday’s litter having been cleared, all starting to build up today’s. Hyde Park was the only one that looked like it was meant to. Perhaps because there seemed to be more foreigners than Brits there, who knows.