What’s the job behind the look?

By Keith Newbery

Friday, April 4, 2014



I WAS wandering down Newport High Street the other day when a fellow approaching from the opposite direction presented a bit of a conundrum.

He had a Brian May-like mop of fading grey hair, on top of which was perched a battered Australian bush-ranger’s hat.

He was also wearing a scuffed leather jacket and a pair of cowboy boots and the ensemble was completed by a scarf tied loosely round his neck.

My contemplative juices began to bubble. Was he an archaeologist, an antiques dealer, an undercover drugs officer or part of a country and western band which had fallen upon hard times?

He had to belong to one of these groups, because they all go out of their way to achieve a distinctive image and all end up looking roughly the same.

Take the antiques lot on the telly, for example. Sometimes Flog It resembles the annual convention of the Weird Scarf Wearers Association whenever the experts foregather.

I once saw Philip Serrell (the tubby one with the sly smirk) tucked up in a thick, woolly scarf as the steam slowly rose from his damp head and sweat cascaded down his face to form little puddles at his throat.

The presenter, Paul Martin, often has a piece of rag flapping around his sternum for no obvious reason, while Tim Wonnacott on Bargain Hunt favours matching spectacles and waistcoats which scream 'please notice me!’

But it’s two of David Dickinson’s chums on his Real Deal programme who represent ends of the fashion spectrum so extreme they barely belong in the same hemisphere.

There’s Mike Melody, who always looks as though he has been woken from his slumbers on a nearby park bench and dragged along to take part in the programme.

On an adjacent table is Ian Towning, a rather coquettish little chap who’s a sort of glitter ball on legs. But it’s his exotic accent which has me cocking a puzzled ear every time he appears. From beneath his extravagantly back-combed hair comes this odd, fluting noise, in which vowels from various continents clash and rebound against one another with no apparent form or purpose.

But it’s always a well-modulated performance and if you can imagine Charles Hawtry doing a poor impersonation of Julian Clary doing an even worse impersonation of Inspector Clouseau, you will have it exactly.

Archaeologists are another group who conform to uncomformity and have invented a mode of dress best described as grubby chic.

The prevailing ethos on programmes such as Time Team seems to be one of 'I’m so intelligent and committed to my work that I don’t need to care what I look like — so neither should you’.

While scratching about in the dirt all day is a reasonable excuse for greasy hats and matted hair, it doesn’t altogether explain the universal fondness for body piercings.

Either way, it’s all a far cry from the dapper Sir Mortimer Wheeler, who made archaeology popular decades before we were subjected to regular close-ups of Phil Harding’s ear-hair.

If the bloke I passed in Newport High Street recognises himself from this, I’d be obliged if he would get in touch to tell me what he does for a living.

I’ll be devastated if he turns out to be a sales executive or an IT consultant.

Taking the crease with promise

There are some moments in his first granddaughter’s development that a proud grandfather is destined never to forget — and this photograph represents one of them, as far as I’m concerned.

I was clearing out an old cupboard at home, when familiar footsteps pattered up behind me. Miss Betsy Barry wanted to know what was going on.

Of all the detritus lying before her on the floor (and I swear this is true) she made a bee-line for the cricket bat and, despite being barely 20 months old, managed to drag it to the centre of the front-room floor.

There she posed happily with it and took loud exception to anyone attempting to wrest it from her.

This, with the fact the first word she ever uttered was not 'mum’ or 'dad’ but 'ball’, gives me great hope for the future.

Her mum, Sam, captured the moment, while muttering ruefully: "I fear it’s all written in the stars …"

As far as batting goes, we’ll have to work on the little sweetheart’s stance and her grip is not all it could be — but she shows promise.

The language of laughter

l If you’ve got an hour to spare this coming Wednesday evening, I’ll be giving a talk at Newclose County Cricket Ground about the fun to be had from working with the language in general and for newspapers in particular.

I think I can guarantee a chuckle or two and all proceeds are in aid of the ground. Tickets are £7, which includes a hot buffet and bookings can be made by ringing Jacqui Hamblin on 524267 or Phil Tredwell on 824570.

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