Twelve years ago tonight – on 28th April 2002 – the BBC Choice TV channel (later re-branded as BBC3) transmitted an episode of their eavesdropping reality series Diners which included comedians Malcolm Hardee and Steve Bowditch, both seemingly a little the worse for alcoholic wear.
Well, Malcolm was paralytically drunk – something he had only started to be (in my opinion) in the previous six months.
There is a 5min 41sec clip on YouTube.
The next day, I went down to Malcolm’s Wibbley Wobbley floating pub in Rotherhithe. His insurance broker had stolen £1,000 instead of passing it on to the insurance company, so the pub was not insured. Both Malcolm and his girlfriend Andrée had wide, desperate eyes, but this could have been for any number of reasons.
Malcolm and I took his other boat out in windy conditions.
“When the lock keeper throws you a rope,” Malcolm told me, “just hold on to it.”
The lock keeper threw me a rope. I held on to it.
The lock keeper, his voice barely audible in the wind, started shouting: “The turn! The turn!”
I kept holding the rope. The lock keeper dropped his end of the rope in the water.
It transpired that I had been supposed to tie the rope to the ‘turn’ (a metal thing) on the deck. If the lock keeper had kept holding the rope, he would have been pulled into the water. He was neither a happy nor a forgiving man.
The boat – Malcolm insisted it should be called a ship – drifted sideways into the lock and the stern hit the side. It took some time to get out.
We sailed – or, rather, bounced on bumpy waves – down the River Thames to a floating diesel fuel station near Tower Bridge, but it was closed.
Malcolm got a call on his mobile phone from Andrée to tell him she had “pranged” his car in an accident.
Then we sailed back along the Thames to the Cutty Sark pub where Malcolm met, as pre-arranged, his previous girlfriend Faith and three of her friends.
Malcolm, like the River Thames, was never uninteresting and the best thing was to go with the flow. He drowned, drunk, in 2005.
This year, the three annual Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards are being presented during a two-hour variety show at the Edinburgh Fringe on Friday 22nd August.