The Third Secret Diary of Dennis Brent

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1st January

My previous attempt to keep a diary was rudely interrupted by the blackmailer, Alan, who pinched it and used the contents to fuel a web of mayhem and intrigue across Bendaton. An unfortunate business. I have, however, decided that the time is right to start a new journal (this time hidden inside Katy Manning’s wax head) as I always enjoyed going back and roaring with laughter at some of the unfortunate things that happened to Francois Devine. For example, over our recent Christmas lunch he and I shared our cracker but the explosion was too fierce and the paper hat he’d been looking forward to caught fire. He sprinkled the ashes on his head but it wasn’t the same. I would’ve made more fun of him but I spent most of the rest of Christmas Day with my face in a bucket of ice after the same explosion set light to my moustache.

I’ve decided that this year will be an excellent one for Dennis Brent and Dennis Brent Limited. My new book is with my publisher and I have good feeling about it. This will be the one to break through into the mainstream. This will be the one to break through the glass ceiling which has kept me down all these years. This will be the one to break into double figures. I don’t want to tempt fate but this will be the one. Anyone who says otherwise is beneath contempt.

 

2nd January

My publisher telephoned and has made an appointment for tomorrow morning. Francois Devine muttered something about eggs and baskets and hatching but claimed later that he was merely choking on some crumbs. He doesn’t have faith in me because he has no ambitions himself. He hasn’t published a book in over two years. He claims he is doing some specialist research but I think his newfound wealth and utter lack of ability has made him soft. I even caught him jotting some notes for – if you can credit this – an article in a telehistorical journal. In this life we can either go forwards or backwards and I liked to believe our days of writing for journals and fan produced magazines are over.

In other news, I discovered something shocking this morning. I had just stepped out of the shower and was sanding my rectal calluses when Francois Devine informed me that Bignell was downstairs in the drawing room. I have very little time for Bignell as you know but he owed me five pounds and I was keen to keep relations at a cordial enough level to ensure his returning my generous loan.

"What can I do for you, Bignell?" I asked.

"I need you to sign my application to join the Royal Telehistorical Society" he said. I was taken aback for obvious reasons.

"Why would you want to join that piffling assortment of ungrateful, illiterate and pompous buffoons?" I asked wittily.

"It’s a very prestigious club" he said wrongly, "I just thought it would be good for my career to join up. The thing is, I need my application signing my two fellows of the society before they’ll even consider me."

I took his form and glanced over it before disabusing him of his misapprehension.

"Neither Francois Devine nor myself are members of this trivial society. We did once consider associating DWAT with the RTS but we couldn’t agree terms. Since then there has been a coldness on both sides which I for one am in no hurry to thaw. Isn’t that right, Francois Devine?"

"Was this before or after they turned us both down for membership and ritualistically burned our application forms, monographs, papers and clothes?"

"Shortly after" I conceded. I was ready to give Bignell both his application form and a flea in his ear when I noticed something odd. His name. Specifically the part where he hadn’t written Bignell.

"Oh that" he said nonchalantly. "I thought you knew."

"Of course I did" I lied. "But for the benefit of Francois Devine…"

"My name is Melba but at school the chaps called me Big Nelly and my brother Little Nelly – after the singer. When I started writing fascinating technical articles I thought it safer to use an assumed name. You wouldn’t believe the amount of hostility sent my way online. Everyone seems to hate me. Either that or there is someone else using the same name but that would be a massive coincidence."

"Massive" I agreed.

"Indeed" added Francois Devine.

"So I was right to lay the plans I did. The world knows me as Bignell and only my friends call me Melba."

"Then I shall call you Bignell" I replied.

"Oh – I hoped we were friends" he said forlornly.

"I shall call you Melba" said Francois Devine with pomposity. Naturally I couldn’t allow him any privilege to which I did not have access so I agreed – under protest – to treat Melba as if he and I were friends. Whatever that means. At least we talked him out of joining the Royal Telehistorical Society. The last thing we need is them gaining a foothold in Bendaton.

 

3rd January

The meeting with my publishers - ex-publishers I suppose I should say <gap where I would normally write a G to indicate humour but I find nothing humorous in today's humiliation> - did not go according to plan. I was shown into the offices of Messrs Hymen and Halfpenny and invited to sit down. I improvised a seating manoeuvre which wouldn't betray the crusting which had occurred overnight and which had become only too apparent during the walk over from Brent Towers. After ten minutes skimming an edition of something called "Heat" I was shown into Mr Halfpenny’s office. I had a knot in my stomach but that might easily have been the contents of the recently digested periodical. Do people really do some of those things? I made a mental note to do some research (purely in the name of research you understand).

I sat down (badly) and Mr Halfpenny asked if I would like coffee.

"It's free" he added wisely. I asked for a cup of tea, no sugar or milk, in a cup which wouldn't leak scalding hot fluid into my lap.

"Now, Mr Halfpenny, about my book..." I began. I was hoping he'd already have a proof copy for me to read. Not that I ever make mistakes - I honestly don't know why they don't just produce the finished article and save me a trip into town each time.

"Yes. Your book. 'The Annotated Memos of Donald Baverstock, October 1961 to April 1962'."

"The Authoritatively Annotated Memos of Don..." I corrected but he paid me no heed.

"I've got something here for you" he said encouragingly. But, instead of the neatly bound preview copy I had expected he brought out a bucket filled with a porridge like substance.

"Is this humour?" I asked.

"Mr Brent - this is pulp. It's what happens to books when no one buys them. We had a meeting last night and decided it would save a great deal of messing about if we just pulped your new book now."

"You've pulped 'The Annotated Memos of Donald Baverstock, October 1961 to April 1962'?" I gasped.

"'The Authoritatively Annotated Memos of Donald Baverstock, October 1961 to April 1962'" he corrected sensibly.

"You've pulped my latest masterpiece?" I said with increasing horror. "But I'm paying you sixty pounds per copy to publish my book - and letting you keep all the profits as a purely philanthropic venture which in no way has its roots in vanity despite the small print you insist on adding to my invoices - and I expect you to publish it. Is it my fault that you can't publicise a book properly? Is it my fault that you've obviously offended every major book stockist in England? The public are crying out for my books and you are denying them the pleasure."

"Mr Brent - I've been through the records. You've written more books than you've sold. Far more books than you've sold. Allowing for inflation, you're the least popular author there has ever been. I tell people about you at conferences. But the time has come for us to suggest that you might be happier not giving us the privilege of first refusal on all your projects."

"Are you dismissing me?" I said incredulously.

"I prefer to think of it as a combined contractual release and restraining order. It's been a pleasure doing business with you - which it hasn't - but if you come here again you will be arrested. You can keep the pulp but not the bucket. Good morning."

I walked weakly out of the offices of Messrs Hymen and Halfpenny, my satchel bursting with pulp and squelching a you would expect and my heart as low as it had been since my preferred pair of sensible tweed trousers had dissolved during a particularly vigorous sale at Bargainsave. What am I to do? Without an outlet for my writings I am nothing. I am less than nothing. Probably even less than that.

 

4th January

I woke up feeling like a man who has nothing to live for. My world was in ruins and my life was meaningless. But a good hard stare at myself in the mirror reminded me of who I am, what I am and how lucky I am that my recent moustache fire didn’t get any further up my face than my nose. My moustache is still technically smouldering so I have been warned not to inhale (a paramedic said it would be best all round if I stopped breathing all together but that was during the Christmas Eve carol singing and had nothing to do with the fire). Apparently, the lotion I use on my moustache to keep it looking sensibly spruce releases vapours when brought over a certain temperature and these fumes can cause hallucinations. For a wonderful moment I thought maybe my recent humiliation had been one such phantasm. But my satchel squelched when I picked it up and reality sank in. I am a failure. I haven’t felt this much of a failure since it took me an entire evening to escape from one of Francois Devine’s dressing gowns. Foolishly, I thought I could wear it in lieu of my own dressing gown but I quickly became engulfed, my spectacles steamed up in the panic and I took several wrong turnings down arms and into secret pockets.



5th January

Having spent the whole of yesterday staring at myself in the mirror and generally feeling sorry for Clarence Dennis Brent I decided that today would be different. I covered my mirror before I went to bed (which lead to a moment of panic in the morning when I mistakenly believed my soul had been removed during the night when my comforting face didn’t shine back at me as I rose). I told Francois Devine that we would spend the morning watching a “Doctor Who” DVD. He looked aghast.

“Isn’t that what ordinary people do?” he asked.

“That may be so but I feel we need to ground ourselves” I explained. “We have lost touch with reality” I told him before closing the bathroom door and pumping out my rubberised pyjama under-briefs.

We were some twenty minutes into the first episode of our “Doctor Who” serial when a most unusual thing happened. Francois Devine was reaching over for some popcorn (that isn’t the unusual thing <G>) and I reached over to help him (which is quite unusual but still not the unusual thing <G>). Eventually he grasped the bowl and pulled it over to rest on his chest (still not the unusual thing <G>). I settled back in my chair and the remote control for the DVD player must’ve slipped from the arm and down onto my seat. My toned b-u-t-t-o-c-k hit one of the lesser buttons and the unusual thing happened. Suddenly, instead of Peter Davison talking we had Peter Davison talking. Just randomly – not following the script we both knew so well (I was better able to recite the biroed annotations, Francois Devine had the edge in source, shape and order of stains on every extant page).

“What is this?” demanded Francois Devine.

“We’ve been sold a duff cassette disc” I thundered.

“I think we’d be two of the first men in England to know whether there was any fault with the audio recordings of this or any other episode.”

“Two of the first men in England and two of the only ones trusted to use that information wisely” agreed Francois Devine.

“Who shall we write to first? The BBC or Parliament?” I asked.

“I was thinking an open letter to the press with copies sent to the BBC and Parliament would be most suitable” suggested Francois Devine.

“Naturally, a copy to be forwarded to all the major internet message boards with instructions to print, add their signatures and send (at their own expense) to the instructed recipients.”

“I am even tempted to telephone the BBC switchboard” said Francois Devine. “I know it would be expensive but I feel strongly.”

“You’ll be using the telephone box on Mingem Hill of course.”

“Of course. Though you’ll have to accompany me as I need a solid pair of hands to get me in to the telephone box on Mingem Hill. I blame privatisation – twenty years ago I could fit in an English telephone box and still have room to use the telephone.”

“Then let this be our day of action. Our day upon which we say ‘Enough is Enough’. We won’t sit by and let shoddy products spoil and taint our mornings and leave gaps in our digital media collections.”

“Hang on” said Francois Devine, interrupting the first decent bit of inspirational rhetoric I’d been able to muster since my hopes and dreams were crushed.

“What is it?”

“The audio fault appears to be taking the form of a convention calibre anecdote” he said. We sat and listened. It was true – though the picture was Peter Davison as he was in 1981, the sound we heard was a more recent Peter Davison recounting an anecdote. But he wasn’t at a convention. It was almost as if he was there in the room with us, watching the episode and talking to us. We both looked round to see if we could see him. When this proved fruitless we got up and had a quick search, just in case Peter Davison was hiding. He was not. I pressed the pause button and Peter Davison’s flow of anecdotal material stopped.

“What madness is this?” I demanded.

“I’m scared, Dennis Brent” blubbed Francois Devine.

“I shall press the play button and see what happens.” I did so and Peter Davison started talking again. “This is inexplicable” I concluded.

“Not inexplicable, Dennis Brent, more like otherworldly” said Francois Devine. “Face facts, Dennis Brent, Peter Davison must’ve passed away during the night and has decided to haunt your drawing room.”

“There is literally no other explanation” I gasped. We held each other, strictly for warmth as a cold chill had engulfed the room. After perhaps half an hour Francois Devine broke the silent embrace and suggested we hire a priest. I said we would but we should give it another half an hour, just to be on the safe side.

 

6th January

We ended up calling the vicar somewhat later than planned as our warming huddle lead to an entanglement of belt buckles and we spent the rest of the morning writhing about in each others arms as we attempted to unfasten ourselves. We initially tried to get through the door but, in order, I came off worst, the door frame was second and Francois Devine escaped unharmed. One more step and I would’ve lost half my ribs. Two more steps and a supporting wall could’ve come crashing down. Alas, three more steps and we would’ve been free of the then-haunted drawing room. Such is life. In the end I was able to slide down Francois Devine’s chest, perform a pelvic manoeuvre and slip myself up again, untangling our belt buckles and giving us both our freedom. By now it was gone twelve o’clock and if our vicar is anything, he’s a ravaged alcoholic who isn’t allowed out by the Bishop after midday in case he says or does something sinful to one of his parishioners.

So it was that this morning, at ten past eight, I telephoned the vicarage and explained our situation to the verger. He promised, between static interference which I can best describe as snorts of laughter (except there is no way they could’ve been snorts of laughter as my explanation contained no humour at all), to send someone over as soon as possible. Twenty minutes later there was a knock at the door.

“Vicar” I said before the door was fully open.

“Nearly” said Melba.

“What are you doing here?” I demanded. I thought I had made it quite clear at our last meeting that he was not part of my inner circle and would never be a member of my inner circle. And he would get further from my inner circle with every move he made to secure membership of that wretched club.

“I lodge at the vicarage and the verger asked me to pop along and see if I could help.”

“We need a vicar not a failed telehistorian (second class)” I told him.

“I’ve got the vicar’s exorcism bag with me – we can see if anything in there works.”

Since I had no other way of getting holy water (short of running the tap and saying something in Latin before the jug filled up) I agreed to let Melba come in and have a go at exorcising the ghost of Peter Davison. He made his way into the drawing room (I wasn’t too pleased that someone like Melba was so au fait with the layout of my house) and looked round with a flash light.

“Melba, you are not, nor will you ever be, a member of Torchwood” I snapped.

“Sorry” he mumbled. “Look, I think I can sort everything out. But it would help me think more clearly if you’d sign my form as character witnesses. You don’t need to be members to do that. Just say I’m a sound chap and fully deserving of membership to the Royal Telehistorical Society.”

“But you’re not” I told him. “You’re totally unsuited for membership even to that basket of boring old braggarts.”

“In that case…” he turned to go. He was our last chance of resolving this problem (I wasn’t thinking clearly and hadn’t realised that he wasn’t) so I reluctantly agreed to say something nice about him on his silly little form. He perked up and said we should recreate the moment when we first encountered Peter Davison’s ghost.

“Ommmmm” he intoned while crossing himself and watching Francois Devine and I struggle with the popcorn bowl.

“Ommmmmm” he continued as I sat back in my chair and felt the familiar shape of the DVD player remote control.

“Ommmmmmmm” he droned as the voice on the television changed from Peter Davison the meat puppet to Peter Davison the raconteur.

“Ommmmmmmmmm I think I know what happened” he said, returning to normal (if Melba can ever be said to be normal <G>).

“Prey tell.”

“You keep pressing the alternative audio track button with your backside” he said.

“I’m not with you” said Francois Devine through a mouth of popcorn (we had to make a fresh batch for the sake of verisimilitude).

“DVDs have commentary tracks and you pressed this button”. He put on rubber gloves, picked the remote control up off my seat and pointed to one of the less important buttons. He pressed it again and there was nothing but music. Francois Devine fainted (the popcorn bowl landing on his face and ensuring he would wake up a happy man). I admit even I wobbled at this latest twist. But Melba pressed the button again and we were back to the original audio recording from 1981. I took the remote control from Melba and pressed the button myself. It was true – I cycled through the different options twice just to make absolutely sure it was above board and not just a hollow trick to save wear and tear on the vicar faith.

“You’ve saved us” I said, shaking Melba warmly by his still sheathed hand.

“Oh my god I’ve gone blind” cried Francois Devine as he woke from his faint, his face still covered by the popcorn bowl.

All was well that ended well.



7th January

This incident has given me an idea. If my fascinating books can’t find a publisher, maybe I could offer my services to the BBC and give technical lectures as “extra features” on DVDs. On the one hand it would a demeaning betrayal of everything I’ve ever said or believed in public or in private but on the other hand it would make me rich and famous and would be one in the eye to everyone who said I was no longer in touch with the outside world.

In other news, Francois Devine’s face is still stuck in the popcorn bowl and I am having to feed him by squeezing slivers of food through an air hole I drilled. He won’t let me drill a second hole as I apparently punctured his cheek last time. Moan moan moan moan moan. You’d think he was the first person ever to have a drill pushed through their face. Has he never been to the dentist?

 

8th January

The DVD commentary recording session didn’t quite go according to plan. We met up at Brent Towers – myself and Francois Devine (both of whom live here so hadn’t to travel far) and Melba because we needed someone to do the technical work while we were busy being fascinating. I took them to my recording studio – a folly I had built during that inexplicable time when I was courting the friendship of Mark Ayres – and set up the microphones, cassette tapes and whatever else is required to record two gentlemen at the peak of their craft.

“Do you have a television in here?” asked Francois Devine.

“Ah” I conceded. We went back downstairs and brought a television up to the recording studio. We had a second attempt at beginning the recording.

“And perchance a digital versatile disc player?”

“Ah” I said again. We went downstairs and brought a DVD player up to the recording studio. We had a third attempt at beginning the recording.

“Perhaps even a digital versatile disc to play in the player and watch on the television?” asked Francois Devine.

“Ah” I said for no other reason than letting Francois Devine know I was cross with him. It didn’t register. We went downstairs to the archiving wing.

“Do you think we should start with the pilot episode or pick something at random for what is essentially a pilot of our own?” I said wittily.

“I think the only sensible thing to do would be to choose a currently unreleased serial” said Francois Devine pompously. His fat head was made to look even bigger by an unfortunate alignment of my eyes, his head and an archive room spotlight. If I bent my knees slightly it gave him a halo effect that his life thus far did not warrant.

“Bending your knees, Dennis Brent? Are you going to try and persuade me to change my mind?” he asked.

“I was just… it doesn’t matter. I think you are wrong, utterly wrong, and the only logical course would be to do the pilot episode and work on from there.”

“But there would be no possibility of our work being released to the unwashed public if we begin with a previously issued title” he argued.

“Francois Devine, I say this as your closest colleague, you are not the most interesting man in British telehistorical circles, not even the second or third most interesting man, but even you are capable of giving a commentary lecture of a high enough standard that the British Broadcasting Corporation and their commercial arm would be only too delighted to recall the existing stock and reissue with new special features added.”

“Thank you, Dennis Brent” he said, brushing away a tear and proving my point that you can insult someone grievously but if you do so at the beginning of an over-long sentence, they will have forgotten the insult by the time you’ve finished. “That is a very good point. Let us go to the recording studio and produce something which is utterly in line with the BBC’s stated aims of education, information and entertainment.”

“Though not the current BBC’s stated aims or one of us would have to be from an ethnic minority” I said humorously. We roared with laughter, so much so that Melba had to some down from the recording studio and make sure we hadn’t both been eaten by whales. It just goes to prove that references to ethnic minorities are funny in the hands of Anglo-Saxon gentlemen.

I took a sip of water (Francois Devine looked enviously at me as he had no glass of water – I asked him if he wanted a drink at the 1987 Panopticon convention and he said no – a “no” I had assumed was still valid since he’d never felt the need to correct me or apologise). I gave Melba the signal to start the cassette tape rolling.

“Can you give me something?” he asked.

“What?”

“Say something so I can check your levels” he clarified.

“Press the play button – cassette tape is expensive and we shouldn’t waste it” I told him.

“That’s great. Can you say something Francois Devine?”

“I wish I had a glass of water” he mumbled, falling someway short of actually asking me for one and therefore not invalidating his earlier refusal.

“Excellent – I can hear you both clearly” said Melba. “Normally that would be a pain the arse but here it is ideal.”

“Drat” I exclaimed. “Halt the cassette tape – Melba has reminded me that I haven’t flossed my cavity yet this morning. I shall have to go and do it now or the itching will steadily increase until I experience a burning sensation, ironically, by my calculations, that will happen roughly when the characters are incarcerated in the Cave of Skulls. My a-n-u-s is nothing if not ribald.”

I left them for what was supposed to be a few minutes in my bathroom but, because I’d run out of floss tape, ended up being a trip to see Doctor Flapjack for a new prescription, an eight mile walk to the pharmacy in Shagford to collect the floss, an eight mile walk back, an impromptu argument with a farmer over whether I was responsible for the paramilitary wing of the Plain English Society firebombing his “Pick You’re Own Fruit” weighing-and-paying shed and an encounter with a dog which lead to him running off with one end of my rectal floss in his mouth and the other end rapidly escaping from my pharmacy bag. The floss was unsalvageable which meant another trip to Doctor Flapjack, another prescription, another walk to and from Shagford and another row with the same farmer because I was looking out for dogs and failed to notice I’d walked down his lane.

So I was in no mood to be fascinating or technical when I got back to Brent Towers. I sent Melba home and stood Francois Devine down so he could go and prepare his dinner. We’re going to have another go tomorrow and hopefully things will be back to normal.

 

9th January

The second day of recording appeared to go extremely well. Francois Devine and I were on scintillating form with fascinating technical anecdotes flying around like droplets of disease carrying spittle from the mouth of a man who has just sneezed (though I doubt any of my anecdotes would cause someone to become ill <G>… though I’m not so sure about some of Francois Devine’s <GGG>). It had been an exhausting day and I was sure we had more than covered enough ground as I called a halt to proceedings at twenty past five.

"How much have we recorded?" I asked.

"Nine hours and seventeen minutes" replied Melba.

"And how many episodes have we covered?" asked Francois Devine.

"The first three and a half minutes of ‘An Unearthly Child’" answered Mebla.

"I fear you must’ve made a mistake" said Francois Devine.

"A significant mistake" I added for emphasis.

"You kept telling me to pause the DVD while you finished your points" protested Melba at this charge of gross incompetence.

"I concede we may have done so once or twice…" I began.

"…only where absolutely essential to prevent a MOCKERY of the facts…" continued Francois Devine.

"…but by and large we were two free-wheeling…"

"…impromptu…"

"…and fascinating speakers" I concluded.

"You did two and a bit hours on the policeman" said Melba.

"I’m sure we didn’t" mumbled Francois Devine, screwing up a sheaf of notes headed ‘The Policeman’ and tossing them behind a filing cabinet. I retrieved the sheaf later and added it to my miscellaneous archive for items of little or no interest which should be preserved indefinitely.

"But what a nine and a quarter hours it was" I exclaimed, showing levels of passion I hadn’t engaged since I had too much sherry at "Smasher" Levine’s fund raising do back when we were going to sue the BBC. I got Jeremy Bentham to part with five pounds and there aren’t too many of us who can say that.

"My colleague is right – surely the duration is immaterial. The viewers will simply have to follow a set of clearly laid out instructions while viewing this particular digital versatile disc. Perchance I could record a separate audio track telling them to "Pause now" and "Resume viewing". I cannot envisage a single viewer for whom this would not be an acceptable, dare I say it exciting, prospect."

"Well said, Francois Devine" I added.

"But if they pause the DVD when you say to, they won’t be able to hear (a) your lectures and (b) your instructions to resume playback" quibbled Melba.

"Details, Melba, details. We are not here to go over the tiniest details at this juncture. Let’s get the entire "Doctor Who" broadcast run in "the can" and then worry about the nitty gritty and the inherent flaws in the digital versatile disc format."

"OH such numerous flaws" exclaimed Francois Devine.

We are going to have another go tomorrow. I’ve put today’s tapes in my audio archive until such time as we come to edit them together. Yes – edit. I will confess there are ten or fifteen minutes of waffle which could safely be cut. Mostly Francois Devine’s waffle but I contributed one or two "ums", "ahs" and "erms" of which I’m not proud.

 

10th January

I don’t know what Melba keeps complaining about. I have it on the best authority that, while on location filming, three minutes of footage per day was considered perfectly respectable. It is in the spirit that Francois Devine and I continued our commentary project (Francois Devine called it an odyssey at one point and I agree with him. If anything, our project is more arduous than that undertaken in a work of fiction).

"Stop the disc!" called Francois Devine.

"We agreed that the disc would only be stopped in emergencies" replied Melba.

"We did no such thing" roared Francois Devine.

"Actually we did" I said, stepping in with wisdom on my side. "You will recall that trips to the lavatory, snacks, meals, puddings, meal replacement beverages, any other sweet or savoury ingestions, rectal rinsing, dousing fires and fighting off wolves were all classified as emergencies."

"Ah yes. Though I forget why we needed the wolves clause" said Francois Devine.

"Yes – why did we need the wolves clause, Melba?" I asked. He wound back the tape (he is recording our private, off the record chats – I must have words with him) and I recognised my voice playing back through the speakers.

"…and we might be attacked by wolves" I said.

"That’s true" replied Francois Devine.

"I’ll write it down."

"Do so."

The tape stopped. I did now dimly recall saying the above. I let the matter drop by deflecting attention onto Francois Devine.

"Why have you asked that the digital versatile disc be stopped?"

"I don’t need to tell you – or even a junior telehistorian such as yourself, Melba – that there exists photographic evidence of the thirty two rejected ink patterns produced by the character of Susan Foreman and I would consider this commentary to be insignificant – even futile – without accurate descriptions of them all."

"Good point" I said. "We may well have had to go back and started the odyssey again if we’d neglected that point."

"I have saved us time and money" beamed Francois Devine.

"I chose you well to accompany me on this journey" I replied wittily. Alas, it quickly broke down into an argument (Francois Devine) and a reasonable discussion (me) about who had chosen whom to accompany him or them on this or the journey. The recording session ended abruptly amidst a snow storm of tossed foolscap. It looks as if I may be doing tomorrow’s session solo. It should hurry things along – I am aiming to finish the pilot by the end of next week.

 

11th January

I was right – not having Francois Devine around to clutter up the commentary was a master stroke. I reeled off pages and pages of fascinating technical information and, although we only got through 45 seconds of actual video tape, it was a marvellous day. I’m even considering hiring (yes – hiring <G>) someone to transcribe my monologue as it was well worth publishing. I can think of literally people who would be delighted to read my expositions on these crucial 45 seconds of television history.

 

12th January

Ignore parts of the last entry for I was writing without thinking. I have no need to pay money to someone to transcribe my commentary as I was working from extensive notes and can simply publish my notes. That’s saved a few pounds and a pound saved is a pound earned.

 

13th January

Yesterday’s entry can also be ignored – I was forgetting in my excitement that I no longer have a publisher and therefore cannot publish my fascinating and extensive notes. Melba suggested I submit them to a journal but I think we can all agree that suggestion is beneath contempt. Francois Devine is still not talking to me – he was silent over breakfast (apart from the usual breakfast noises) and was still silent when I popped down at lunchtime to give him a taste of his own medicine.

 

14th January

Disaster. There is no other way of putting it. The odyssey is at an end. I was back in my studio and had covered eight more seconds over the course of the morning when I heard someone lumbering up the staircase. I knew it couldn’t be Francois Devine as he’d sent me to Coventry and one of his few redeeming features was that when Francois Devine holds a grudge, he really holds a grudge. None of this weak and liberal minded “getting over it” nonsense – if he sends a man to Coventry, that man might as well literally move to Coventry because he’ll be in Coventry for a long time. Why am I talking about Coventry? Oh yes – the lumbering up stairs. You could’ve knocked me over with a chair leg if it wasn’t Francois Devine in person.

“Doo doo doo – did I leave it…? Ah there it is” he muttered, picking out a crumb on the carpet and trousering it for later.

“Good morning, Francois Devine” I said. He did not acknowledge me.

“What manner of business is going on here?” he said to Melba.

“Dennis Brent is recording some more DVD commentary” replied our temporary assistant (who had decided to style himself “Technical Production Administration Manager” or some such nonsense).

“He is doing what?” said Francois Devine with an icy stare in his voice.

“Recording a commentary.”

“But that was our project. Dennis Brent has seen fit to go behind my back and carry on the project we initiated together and would, had it not been for my colleague’s thoroughly UNREASONABLE behaviour, have completed together, therefore earning, together, a unique place in history?”

“I think so” said Melba, his eyes having glazed over as eyes are wont to do when Francois Devine is speaking <G>.

“Then you may tell Dennis Brent – if you happen to see him – that our association, already on tenuous ground, is at an end.”

“You can’t mean it” I gasped.

“And if Dennis Brent – should you happen to see him – tells you that I can’t mean it, tell him that I do and that it is. Today – which may be yesterday if you don’t happen to see Dennis Brent until tomorrow – is a sad day but a necessary one.”

“Look – Francois Devine – don’t you think you’re taking this a little too far?” I suggested.

“If you see Dennis Brent, tell him I don’t think I’m taking this too far. My faith in human nature has been shattered. Broken beyond all repair. It lies in a million pieces at the bottom of a small lake or large pond.”

“I bought you this pie last week as a peace offering – I think its still just about edible” I said weakly, proffering the pie like a small child offering their favourite toy to an unfeeling robotic monster shortly before it rips them to shreds with its frankly superior weapons.

“Principles or pie… principles or pie… principles or pie…” muttered Francois Devine as his eyes flickered back and forth, his brow now home to beads of indecisive sweat and his lips trembling beneath those momentous words.

“I brushed the dust off it this morning” I said, hoping this would be what is known as a deal breaker.

“If you see Dennis Brent” said Francois Devine at last, “tell him I have pies of my own and that I have no need of extra pies.” He turned to leave but added “although if he were to leave it in a communal area and then leave I would be interested in acquiring the pie under discussion.”

“You can’t just leave, Ian Devine” I snapped, throwing the pie to one side and standing up so sharply that my notes fell from my lap and I banged my head on my angle poise lamp.

“Its Francois Devine now – for legal and financial reasons” he said quickly before realising his mistake.

“Ah ha – so you can talk to me” I said triumphantly.

“Melba – if you see Dennis Brent, tell him I did not speak to him just now as I am unaware of his current location. I was – to clarify my recent remarks – reminding you that I am now “I. Francois Devine” and not “Ian F. Devine” for all personal and professional purposes. I have no doubt that you will not forget this important fact but I would advise you that you are likely to come into contact with people of lower intelligence who may not remember.”

“You swine” I said coarsely. I stood up from retrieving the papers I had shed and waved an angry fist at him.

“I will be taking my leave of you now” said Francois Devine pompously.

“In that case…” I began. I thumped my foot down on top of the cast-aside pie and shattered it into a thousand stale pieces.

“Ak” cried Francois Devine.

“Melba – start the cassette tape and the digital versatile disc. I am resuming my commentary.

“If you see Dennis Brent would you tell him… would you remind him… right” and he lunged towards me.

We grappled for a moment, his superior girth and weight being counterbalanced by the extra rigidity given to me by the thickness of my tweed jacked and vest. We tottered back and forth until Francois Devine slipped on the meaty lump at the heart of the shattered pie and we went crashing down on top of the recording desk. The desk stood not a chance under our combined weight (more his than mine I would hasten to remind you <G>) and my recording studio was no more.

I have no intention of further courting the friendship of Mark Ayres so my studio will not be replaced. My recording project has met a premature end and it is all the fault of my former colleague. Make no bones about it – I was prepared to forgive Francois Devine as he is basically a good hearted simpleton but now it is war.
 

15th January

I am determined, even though he has behaved disgracefully, not to let my dispute with Francois Devine become childish in any way. Many is the firm colleague to colleague relationship which has spiralled into pettiness. Further to the above, I don’t consider it in the least bit childish to have taken possession of Francois Devine’s post for the foreseeable future. Mr Cunthleigh, the postman, has orders not to deliver anything to Francois Devine’s private box and instead to push everything he’s got through my slot. There is literally no way this can’t result in Francois Devine breaking the silence and talking to me, therefore guaranteeing me victory. This morning he got nothing but circulars and bills. I thought for a moment that he’d received a special interest catalogue that might easily be misunderstood but that was addressed to me and went straight onto my urgent pile.
 

16th January

Francois Devine has made me less determined not to become childish in our feud. I went down to breakfast this morning and poured myself a nourishing bowl of Bargainsave Bran Flecks only to discover that there was just a single Bran Fleck left in the box. There were definitely more in there yesterday and I know Francois Devine doesn’t eat Bran Flecks out of choice because he once described them as "meagre" during a fascinating discussion about the pros and cons of fibre. My stomach has been rumbling all morning as a result and I was dangerously close to being thrown out of the library.
 

17th January

Although I am not going to resort to childishness, I felt I had earned the right to get one back at Francois Devine for his unreasonable stunt with the Bran Flecks. I rather wittily broke into his study after he’d gone out to spend the morning poking about in the second hand book shops in Cymm and rearranged some of his digital versatile discs. I cleared his object d’art shelf and replaced the trinkets with, in order, Dragonfire, Arc of Infinity, Mawdryn Undead, Nightmare of Eden, a small but deliberate gap, the Invasion of Time, Time Flight, another small but deliberate gap, Doctor Who and the Silurians, Evil of the Daleks, Vengeance on Varos, the Invasion, New Earth and Evolution of the Daleks. He can’t fail to spot that they spell DAMN IT DEVINE. I think he’ll concede by this evening and we can pick up where we left off before unpleasantness set in.
 

18th January

I am fuming. I haven’t been this angry since nine different mobile blood donation vans turned up on the same day and claimed I’d registered to donate. No amount of proof from various medical text books would make them accept that it wasn’t physically possible for me to comply. Eventually they left after their attempts at emotional blackmail – "People will die if you don’t give blood" – were countered by me asking if they would fax me the names and addresses of those who died so I could check my lists to see whether they deserved it.

I was in Bargainsave doing my weekly shopping and had reached the till. A spotty girl whose lips seemed pursed in such a way that I was convinced someone had whipped the pipe out of her mouth at the start of her shift and she hadn’t yet noticed it had gone scanned my groceries and dropped them into a carrier bag. She told me the grim reckoning – I’m talking four figures – and I got my purse out to pay. I gave her three five pound notes and my Bargainsave loyalty card and waited for my change.

"Is this your card?" she asked.

"Of course – I am not, nor will I ever be, in the habit of using another man’s Bargainsave loyalty card" I said wittily.

"Only there’s no signature on the back so I can’t take it" she replied.

"What do you mean there is no signature? I signed it myself" I told her. I snatched the card and pointed to where my signature had so recently been. But instead of my premium penmanship there was only a scratched and smudged grey box which gave the impression of having been scoured.

"How many points would I have earned this shop?" I asked weakly.

"Twelve" she said. I winced. I took my groceries and trudged out of the store.
 

19th January

I’m still keeping Francois Devine’s post and an interesting item arrived today. I had no idea he subscribed to "Creative Void" – the telehistorical journal of some repute. I’ve made my opinions of journals quite clear over the years but CV has always stood out as being a periodical of some merit. For one thing, as the title suggests, they have a firm ban on any creative thoughts what so ever. A stance which goes some way to overcoming the inherently flimsy contents – an average issue will contain two 20,000 word articles, perhaps six 5,000 word replies to previous articles, ten or so 4,000 word book reviews and a fiercely contested letters page. It’s basically a children’s comic but I can see why it might appeal to Francois Devine. I haven’t read it – obviously – but it looked to be reasonably well typed. They have embraced the word processor, sadly, but otherwise they have retained some sense of dignity. I noticed Francois Devine had scribbled a note on a pad and left it on the kitchen table. It was a reminder to himself to visit the post office and give the postmaster a piece of his mind about his lack of recent deliveries. I licked the tip of my index finger and drew a number 1 in mid air to show I had scored an important point. I regretted it almost immediately as I’d just been using that finger to apply Dr Flapjack’s latest unguent and I was still wearing my rubber gloves.
 

20th January

If you were to ask me to show you a wedge I would do so and I would point out the thinnest end of that wedge because the thin end of the wedge is something of a speciality of mine today. I got to my study at nine o’clock this morning and picked up a pencil with which to write some fascinating notes. The pencil was not merely blunt – it had been sanded down until it was completely flat. I withdrew a second pencil from my pencil caddy and that too was completely flat. In fact every pencil in my study had been sanded down until flat. I hunted high and low for a pencil sharpener or pen knife but they had all strangely gone missing. I could’ve used a pen but one doesn’t write notes with pens – that would be beneath contempt. Pencils are for notes, pens are for drafts and type writers are for copy. Those are the rules and some of us still have standards. In any case I was far too cross to write any notes when I realised what Francois Devine had done. If anyone wants me I’ll be in Francois Devine’s study. I’m taking with me Four to Doomsday, Utopia, Castrovalva, Kinda, Year of the Pig and Underworld. I’m having to use a video of Open All Hours but I’ve forgiven myself as it is an emergency.