Thursday, February 24, 2011

Michael Gove Kissed My Shoes At The BBC Celebrity Whippet Rodeo

Before anyone gets too excited that the Michael Gove to whom I refer is the uberintellectual eel gene repository and all-round smiter of anti-3Rs methodology to the stars currently presiding over the nation's educational wherewithal, I should point out that since June 2010, the number of small to medium sized dogs bearing this monicker has risen substantially — much like the late 80s escalation of Koi carp named Kylie Minogue — and so when I proclaim, Michael Gove kissed my shoes at the BBC Celebrity Whippet Rodeo, let's be perfectly clear that I'm talking about a dog and have in no way lured you here under any kind of false pretences bar the usual suspects.

And so, to the main event...

The history of whippet rodeos is well-documented so I won't bother cluttering up this post with too much of the back story — less still, any superfluous links. If you're at all interested, just type 'whippet rodeo' into your browser and I'm sure you'll uncover hundreds upon hundreds of suitably informative pages (though do make sure your browser search settings are set to SAFE because unfortunately, like Dungeons & Dragons, this noble sport has fallen prey to hijack by certain unsavoury wings of the porn fraternity). All you need to know is that in 1934 a fifteen year-old nipper called Christopher Wearbrooke clambered aboard faithful family pet, Thinnun, and rode himself between the dustbins of Belton St, Cardiff, into history via PC Dick Dickson, a clip round the ear and an opportunistic bugger attack. As it turns out, Thinnun himself was history within five minutes of the ride c/o a broken spine, but had it not been for his few brief moments as a would-be steer (and subsequent metalwork projects involving numerous unknown dogs and Wearbrooke's bicycle crossbar), the sport of whippet rodeo would have remained uninvented to this day, possibly even longer.

For the past two years, BBC Radio Cardiff has covered the event using money saved from John Barrowman’s make-up budget in the wake of Torchwood’s demise. Like Comic Relief, Live Aid, Sport Aid and Keep Granny Smiling Even Though She’s Barely Seconds Left, the Celebrity Whippet Rodeo is a charity fundraiser of which this country should be justly proud. Let’s just hope its founder, 70s keyboard wizard Rick Wakeman, is honoured with a knighthood sometime soon. If rumours are true that his prog rock classic The Lost Cycle is to be played as Prince William and Kate Middleton leave Westminster Abbey after their forthcoming wedding, I wouldn’t be surprised if he replaces Camilla as potential future queen. After all, he has the hair.

The roll call of contestants for the event read like a combined who’s who of comedy, pop, theatre, dance, 6 o-clock news and kitchen — in short, the biggest collection of showy artistes this side of Hitler’s wartime To Do list. I was on hand as a volunteer to help an old school friend make cups of tea for the G-H group of celebs between rides. For two months prior to this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I’d been banking on meeting up with Harrison Ford.

“No,” said my friend, “he’ll be in the E-F room — or would be if he wasn’t famously afraid of dogs.”
“Snakes!” I urged, “it’s snakes” — but before we could resolve the argument, Antony Worral Thomson and the woman from strolled in looking lost and kept us busy for the next half an hour with their unbelievably petulant demands for Lapsang Souchong.

As it turned out, another of the celebrities present at the rodeo was Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove. If ever there was a man capable of manipulating his elfin jockey anatomy to aplomb atop a straining canine, it's Mr Gove, and as soon as I saw him kicked back in a swivel chair puffing studiously on his Mississippi meerschaum I knew he’d be more than capable of beating the pants off the other celebrities — up to and including bookies' favourite, Lenny Henry. Turned out, he was one of the judges, and as the day wore on, clearly more of a hardline Jason Gardiner than a fluffy Robin Cousins as he dispensed paltry figures and harsh words in equal measure like he was behind the dispatch box announcing cuts to the education budget. Bold and technically accomplished though Cilla Black’s twelve and a half seconds in the saddle were, Gove only awarded her a 4 and offered no sympathy when her teeth flew out and hit a disabled boy from Chippenham.

Then a funny thing happened — the sort of funny thing upon which momentous events often hinge, only in this instance it wasn't so much momentous as funny (like I said, in fact). The BBC's coverage of the Celebrity Whippet Rodeo was itself being covered for a documentary about cameramen called Careful How You Zoom In On The Titties and one of the guys filming behind the judges' podium forgot he was miked up.

"It's a right laugh, this," he said, "there's this geezer sat in front of me with the same name as that dog over there under Lemmy from Motorhead. If I were producing this show, I'd boot hairychops and let the judge have a go. And now ladies and gentlemen, Michael Gove riding Michael Gove — imagine that."

As far as I'm aware, the cameraman documentary never made it to screen, but these words were beamed live to the Millennium Stadium with much the same effect on the thrill-hungry audience as the call for a disembowelled Christian before the Colosseum’s finest.

To his credit, Gove agreed to partake in the spectacle (the politician, not the dog — dogs are notoriously dumb and get to do as they're told). But only on one condition. In order to protect his suit from saliva, Gove insisted the whippet be wrapped in cling film and its legs securely bound. Quite how the binding of the legs was intended to protect his clothing no-one knew, but he was adamant.

"Great!" said the jubilant producer. "This will make TV history."

"And five hundred pounds, payable in cash," replied Gove. It's remarkable how the privately educated can keep their wits about them with a squirming pooch and a team of volunteer stewards grunting and groaning between their outstretched thighs.

I suspect very few of you will have had any experience of trussed, partially suffocating dogs, but in my previous bloggerly incarnation as a pre-op transvestite, I picked up one or two tips. From where I was standing, it was clear to me that Gove's biggest problem was neither his suit nor his reluctant steed's ability to indulge in any kind of Secretary of State tossing. Lemmy, it seemed, had become extremely aggressive now he'd polished off the bottle of Asda whiskey used to lure him away from Gove (the dog).

"I didn't headline the Stow-on-the-Wold Icons of Metal Festival in ‘87 before an audience of 24,000 to have sand kicked in my face," he bellowed. "I've seen what I'm A Celebrity did for Joe Pasquale and no way am I having this profile-boosting opportunity stolen from me!" — and with that, he flung himself through the air at the MP for Surrey Heath as the crowd instinctively roared the chorus to Bomber.

The whole thing was like witnessing a mugging on the Tube — nobody moved, nobody helped, nobody lifted a finger. The judges, the audience, the celebrities — even Sir Alex Ferguson — stood mute and fascinated like eunuchs before a half-speed stripper. I knew if I didn't act fast, either Gove the MP would end up strangled, Lemmy permanently paralysed by Gove's hitherto unreported Putin-like martial arts talents, and the whippet crushed in the flailing limb melee of gnarly rocker vs Big Society reformer — but microseconds before my instincts kicked in and I threw myself headlong at the writhing bodies, I caught sight once more of Cilla’s dentures poking from the disabled boy's skull.

"Oi, Jools!" I called — because the diminutive ex-Squeeze trillster and his big band were providing the music for the event and his piano happened to be right next to where the kid lay bleeding — "chuck me Cilla’s teeth will you?"

The moment he grabbed on to those Blind Date choppers, I saw they were embedded deeper in the boy’s skull than either of us (or even Conan) would have liked. Luckily, things turned out okay because the boy had one of those supportive neck braces and Jools managed to yank the teeth free with no risk of subsequent conviction for GBH or exposure as a closet Exorcist bed scene fantasist.

“Here,” he cried, in that velvety nasal voice of his, “I’d take a pop at Lemmy if I were you.”

My plan had been to do exactly that, using the teeth as a boomerang in the hope of rendering Lemmy unconscious so that Gove (the MP) could be hauled to safety and Gove (the dog) rolled over into the recovery position, but because Jools had clearly plumped for the Aboriginal missile strategy himself, no sooner had Cilla’s teggies left his hand than they looped over the audience and arrived right back where they started, ie on a trajectory for the disabled boy's open head wound. Fortunately for the boy, a mortified Cilla crouched over his quivering body administering mouth-to-mouth and the teeth bit harmlessly home into the protective padding strapped to her buttocks. Phew.

Future trivia quiz shows will no doubt baffle contestants with their brain teasers about the precise duration of this denturely airborne parabola — but everyone in the Millennium Stadium that day knew the answer: exactly the same amount of time it takes an inveterate hundred-a-day heavy metal demigod clad in a leather one-piece to tear Gove (the dog)'s head from its body mistakenly believing it to be the head of Gove (the MP) and hurl it into the air with a loud cry of, “bollocksbastardwankarsetwat!”

What a position to be in — on the stage of the biggest venue in South Wales, halfway between a prone Cilla Black and a crazed Lemmy Kilminster as the still-yelping head of a pedigree longhair whippet comes hurtling towards you, lit by a stroboscopic halo of fag lighter flashes. I count myself fortunate that years of strumming his bass guitar had rendered Lemmy’s elbow joint incapable of full extension and the whippet’s head fell ten or so feet short of where I was standing. After a series of short Dambusters-style bounces across the floor of the stage, it finally came to rest, lips first, against the toe of my (inappropriately named, as it turned out) Hush Puppy. It landed, it rolled — and then it kissed.

And that, my friends, is how Michael Gove kissed my shoes at the BBC Celebrity Whippet Rodeo.

(With thanks to Mr London Street, from whose 2nd Bloggiversary comment trail the inspiration for this post was plucked.)


Mr London Street said...

You are properly mental, aren't you? I love it. It would take some doing for the post to be even better than the title, and yet it is.

Old Kitty said...

This is why I have no qualms paying my BBC licence!

Oh and John Barrowman.

Take care

Scarlet Blue said...

Michael Gove Kissed My Shoes
I thought this was the latest single from Katie Perry...

Whirlochre said...

Mr London Street

All thanks to a chance fusion of whatsits in a bloggiversary comments trail — so thanks for posting.

Old Kitty

I used to keep qualms — but they got too old and ended up peeing everywhere.


Is she still releasing singles now she's shacked up with Russell Brand?