Monday, 6 April 2009

The Great British Eccentric of the Year 2009 Awards

Wednesday, April 1st - and so to The Great British Eccentric of the Year 2009 Awards ceremony. (Yes, I know it’s All Fools’ Day but this was a serious event).

For the full coverage of the event, visit:

Anyway, for any of you who have been following this splendid nonsense, there were four of us in the final running. At the close of voting, things stood at:
- Rob Lowe - 499 votes (36%) - he’s just written a book about Eccentrics [he’s on the left]
- Ray Frensham (myself) - 396 votes (28%)
- Colin Shaddick - 314 votes (22%) - a humorous Poet from Devon [he’s the tall one in the red bow tie] is his website.
- Captain Beany - 167 votes (12%) - he sits in baths of beans for Charity… you really should have heard of him by now! He’s the, well, bean-coloured one. []

…but remember: this is the Eccentric Club! [] and we were told on the final day of voting that we each had to do a 15-minute presentation to the Club and the Committee’s decision would be final.

The event was to be held at the Arts Club in Dover Street (just off Piccadilly), starting at And, bearing in mind the expected Anarchist-type casual rioting that was being reported in London on that day, I decided to go into town early (at about 4pm) and to “dress-down“ a little - well, for ME it was dressing-down. You’ll have to judge for yourself by the pictures whether I was successful or not.

The only other concession I made to these splendid protestors was to bring along my chosen silk top hat in its carrying box, rather than wear it and risk having it stolen from my own head. (I know, I have three silk toppers but I am deeply emotionally attached to each of them). For the record, the one I chose to wear for this occasion was the one know as the Boche 7.

Interestingly enough, none of us travellers into London (even the band, who came from Manchester) encountered any problems whatsoever. Indeed, the tube route I took (cleverly missing any ‘hot-spots’) were full of Underground Policemen. I felt very safe indeed.

So, at 4.30pm I’d booked into Truefitt & Hill [] in St. James’s for my regular moustache trim and shaping (with the aid of wax the ends are starting to curl up rather well now) - I’d already had my nails buffed and manicured to perfection earlier that morning locally by Trace, my Essex concubine.

After T&H I stopped off for a cappuccino (double shot - how eccentric!) at the Café Nero while I waited for fellow contender Colin Shaddick and his wife to turn up from Devon.

We both agreed on how we both regarded this whole bizarre contest as a bit of Fun and so it really didn’t matter who won (and neither of us had this kind of: ‘I HAVE to win this at all costs’-focussed determination that, say, another contestant might have). Colin and I got on famously well, perhaps because we were both so laid-back about it. We plan to meet up again next time he makes a royal visit to the smoke.

We were a little worried about the presentations though. We were both stuck. I suggested he do some of his presentation in verse (which he later did) and I thought I would just “busk it” (or “wing it” as some say).

And so we turned up, down into the bowels of 40 Dover Street to meet the various organisers of the Eccentric Club (Jean-Francois Dor, Imants von Wenden and Emmanuel Ray, amongst others - they are all on

Suddenly I noticed we were being filmed (for Belfast TV, if I recall the Release form that I signed later while half-drunk), so we all squeezed in a quick interview with them.

And then on to have our photos taken by a snapper…..Well!…[I felt like Tony Hancock in his radio episode “The Publicity Photograph” when he walks into Kenneth Williams’ portraiture studio and tells him to “snap away”, and Williams replies “Snaps? … SNAPS???…. I Paint with Light!”.

I’m glad I took the chap’s business card. I checked out his website next morning: [] - Bugger me, he’s good. He later said to me that he is putting together a travelling photo exhibition and would I mind if he included a shot or two of me in it (and maybe interview me later, possibly on camera, etc etc.)?

Would I mind? I tell you, having seen Spencer’s work and who he’s…er…’snapped’ I’d claw peoples’ eyes out to be part of his portfolio! (At least I managed to get a test Polaroid off him of one of the shots he took that night - I shall have to find a way to scan it in).

Music for the evening was supplied by the excellent Dr. Butler,

[ ] - the guitarist did not mind me drooling over his Martin Dreadnought guitar. Little did he realise I would have mugged him for it. It brought tears to my eyes (I once owned a vintage Martin 00028 and miss her terribly).

Rob Lowe - not the actor, you will note - did his presentation first and started creating his own tea party whilst publicising his recently-published book on eccentrics.

Then it was my turn.

I always said to the organisers that I have never really considered myself to be an eccentric - an Individualist, yes - but I would accept the initial nomination as I consider the mere act of ominating me to be an actof supreme eccentricity in the first place!

I just blathered on about my early days in TV working with the genius of Malcolm Gerrie on “The Tube” in the 1980s (it turned out one of attendant film crew had worked with Malcolm too and agreed with me, what a splendid man he is).

I also slipped in a neat plug for my own book [Teach Yourself Screenwriting…a best-seller since 1995, the 3rd Expanded/Updated edition just in the shops….Publishers: Hodder & Stoughton / US: McGraw-Hill… some foreign translation Rights still available!]

I briefly skimmed over my lifestyle philosophy, Constructive Apathy (see a recent blog here) and just groped my way through the proceedings and Q&A, tossing here a joke, there a wisecrack…

I did give a Special Thanks to my harem of Swedish Schoolboy lovers in Linkoping (the Fifth largest city in Sweden, they tell me) who voted for me solidly and have followed the proceedings from their Facebook eyrie. They adore me and I love them all.

I was really starting to get up a head of steam considering it was all completely improvised. And then I got the ‘wind-it-up’ motions from the back of the room (it’s a technical TV hand-sign, darlings).

Then Colin took ownership the stage and did some of his humorous verses (you should’ve brought your Uke, Col). I recommend his website:

Finally, on stage came (the semi-legendary) whirlwind known as Captain Beany. As soon as he started “I don’t come from this planet. I was beaned down from the planet Beanus…” and the puns just didn’t stop. The guy was brilliantly entertaining and a marketing phenomenon. Colin and I agreed: the guy wiped the floor with us all; and if he did Not win it, there was no justice.

The Committee went away to deliberate, long and hard. Eventually they announced:
1st - Captain Beany
2nd - Rob Lowe
3rd - Colin Shaddick

And I was awarded the “Special Award” (seems it was neck-and-neck for as while between myself and the good Captain).

But Colin, his wife and I came away from the evening having had a great fun time and met the very pleasant organisers and all agreed we should visit the Arts Club premises and the Eccentric Club again sometime.

(And it’s all very well our friends on Facebook saying to me or Colin “you was robbed”, you really had to be there to be swept up in the Beany frenzy. And besides, if the guy manages to raise thousands for charities by sitting in baths of baked beans, who am I to criticise him?).

[All Photos taken by David Straker, except Nos. 3,4 & 8 by Linda Shaddick]

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