Last week came the sad news of the death of Albert Roux, one of the titans of French cuisine, brother of Michel and father of Michel Roux Jnr. Apart from the excellent meals I’ve knocked back at their signature restaurant, Le Gavroche, I’ll always be grateful to the Roux brothers for letting the Pythons film the Dirty Fork sketch there in 1970. To let a film crew anywhere near a place that you love is always a risk, but when Monty Python is involved the danger to life, limb, tables, plates and glasses, lobsters and oeufs en cocottes must be drastically increased. So thank you Albert and Michel for being great sports and if anyone is interested, our day in Le Gavroche can be seen in “And Now For Something Completely Different”, and captured in the publicity still taken that day, which has become a bit of a classic.
This is as close as you’ll get to Le Gavroche right now, as like every other restaurant in London it’s closed in order to save lives. How did we get here and when will we leave? Answers on a postcard please.
Though I have not spent a night away from home since February last year I’ve done more travelling on television than for a very long time thanks to the recent Travels of A Lifetime series and re-runs of the original series on BBC Four. I‘m not that keen on watching myself on screen – I always see the mistakes – but I’ve been reminded how much of the appeal of my travel shows lies is in the professionalism of those I worked with, and particularly the superb camera work of Nigel Meakin. Whilst I was waffling away he was building up a visual scrapbook of each location which in these stay-at-home days reminds us what a rich, exciting and exotic world is still out there.
Apart from a carefully patrolled and distanced studio appearance on the J Ross show, my TV work has been confined to Zoomland, which saves on transport and trousers but is strangely un-intimate. I wanted to have a drink with Robert Lindsay after we’d done our excerpt from Waiting For Godot and with Tennnant and Sheen after doing Staged, but all I could do was press ‘Leave Meeting’, and wonder whether it had happened at all.
Now as I gaze at the pristine pages of my 2021 diary I do at least have some writing to do. Without giving the game away more than I already have, I’m researching the short, enigmatic life of my Great Uncle Henry – Harry to everyone – born in the heyday of the British Empire and died in the muddy shambles of the Somme at the age of 32. If all goes well, it will hopefully materialise in bookshops in two years’ time.
Ahh…bookshops, restaurants, trousers. So much to look forward to.