Fox (n): carnivore of genus vulpes; crafty person; scavenger; (vb) to confuse; -ed (adj): to be drunk.
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Wednesday 3 August 2011

I hereby declare Silly Season open.

FLEET Street traditionally marks the summer period when everyone's on holiday - politicians, judges, celebrities, Royals, even the criminals - by publishing stories which would, at any other time of the year, be considered too daft.

A reporter can normally guarantee an idle suggestion from the newsdesk that this might be the year to finally prove the existence of the Beast of Bodmin, and crazed scientists often choose August to reveal the latest contraption to produce 'evidence' of the Loch Ness Monster.

It's the time of year when a man with no memory but virtuoso piano skills sparks weeks of headlines, when a vicious tabloid war breaks out over buying up the story of a mistreated donkey, or perhaps a national newspaper is prepared to splash on one reader thinking they can see Victor Meldrew's face in the stars.

We've not had a decent summer frenzy for a couple of years now, and the hacking scandal is too serious to add much to the gaiety of the nation as a proper Silly Season should.

But luckily for us two past-it children's TV entertainers have stepped into the breach.

In the blue corner is Paul Daniels, a 73-year-old magician who commanded massive audiences in the 1980s and married his glamorous assistant Debbie McGee. Paul still performs but has reached the status of Slightly Creepy Old Man and has been reduced to posing in his underwear and selling his old magic tricks on eBay.

In the red corner is a puppet known as Sooty, a yellow furry glove with black ears that is supposed to be a bear and whose mischievous adventures with pals Sweep (a dog) and Soo (a panda) were a staple of children's TV for decades. Sooty also has smaller audiences these days and is just as embarrassing, mainly because he's not as cool as Peppa Pig.

While filming a scene for Sooty's latest series these two titans of telly clashed.

Or rather, the hand operating Sooty chucked a pizza at Paul and clocked him in the eye.

The pensioner was treated in hospital, Sooty has insisted the magician asked him to do it, and photographers are fighting for the first pictures to see if Paul has in anyway ended up looking like this:

This story could run and run. We have no idea what kind of pizza was used, or whether it had been properly defrosted. Is there a suggestion of legal action? Would Debbie tell all of her terror? What does Soo have to say about Sooty's misbehaviour? What about the rumours of a long love-affair with Sweep? I can see several big money buy-ups in this. Careers could be made or ruined.

Meanwhile, Sooty and Mr Daniels have both achieved the amount of tabloid coverage they could only imagine if they and their agents were trying to dream up some silly stunt to get two old has-beens in the papers, remind everyone they still exist and pay their bills.

Now that's magic.

I like it. Not a lot, but I like it.

EDIT:  A last-minute bid for a Silly Season story has been made by two jokers from Nottingham, who will I predict go back to being called Kevin and Daniel by Christmas. Enjoy their silliness here.