Always know where your towel is
Just watched Sanjeev of Goodness Gracious Me and the Kumars at No. 42 fame promoting the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in the final 21 of the BBC’s Big Read (don’t forget to vote!). He was amusing, as you’d expect from one of Britain’s most gifted humorists talking about one of British literature’s funniest novels. He was also quite passionate and I couldn’t help but identify with him when he told the audience just how much HHGTG has influenced him, his outlook on life and his own work. Even the address for the Kumars came from Douglas Adams.
I’m old enough to remember listening to the adventures of Ford Prefect and Arthur Dent on their first radio outings. On one level it was something totally unique – Douglas often said that he wanted to create a new radio show that was produced to sound like a rock album and boy, does it show. But the humour, although distinctly Adams, had that very British, eccentric, left-field humour that drew on Monty Python, Spike Milligan and the Goons right back to Lewis Carroll. It was only years later that I found out that Adams had written with the Pythons in their final TV years. Sanjeev hit it right on the head when he said that this was one of those peculiarly British types of humour that millions from other nations love but no-one but we eccentrics here in these rainy islands could quite come up with.
I really don’t know how many times I read those short little novels. Listened to the show, eagerly awaited the television show edition. I still have the original cast albums from the early 80s. Yes it influenced me enormously and along with like-minded chums we’d do Adams-style skits in much the way he and his friends had done Python-style skits. We did Goon shows and Silly Walks. We realised lots of other people thought we were very silly for this. We realised lots of other people didn’t, and we would mutter about towels and 42 while imploring people not to mention life. Two decades and a technological leap in home entertainment later and I’m looking at the Hitchhikers on DVD. Treating my self to it, sitting down to watch and just loving every moment as much as I did twenty years before, raving about it in the Alien. Reading MJ Simpson’s excellent biography of Douglas was like remembering a dear friend. I doubt it will win to be honest, but it’s nice to be reminded just how many of us who still smile wryly when presented with the number 42 in any context and always, always know where our towels are.