I was delighted to be asked to take part in the blog tour celebrating this year’s Cheltenham Literature Festival. Participants were asked to pick one of the topics from the festival programme to receive a random book from: I chose ‘stage and screen’ and was delighted when Adam Buxton’s memoir Ramble Book came through the letterbox – a book I’ve been wanting to read anyway – and in a book-serendipitous moment, Adam is talking about it at Cheltenham this afternoon.
I’ll admit, I’ve not really followed Buxton’s career, which began with The Adam & Joe Show for Channel 4 in the mid-1990s, continuing onto the BBC Radio 6 Saturday Morning show in the mid-2000s. However, I’ve seen enough of Adam & Joe to get their comedy schtick in which Buxton is usually, but not always, the zanier of the two. He pops up all over the place, from 8 out of 10 Cats Does Countdown to Celebrity Mastermind where he did well on David Bowie in the 1970s. One of his unfunnier moments though is asking riddles as a head in a jar on The Crystal Maze in a silly accent – or am I not getting the joke there.
However, his memoir, Ramble Book, is a lovely gentle collection of ‘musings on childhood, friendship, family and 80s pop culture’ which I enjoyed very much.
Basically, he runs two timelines through the book. One in the near current – which begins when his ill father, Nigel, comes to live with his family in Norfolk and takes us up to Nigel’s death from cancer, although he begins the book with this event before going back in time. The other is from his teenaged schooldays at boarding school, latterly at Westminster, which is where he met Joe Cornish and other great pal, Louis Theroux. Interspersed between these chapters are logs/scoresheets of arguments between Adam and his wife, his ‘David Bowie Annual’ report, and sidebar rambles dotted throughout. There is a colour plate section, and monochrome photos throughout, plus some of Buxton’s own artworks from the 1980s.
Buxton talks a lot about his father, whom Adam & Joe immortalised as ‘BaaadDad’ when they invited him onto their show to review the latest pop singles. Nigel was a travel writer for the Telegraph, and famously described Louis Theroux’s more famous travel writer father as ” ‘awfully trendy’ and ‘overrated’.”
Also in Adam’s tribe at Westminster was Mark Sainsbury, whose parents owned a country mansion in Hampshire full of art:
On one visit when Mark’s parents weren’t there, Joe and I zipped about and, with the greatest care and respect, licked and kissed the surfaces of some of the most famous paintings by artists that included David Hockney and Claude Monet. For anyone interested, Hockney’s paintings have a sweet, tangy taste, but Monet’s too tart to mention.
I love puns like that! Buxton peppers the book with plenty more.
Adam and Joe, with Louis and others spent much of their spare time making videos. Joe would later go on to work in the film business with Edgar Wright and others, (both cameoed as zombies in Shaun of the Dead). Adam didn’t go straight off to uni, working in a pizza restaurant before art school a couple of years later, and sending one of their videos in to Channel 4, but this memoir stops at 1990, so we don’t get to hear the full development of the Adam & Joe Show.
Buxton’s wife must have a great sense of humour to put up with him, wisely perhaps he keeps her and his children out of it for the most part, although Rosie the dog gets a role. Instead, he concentrates on the relationship between him and his father, and him and his friends. But what an enjoyable ramble this book was, Buxton is self-deprecating to a fault and warm and witty on the page as he analyses these periods of his life. A palpable hit with me. (9/10)
Why not visit some of the other blogs taking part to see which topics they picked… week 2’s banner below
Source: Review copy – thank you! Mudlark, paperback, 374 pages. BUY at Blackwell’s via my affiliate link.