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Russell Brand’s Ponderland starts tonight on Channel Seven at 10.30pm. Watch it if you can.
By Producer Gareth
We’ve been back from Australia for over two weeks and I still find myself thinking about the literally turbulent journey home. Nicola and I spent 5 hours delayed at Singapore airport and to make matters worse I’d not allowed enough time to change back into jeans from my comfy shellsuit bottoms (yes, what I lack in an up to date hair cut I make up for in ridiculous 80’s based clothing) so, much to Nicola’s amusement, wore them tucked into my workman-style boots for the entire duration – I looked stupid, I stomped around that place like an angry Bob the Builder. Since returning Nik, Russell, Jack and I have all fallen victim to jetlag, its effects noticeably more potent than on previous trips – although I find it increasingly difficult to distinguish between the drowsy results of jetlag and my crippling infatuation with Night Nurse.
Australia was a wonderful, friendly country. We all agreed that it’s easy to see why so many travelling Brits fall in love with the place and never return. I only have two gripes. One – at no point during our stay did I hear anyone utter the phrases “G’day mate”, “Fair dinkum”, or “Put another shrimp on the barbie” – now what sort of loopy, backwards country refuses to adhere to prejudicial foreign stereotypes? And two, I didn’t get to visit the set of Neighbours. My fascination with Neighbours, as with most people my age, dates back to childhood. I lived and breathed that cheery soap opera all through my adolescent years and far too long into adulthood. Its stars were my heroes. As a teenager I took a picture from the Jason Donavan Annual to the hairdressers for two years – he had a wonderful centre parting, that guy. The thought that one day I may actually be able to go to Ramsey Street would’ve blown my tiny mind as a youngster so imagine how excited I was at this prospect when we landed in Melbourne – the home of Neighbours.
Unfortunately my suggestion to visit that sacred street was met with laughter and derision by our travelling band of goons. I did sense that Russ was momentarily curious but he was quickly bullied out of the idea by the other jeering twits I call colleagues/friends. So this magical moment was not to be and as if the Gods where taunting me, my Neighbours torment intensified when I came to within touching distance of meeting one of the stars of the show – Libby Kennedy. Well, apparently. On our penultimate night in Melbourne a few of us went to a nightclub to celebrate a successful gig. Unaware of my fascination with the show, one of our Australian party informed me that we had just missed Libby, who was (allegedly) seen darting from the club – drunk. “No, no”, I insisted, “I won’t have that, not Libby. You must be mistaken. Libby would not be drunk”. “Yes, Gareth – it was her.” Libby, top rate journalist turned teacher, devoted mother, supportive daughter to Karl and Susan – granted there was that bad patch when she dated bad boy Darren Stark, but that was just a silly phase. Drunk? You may as well tell me that Harold has gone nuts and embarked on a mad spree of systematically injecting unsuspecting nightclubbers of Melbourne with the HIV virus. It’s just not in his nature.
Well they do say never meet your heroes so maybe it’s all for the best. In any case, I’ve just seen Libby on BBC Breakfast News promoting Neighbour’s 25th anniversary and she was sober as a judge. Now, the BBC is in London White City, right…?
A health conscious Russ gives away his cakes to the people (and birdmen) of Melbourne
Russell, Jack and I had our injections for the India trip before we left New York. Nik declined jabs on account of his impenetrable immune system – though, as Russ pointed out, we lose Nik for monthly periods throughout the year when he’s knocked for six by such debilitating illnesses as the common cold. Anyhow, in the current climate of our every movement and spoken word being recorded for the documentary and website, it was decided (by Nik, now I come to think of it) that this ordeal should be filmed.
Prior to the jabs the doctor required us to fill out a form before he could write a prescription for Maleria pills. Part of this included a section of ailments and diseases that we should tick if applicable. There were the usual suspects, “chest pains, asthma” etc – but also some baffling symptoms that I found more tricky to respond to. “Decreased life enjoyment” – that’s hard to measure. Since this morning? No. Has my zest for life diminished since the euphoric innocence of childhood? Almost certainly. The form also read, “Thoughts of death” – what, ever? Well, when I was 7 my friend’s pet dog was run over and I did fleetingly ponder, what happens to us when we die? You did? Right, you can forget the maleria pills, it’s off to the asylum for you, you morbid pervert.
I don’t mind admitting that I do not relish injections. I come over all delicate and effete and am convinced that I’ll faint and embarrass myself further. Jack “Edward Camera Hands” Bayles was also having jabs so Suzi filmed the event. We decided that the actual incision of needles was a private matter between doctor and patient and should not be filmed, especially as two of the four were in our naked bottoms. This code of ethics was respectfully honoured by Suzi throughout Jack’s time in the bathroom and did give me a wave of reassurance as I prepared for my dreaded moment.
So, my turn then. Bless the doctor, he was aware of my anxiety and attempted a technique with me that I imagine is normally reserved for the under fives. “Count to three” he said and no sooner had I uttered “one” than the first injection was over. Phew. “I’ll be OK now”, I thought, “this system is full-proof! You’ve met your match, Mr Needle.” My new-found confidence even punched its way through the awkward arse show for the final two jabs and just as I prepared to reflect on a triumphant shame-free set of injections I heard juvenile sniggering from the living room, looked up and realised that Suzi was filming me through the crack (in the bathroom door, not my botty, you sickos) – “Nik, Jack, you bastards! Ouch – I didn’t count to three!”