“AND NOW, FROM NORWICH, IT’S THE QUIZ OF THE WEEK…”
Nicholas Parsons, Blenheim Literary Festival, Oxford
********Yes, for those born pre Take That and Cold Play, Nicholas Parsons was the voice and face of a much loved TV quiz show called ‘The Sale of The Century’, way back in the early 70s. And trust me, it was the ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?’ of its day (but without the drama, excitement, and genial wit of Chris Tarrant).
Today, it would look oh-so-dated. But of it’s time it was a juggernaut of television and Nicholas Parsons was its silky voiced presenter.
Like many successful performers however, ‘Sale of the Century’ represents but a small part of his showbiz stable, and indeed today he is best known as the presenter of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Just a Minute’, which he has hosted for the last 48 years.
A trooper then, and a pro, so I forgave him when, saying “Good morning” to him, I received a rather curt response (bear in mind, Mr Parsons is in his early nineties). Plus, he was clearly distressed by a table and chairs which, 10 minutes before had not been on his stage, and now, like magic, suddenly were.
Oh, and the tad too early start of his talk couldn’t have helped either as festival goers continued to pour in.
But, magnificently, he contained his frustration and very quickly, after reciting Edward Lear’s ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’ from heart (Edward Lear was the subject of his talk), he warmed not only to his subject but to the audience as well.
In hindsight, just 30 minutes after leaving the event, I cannot help but salute Mr Parsons for what was an extraordinary presentation of both Lear’s life and his work. And clearly it is a subject he holds dear.
His recitations of many of Lear’s nonsense verses was both razor sharp and beautifully poignant and I doubt a younger (by say 70 years) actor could have done a better job.
It was just a shame that more people didn’t turn up to experience this veritable institution.
And for Nicholas Parsons groupies who couldn’t make it, might I add, by way of a tease, that yes, of course he was wearing a striped blazer…