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Mr. Peter S. Tucker "ubiquitor" (east sussex)

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Stirred But Not Shaken: The Autobiography
Stirred But Not Shaken: The Autobiography
by Keith Floyd
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stirred But Not Shaken - Keith Floyd, 29 Dec. 2009
Keith Floyd's life was one of magnificent achievement and personal tragedy, and it would be unforgiveable to concentrate on the one at the expense of the other. Some of the words of this review are hard, but should not be allowed to detract from the fact that this is a book about an exceptional man who is rightly held in very high regard by his public and peers, as one of the world's leading T.V chefs. Among his many attributes we can list are: professional talent; friendliness; charm; loyalty; generosity; tolerance & forgiveness; and the ability to work hard long hours under difficult circumstances. Like many leaders of their professions,however, he is far from perfect in his personal and business relationships. This book made persuasive, if not compulsive reading, and reveals fascinating details about the character and personality of one of the greatest and most entertaining media chefs of modern times. However his erratic and irresponsible behaviour must have made friendship with Floydy a difficult friendship to sustain, other than at a distance, and at times even reading his book stretches one's patience and tolerance to the limits. He gave a great deal to the world but he took a great deal back. There is more to life than money, agreed, but many would say that to earn millions and squander it all, might be your prerogative, but is still pretty stupid and irresponsible. It is something more than stupid and irresponsible to also spend a great deal of other peoples' money as well.

This book has a terrific subject and is of course an autobiography, but one that is written, recorded, and inevitably to some extent interpreted, by a ghost,James Steen; a competent ghost, no doubt, but nonetheless not the author first hand. The state of health of the subject during its production, and it's completion so close to his death, also opens to question the amount of editing by Keith Floyd that was possible, and the book might suffer from that. We will never know.

Floydy earned his popularity and reputation on the strength of his ability as a cook, certainly; and on his instinctive untrained ability to communicate, entertain, and frequently to extemporise, on T.V. This was all earned at a terrible price, however, in terms of excessive generosity, and a persistent willingness to humiliate himself in the hands of those who repeatedly exploited him, and frankly were frequently neither able nor willing, to do their job properly.

We none of us are totally sound of mind, and suffer all manner of personality and character defects which we should bear in mind when criticising others. Despite this it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Floydy had significant psychological problems even at at an early stage of his working life. His congenital inability to accept responsibility made him an easy prey to alcohol, flattery, false bonhomie; confidence tricksters, and ruthless exploitative business partners and colleagues. The same weakness also encouraged him to demesn himself, and attract the contempt of more than a few; a contempt that one has to say is often justly deserved.

Whilst acknowledging that most of his personal relationship, and financial/business disasters were his own fault, he contrives to simultaneously imply (and sometimes specifically allege) that it wasn't really his fault but the fault of the uncaring/scheming/selfish/exploitative 'others'. His early attempt at a career in the armed services should have warned him (and to be fair should have warned others) that there was something missing in his make up, that left uncorrected, was always going to result in failure and disaster, no matter how impressive the superficial success might appear to be. Here he was a tank commander with no tanks to command, and 'cracking up' under no pressure at all. The army rightly told him 'catering corp or civy street' - who knows, he might well have made the wrong choice. The truth was he was an innate if passive, alcoholic, from an early age, and a practising alcoholic by his teenage army days. Yes he was a joyous and generous companion, but again at a terrible price to both himself and others. His repeated failure to pay any attention to contract, business, and financial written detail is inexcusable, but also unexplainable, on any other grounds than illness.

So there we have it - Floydy suffered from a severe lack of self confidence and self esteem that contradicted his deep innner conviction that he did have ability. He's not the only one to discover that drugs of one kind or another can suppress the one and release the other, a release, that can only be sustained by ever increasing doses. He needed help, not criticism: he needed help, and not acclaim for success (success won at too great a price). The problem as we all know, however, is that you can't help somone who is in denial. It's also sadly true that because you can apparently 'hold' your drink does not mean that you are not intoxicated, nor that you are not an alcoholic - in the end the truth will out, as it did with Keith.

It would be interesting to read or listen to the testimony of his four wives and the many colleagues who suffered from his lack of responsibility, as well as from his friends who have managed to accomodate, forget, or forgive.

Through all this it is a considerable testament to Keith Floyd that we can nearly all regard him with affection, and with admiration for his breakthrough chievements in a sphere now emulated by many who will never reach his standards. You will enjoy his book.

Peter Tucker

Tickling the English
Tickling the English
by Dara O Briain
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Tickling The English, 28 Dec. 2009
This review is from: Tickling the English (Hardcover)
Never havung met Dara O'Briain,I can only base my feelings towards him on his public professional persona, including this book. On this basis he is clearly an amiable and likeable guy, and a gifted and highly individual comedian. I enjoyed the book, and will happily read, watch and listen to him again. This is not an autobiography which excuses so much missing detail in regard to his personal life, but he appears to be a well educated and well read person. His writing does not rate highly as an example of well written English literature, but is nonetheless fluent and entertaining, and humerous. However this is not a 'laugh out loud' book. We do learn a good deal about the life of an entertainer on a punishing road tour, told in a very readable and humerous manner.

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that he suffers from the persecution complex so often sadly prevalent in the Irish, coupled with a certain amount of prejudice towards some English stereotypes. These attitudes are somewhat covert and more worrying because of that, being further reflected in the annoying habit of implying #rather than outrightly dismissing certain English attitudes, as being allegedly homophobic/ethnically hostile/religiously intolerant. Perhaps not so much implying and dismissing, as hiding behind his own range of quasi liberal received wisdom. Unfortunately time and space preclude specific examples. However, in case you think I'm being unfair,or out of context, remember that Dara chooses his own terms of reference here, and the book might have been equally well written without his more extreme excursions into philosophy, politics,economics and religion.

Let us not take away the fact, however, that Dara is a most welcome, talented, and entertaining, visitor to our shores.The U.K is a richer place from his presence, and the best, I think, is yet to come.

Peter Tucker
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