Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Recently read

Over the Christmas and New Year break I managed to read two books (actually my eldest son's books), both were autobiographies, both are about men who made their mark in their respective careers and both English.

As a first generation Aussie from British parents I feel at home in both countries and feel both Australian and English. Therefore, I watch and read a lot of TV shows, movies and books from England, despite living in Australia.

For very different reasons I enjoyed both these autobiographies, and consequently ordered the next book of each one.
One of the UK TV shows I watch is Top Gear, the British version, and it was Richard Hammond, one of the presenters, whose autobio I read. It tells of his early start in his journalist career, his love of bikes and cars and how he managed to get a great job combining both. He and his wife also write about the crash that nearly ended his life and how they both overcame it.

Richard Hammond is one of our most in-demand and best-loved television presenters. In September 2006, he suffered a serious brain injury following a high-speed car crash.
ON THE EDGE is his compelling account of life before and after the accident and an honest description of his recovery, full of drama and incident. An adrenalin junkie long before his association with Top Gear, Richard tells the story of his life, from the small boy showing off with ridiculous stunts on his bicycle to the adolescent with a near-obsessive attraction to speed and the smell of petrol. After a series of jobs in local radio, he graduated to television and eventually to Top Gear. His insights into the personalities, the camaraderie and the stunts for which Top Gear has become famous, make compulsive reading. It was whilst filming for Top Gear that Richard was involved in a high speed crash, driving a jet-powered dragster. His wife Mindy tells the story of the anxious hours and days of watching and waiting until he finally emerged from his coma. In an extraordinarily powerful piece of writing, she and Richard then piece together the stages of his recovery as his shattered mind slowly reformed. The final chapter recounts his return home and his triumphant reappearance in front of the cameras.

Peter Kay simply makes me laugh. His a great comedian and this book, in his own style, tells of his childhood and how it shaped him to be the man he is. He's a Northerner, alas not a Yorkshireman, but we can forgive him on that one, but like most Northerners that have a talent and wit for finding the funny side of any situation and making it their own.
Peter Kay's unerring gift for observing the absurdities and eccentricities of family life has earned himself a widespread, everyman appeal. These vivid observations coupled with a kind of nostalgia that never fails to grab his audience's shared understanding, have earned him comparisons with Alan Bennett and Ronnie Barker. In his award winning TV series' he creates worlds populated by degenerate, bitter, useless, endearing and always recognisable characters which have attracted a huge and loyal following. In many ways he's an old fashioned kind of comedian and the scope and enormity of his fanbase reflects this. He doesn't tell jokes about politics or sex, but rather rejoices in the far funnier areas of life: elderly relatives and answering machines, dads dancing badly at weddings, garlic bread and cheesecake, your mum's HRT...His autobiography is full of this kind of humour and nostalgia, beginning with Kay's first ever driving lesson, taking him back through his Bolton childhood, the numerous jobs he held after school and leading up until the time he passed his driving test and found fame.
Peter Kay was born in Bolton in 1973. After leaving school with a GCSE in art, he held a series of jobs including working as a cinema usher, mobile disc jockey, in a factory packing toilet rolls, garage attendant and in a bingo hall. After a Btec in Performance Studies, he went on to win the 1997 So You Think You're Funny contest at the Edinburgh Festival and was nominated for the Perrier Award the following year. Peter Kay's first TV series was That Peter Kay Thing, followed by Phoenix Nights series 1 and 2. The series Max and Paddy's Road to Nowhere was a spin off from Phoenix Nights. Peter Kay has played a cameo role in Coronation Street, has appeared in the recent series of Doctor Who and recently starred as Roger DeBris in the smash hit Mel Brooks musical The Producers in Manchester.
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