In 2012 Robert Webb was persuaded by Radio 4 to read out his teenage diary to a live audience. As you’d expect from someone who went on to be a writer and comedian, his diary is brilliantly written and very funny, particularly read aloud in Webb’s deadpan style. Much of the diary is taken up with a 17-year-old’s attempt at chasing girls, but, part way through, Webb’s mum is diagnosed with cancer. Six weeks later, she has died. His entry about her funeral is funny, devastating, and exquisitely crafted. It’s even better hearing him read it aloud, which you can still do on YouTube, thanks to the magic of the internet and questionable attitudes to copyright.
1st May. Well in the words of many relatives and friends, life goes on, doesn’t it. Well, yes, for some of us it does. I shouldn’t knock it, what the hell do I expect them to say.The funeral was a real highlight. I don’t have a suit so I unpicked the badge from my conveniently black sixth form blazer. So a couple of hours later, I’d at least taught myself to sew. How’s that for silver linings?
Mark drove with me next to him behind the hearse. He was obviously a bit tense, keeping it between second and third gear, with the clutch on his Astra squeaking with every change. He said, “How about a bit of music?” and turned on the radio. It was Kylie Minogue singing ‘I should be so lucky.’ We endured about fifteen seconds of this before he said, “yeah, maybe not appropriate.” And then, rather wonderfully, he didn’t just turn the radio off. He gently turned the volume down to silence, fading Kylie’s warbling out, as if in respect for the occasion. It occurred to me that this was the single most hilarious thing I’d ever seen or heard, but we all just stared unsmilingly ahead, and I tucked it away for later. What’s that Graham Greene says about every writer having a splinter of ice in his heart? I’ve got a splinter or two in mine now. Mark, fading Kylie out, I’ve never loved him more.
Faces are even grimmer than I expected, especially when they see me. But they’re all old, and they don’t have what I have. I’ve got a school badge in my pocket.
Harriet Jane (producer) and Rufus Hound (presenter), ‘Robert Webb, My Teenage Diary’ Series 4, Episode 1, BBC Radio 4, 27 June 2012 [accessed December 2016]