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Wednesday 4th September 2019


Chris Evans (not that one) and his band of misfits (his son and a cameraman) turned up at my house today to film the stone clearing video extra that has been promised to the backers of the last Kickstarter campaign. I was a bit worried that the increased focus on the field after the Great Ftone Field Fire might mean we were discovered and my whole secret stone clearing project would be brought to a halt and indeed as we came over the brow of the hill in the first five minutes of filming we saw more vehicles parked up on the stony soil, clearly full of official persons examining the damage. We turned in the other direction to except the possible Ftone Ftafi, but I was tenterhooks for the rest of the amble round the field.
The video gives a very false idea of both the ease and the difficulty of stone clearing. The  newly ploughed section were throwing up stones like Mount Vesuvius in 79AD, but with less deadly ash and heat and evaporating people. And the non-ploughed section were covered in straw and stones were largely invisible to the human eye (though a light morning rain had at least softened the earth). Still with the fire damage still visible, it did give the viewer a real idea of the extremes of stone clearing and why it’s the fastest growing stone-based hobby/occupation in the UK today.
The cars drove past us at one point and I suspect the driver of one was the farmer who owned the field, but he gave us only a cursory glance. Later a woman would shout at us from a garden asking us what we were doing, but I suspect she thought we were from the insurance company or maybe I was a reporter from the national news. I told her I was filming a comedy for the internet, though this was very much a lie. There is nothing funny about stone clearing.
Being filmed and observed clearing stones shook my faith in the practice a little. At times I felt what I was doing was stupid, pointless and embarrassing and not really something a 52 year old man should be wasting his time on. But these are just normal doubts that any stone clearer will occasionally have. We all know that what I am doing here has an epochal importance and will ensure that my name (and perhaps my stone body) shall never die.
We did a bit more filming for the next Kickstarter campaign, which launches very soon and has some awesome rewards and Chris dumped a load of unsold Emergency Questions books in my garage and then they were off with their van once full of merchandise now with just two bags of stones gathered from the field. If you stumped up for a stone or a signed snooker ball, you are not going to believe how great the display case is. You made a wise choice. People might laugh at you from buying a stone from a field, but they laughed at Jack for swapping a cow for some beans didn’t they?
Tonight I went to a screener of Chris Morris’ new film “The Day Shall Come” which is funny and depressing and weird in equal measure. That it is based on true stories is even more remarkable. You’ve got to see it when it comes out.
I went for a drink with Chris and some others afterwards. I haven’t seen him properly for a couple of decades and even in the days of On The Hour he was very much his own force, working on his bits elsewhere and remaining the mysterious maverick that you know and love. He’s a very charming man in real life, but curious and fiercely intelligent. I have, of course, asked him to be on RHLSTP and he has, not unexpectedly, said it’s not his thing, though I think he is impressed by what I have created here. I found it quite surprising that Chris could stand in a pub in central London and not be approached by any jittering strangers telling him what a genius he is, but nowadays much of his work is behind the scenes and I suspect that those that do recognise him from his TV work are intimidated by him. And that’s probably why no one came up to bother me either. Definitely that.
I have been lucky to work, if sometimes obliquely, with some of the greatest comedy minds of my generation. I am sure they all feel privileged to have worked with me in return.
How Chris and Armando and Coogan must envy my podcast empire, when all they have is their movies and awards. If only Chris had known I spent the morning being filmed clearing stones and being scared of a woman in her garden then I think he might have been too intimidated to talk to me.
Who is the real comedy genius here though?
It’s Chris Morris. That was quite an easy one.

RHLSTP with Stephen Grant is now up here on audio

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