Alan Partridge: let us pray

In my latest Alan Partridge related imagining, the noted broadcaster and prominent Norfolk intellectual visits a house of God.

Recently I became a little closer to God. I had been meaning to attend church for absolutely ages – not simply because I am a deeply spiritual being, but because it’s a great place to rub shoulders with do-gooding corporate heavy-hitters from the immediate residential vicinity. And, given that I live in a five bedroom tudor-esque detached house with off-street parking plus water feature to the rear, you’re obviously talking crème de la crème (special shout out to Simon Denton for helping me figure out the grave accent in ‘crème’ on my keyboard – I inserted the third one unaided). Due to my increased radio output in recent years, I suddenly realised I had been neglecting the commercial side of Brand Partridge. After all, ripples are still being felt years on from my game-changing management workshops with Bostik, Rymans and NPP Escrow. I decided that Easter Sunday would be the ideal time to make my appearance at worship, as the weeks leading up to that tend to be a bit of a downer congregation-wise.

I have been criticised for my dress sense at religious gatherings in the past. For example, the Castrol GTX bomber jacket I wore to the funeral of Tony Hayers caused quite the stir – which I felt was a bit narrow-minded to be honest. The jacket, which was not only the requisite colour (a frequently overlooked fact), also provided onlookers with some pretty critical information. It said “this is a man who understands the principles of automotive engine lubrication, and has the wherewithal to provide vital direction to any nearby mechanics should the funeral procession encounter any unexpected difficulties”. But, alas, no. Even Hayers’ widow was oblivious to this subtle but key item of Mourner Comms; not to mention unappreciative of my generous words of comfort.

That said, I decided to keep it unbranded this time – not simply because the jacket in question was lent to a former love interest at my local Laser Quest some years ago and never returned, but also because it was boiling that weekend and I had decided on a look which I like to call ‘David Niven khaki’. My lemon cravat and leather-canvas combination slip-ons tied the casually sophisticated ensemble together beautifully.

I arrived at the church an hour early and took a seat near the aisle, knowing that any arriving persons of import would take keen note of my presence immediately. I slouched back and started to leaf through a musty hymnal inconspicuously. Over the next sixty minutes, as the church slowly filled around me, I realised that not approaching Alan Partridge in a house of God is in fact the most appropriate course of (in)action. I looked around me at the hushed congregation and nodded in a silent gesture of respect as the priest began his mumbled oratory.

Soon the musical interludes chimed in, and I was soothed into a holy trance. Songs of praise were nothing new to me. Indeed, the popular TV show, Songs Of Praise, once provided the soundtrack to many a pleasant Sunday evening at Chez Partridge. Wearing my favourite suede cardigan and faux leather slippers, I would have it on in the background while I searched all of the papers for mention of yours truly whilst sipping from a glass of Oddbins’ ‘Wine Of The Week’. Carol was usually in the other room, too busy getting stuck into the gin to assist in my Alan-spotting. I must say, Songs Of Praise’s change in format at the end of 2014 seriously fucked me off. So much so, I just don’t watch it any more. You just don’t mess with a tried and tested formula like that. And for the record, that genuinely has nothing to do with my failed bid to produce the show when it got put out to tender by the BBC in an unprecedented move. The BBC’s recent decision to start working with external producers on flagship programmes began with A Question Of Sport, which I famously declined to pitch for after spilling a glass of Rosé on Sue Barker’s left tit at Mark Petchey’s annual Davis Cup Final barbeque (again, props to Denton for assistance with acute accent in ‘Rosé’).

I’ll be honest and say that the ceremony was unremarkable. Partially because of the un-engaging nature of the priest’s delivery, but also because I kept nodding off. I would wake up with a start every so often (normally having been prodded awake by the chap whose shoulder I was resting my head on), feeling as though I had been out for hours. Then I would glance at my watch to discover only two or three minutes had passed. It soon became torturous, but I had to stay until the end, for fear of being branded a fair-weather worshipper if I left early. Then, as the final hymn came to a withering end, I noticed Mark Channing from my local Kwik Fit centre across the aisle a few rows back. In the world of fast-fit tyre centre networks, this guy is one seriously big swinging cock (and, I don’t mind saying, balls). We had met a few months back at a Legionnaire’s disease fundraiser but had never gotten past the standard pleasantries. I shot a jovial wink in his direction. After allowing an appropriate pause given the surroundings, he nodded back. It was now or never for me to ingratiate myself religion-wise. I burst into song, passionately breaking into my favourite number from Sister Act 2: Back In The Habit, ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’. My singing voice is one of the lesser appreciated facets of Brand Partridge. It’s made its appearances over the years; most famously when I delivered my triumphant ABBA medley duet with the dismally-prepared Gina Langland on my primetime BBC chat show. But over the years, a combination of graceful ageing, primal scream therapy and deteriorating air quality in the North Norfolk area have given my singing voice a distinctively luxurious, leathery tone. Similarly, my dancing has been an oft-overlooked skillset; also demonstrated effortlessly some years ago alongside Langland. I stood out in to the aisle to complete the short routine, ending in a perfect flourish as my leather soled shoes glided over the hallowed marble surface, stopping just short of an errant toddler’s midriff.

The stunned silence was literally palpable. Then, a solitary clap of hands began from somewhere at the back. The prolonged time allowed between each clap made it all the more incredulous. It continued for a few seconds before dwindling. Instead of joining in, the rest of the congregation simply stared at me! This failure to follow suit and join in was genuinely surprising, especially given the local community’s ready access to passable tertiary education. But I decided to be the bigger man and not react – save but for a perfunctory scowl at the suitably desiccated sacristan. I turned to look at Channing who, to be fair, was beaming. The priest simply announced an end to proceedings. To be fair, you couldn’t have expected a man of his age to appreciate contemporary performance art. As the saying goes, “you can please some of the people some of the time…”.

I waited outside to greet Channing and discuss potential collaboration, but he must use the side door because I didn’t see him. I left the sacred grounds shortly after. I didn’t bump into anyone else noteworthy but I was satisfied in the knowledge that, at least to the moderately tuned-in, I had made my mark on the parishioners.