On Sunday, the Lady Idle's mother entertained 70 of her best friends to luncheon in her wonderful sixth-floor flat on the Thames, looking from its wide balcony deck across the water to the Hurlingham Club. With the massed ranks of row-boats for the river pageant approaching from Putney Bridge and skulling towards Wandsworth Bridge, a finer view in all England would be hard to imagine. If only the sun had shone! Nevertheless, it was utterly splendid. The Mother-in-Law had come to terms with the bitter disappointment of discovering that Her Majesty would board downstream at Cadogan Pier, and with the weather forecast in mind had prepared her drawing room for an INDOOR party. Idle himself stood ready with twenty gallons of Pimm's and an acceptable Cape Chenin Blanc; he knew where the gin bottle was, to enhance Commander Idle's Pimm's with more spirit, if necessary.
Anyway, we watched the rowers, the Dunkirk boats, the leisurecraft, the longboats and the assorted flotsam and jetsam of this glorious and unrepeatable fleet come by. Mercifully, the rain stayed off for our deck-bound spectating and we repaired inside for lunch and to watch the progression of the fleet on a large telly.
It was at this stage that Idle found himself in conversation with the first and great man of BBC outside broadcasts, Peter Dimmock CBE CVO. Peter it was, who after covering himself in glory as an RAF pilot and instructor in WW2, joined the BBC, one of many 'can-do' types who revolutionised Auntie in the post war years, in all the right directions. This is the man who was responsible for broadcasting Her Majesty's Coronation in 1953 and the first televised Grand National in 1960. He started Sports Personality of the Year in 1956, Sportsview in time for live coverage of Banister's 4-minute mile and also Grandstand, presenting the first shows himself before handing over to David Coleman. He is, to use the Highland terminology, a horse's cock of a man, and I am proud to know him.
We watched and listened in horror as the BBC's pretty imbeciles made the most dreadful hash of it all. I turned to Peter and asked him if he felt that they had somewhat misjudged the occasion. "Utterly", the great man replied. "If there was ever an event where pictures speak louder than words, this is it. Anything else one would wish to add should be informative, delivered by experts. The link-man should be authoritative, respectful and of good spirits, but unseen. It's not about the BBC people, it's about the Queen". This quote may not be word-for-word, but an honest representation.
This is the man who employed Harry Carpenter, Henry Longhurst, Dan Maskell, Bill Maclaren and all of the other brilliant commentators who survived at least twenty five years in their jobs and won thousands of plaudits and barely a criticism. One thing they didn't do was witter inanely.
At 92, sharp as a tack, Peter has forgotten more than the current overpaid meeja generation at the BBC have ever discovered.