As the saying goes… the best things in life are free. This is the basis of comedian and TV presenter, Mel Giedroyc’s book The Best Things which tells the story of Sally Parker and her family after her husband’s loses his business, all their savings and their home and draws on her inner qualities to get them back on track. Talking at Henley Literary Festival Mel said, “Writing a book has been brewing away for about 11 years and I’ve talked to friends about writing a book for a long time. I turned 50 and just thought I need to put the words into action.”
Mel’s “Bez” Mary Berry was in the front row for the interview. She started by saying, “I wore shoes instead of trainers because Mary was going to here. I’m slightly worried though about the gap between the shoe and the trousers!”
Mel thought her writing experience would be like drinking mint tea, wrapped in a pashmina, sitting on large wicker chair with Radio 4 in the background but it was instead written in Ealing library for four months as she got distracted at home. She commented, “I had to be first in the queue every day to get one of the two comfortable blue spongy chairs!
The idea for the book came from a past personal experience. Mel said, “Being in the world of show business is like feast or famine. About 15 years ago Sue (Perkins) and I got a Kingsmill bread TV advert which was just 2 days work a year but paid enough to live on for a year. I thought we would be doing Kingsmill ads until we’re 75 and living in Henley!” Unfortunately the job only lasted 2 years and she and her husband had to downsize and go back to renting a small flat. She explained, “We had a massive mortgage on a stupid big house. We paid the rent each month by driving up the A1 with cash in a brown envelope and handing it over to man on the side of the road.”
Mel has recorded the book on Audible herself. She apologised for Frank, the husband’s character in the book sounding like “David Essex.”
Asked what Mel’s career high was, Mel replied, “There she is” pointing at Mary in the audience. “It was good fun. 7 years – who knew? We didn’t! Series 1 was a shambolic (I speak for myself; Mary of course was very professional). We thought we were doing a funny little show in a tent. Then this mad thing happened. After filming series one I was on the phone to Sue saying, oh my god what have we done? We’re supposed to be cutting edge comedians and we’ve done this weird show with cakes. I remember saying to Sue don’t worry no one will watch it, this show god love its soul, will go so far under the radar. We had so much fun – a lot of teasing, playing odd card games and trying to get Paul Hollywood off the telly watching Top Gear or F1 which was so boring.”
She has been mates with Sue Perkins since Uni. The both nearly gave it all up in 1997 after doing Edinburgh for 8 years and a few other bit jobs. Mel was doing 2 pub jobs and Sue was selling cleaning products door to door. Mel explained, “I sat her down and said I can’t do this anymore. I’ve got to get a proper job. Then we got a call from our agent saying that there was a new Channel 4 daytime show looking for married couples or double-acts to audition. We said, we’re not going to do that. Daytime sorry – NO! The agent said you will go to that audition as you’re £5,000 in debt. We didn’t want to go and we were totally badly behaved liked teenagers as we didn’t want to be there. We were one of two pilots, we got a £400 budget and the married couple got £100k was spent on theirs. This was to be Mel and Sue’s big break; Light Lunch and the rest is history.