Following the death a couple of days ago of the great Keith Floyd, I began to realise that we no longer mourn the passing of icons, we mourn the death of institutions. Of legends. Of eccentrics. Of the heart and soul of Britain.
Floyd was an utterly maniacal genius. He was years ahead of his time. From his humble beginnings in Somerset and Bristol, he got one of his first gigs peeling potatoes – his first “cooking” job. But he showed drive and determination to get to where he wanted to be – in front of the camera.
But why does he still get vilified even after his death? Because today’s politically correct society cannot see past the alcohol. And the smoking. And the swearing. And the womanizing. And the flippant attitude to money.
Yes, he was obnoxious, but that’s because he knew how to push people’s buttons. Yes he was offensive, but that was what his appeal was all about. No-one else could set up a field kitchen in an Italian square, despite local protestations and then proceed to rustle up an amazing risotto, even complaining along the way that the locals were making too much noise. Even when local Asian fishermen tried to charge him for cooking on a local quay he carried on regardless with his trademark bottle of wine to hand, barking orders at his cameraman who was probably fearing for his safety. Why did Floyd act like this? Because he could. Empirical attitude or not, he honestly just wanted to do the best that he could with the gifts that were given to him. He was the first of the TV chefs. And possibly still the best.
Sadly, more and more of these great British icons are disappearing from this Earth and in their place is a vacuum of personality and entertainment. Gone are the risk takers. The eccentrics. The old soaks. Why? Who knows. Even when celebrities do self destruct these days, they do it with so little charm that it becomes unsurprising, almost as if it is all an act, just to get the publicity. Look at Kerry Katona’s This Morning slurring. Jack Tweed’s (alleged) rape. Peter Andre and Jordan’s oh so public marriage and inevitable split. These are not world-weary travellers. These are not experienced hell-raisers. These are kids who got a lucky break and threw it back in the face of those who gave it to them.
It makes me sound and indeed feel old, but I can’t help but think back to a sadly bygone age. To those who gave so much to the world but who sadly get so little recognition for the great things they truly achieved.