John and Peter say Damn, it’s LEJoG Day 35
Day 35 pre-amble
Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie. Obviously. Here they are as John and Peter, Type A executives running a health club in a series of recurring sketches from A Bit of Fry and Laurie. Best remembered for John and Peter’s constant, overwrought use of “Damn!” and “Damn it!”, they are commonly referred to as the “Dammit” sketches.
And why are they here on 50FootHead? Because John and Peter’s health club is located in the town of Uttoxeter, and that’s where I finished today.
This is the script for the “Dammit” sketch I remember most fondly – turns out it’s also the first one. I haven’t been able to find a video unfortunately. Below is the excerpt which repeatedly went through my mind on Day 35:
Hugh John. Do something for me. Take a look out of this window.
Stephen What is this, Peter? Some sort of game?
Hugh No game, John. Look out there and tell me what you see.
Stephen I see a car park.
Hugh Well that’s funny, John. Because the last time you looked out of that window, you saw an idea. Don’t you remember?
Stephen Yes. I remember.
Hugh I thought so.
Stephen I remember thinking that that would be the best place for the car park.
Hugh Dammit John, I’m talking about the big idea. The dream that you and I shared. The dream of a health club that would put Uttoxeter on the goddamned map once and for all.
Sorry to all Uttoxonians, but this sketch is what your town means to me. I also love Stephen’s delivery of “car park”, which a friend and I used to imitate back in our late teens.
This has all reminded me that it’s about time I re-discovered A Bit of Fry and Laurie. Apart from John and Peter and a few catchphrases (“soupy twist”), I only have a strong memory of this and this. But while doing some brief research I began to suspect it’s actually one of the most under-rated sketch shows made by the BBC in my lifetime.
Late edit: Stephen Fry has also been President of Mind since 2011.
LEJoG Day 35 (Saturday 8 September 2018)
Rugeley to Uttoxeter (15½ miles)
Cumulative: 498 miles
Facts: Time on walk: 4 hours 5 minutes. Average speed: 3.80 mph. The fastest day so far. Weather: Overcast, drizzle, some rain (heaviest just north of Abbots Bromley and at Uttoxeter station)
Practicalities: Well, it was another night of kissing Birmingham goodbye. Went down there on Friday evening (7th), stayed at the Ibis New Street again and went to Night Owl one more time for this (the club night not the live band). Knew I wouldn’t be staying until 4am because of the walk on Saturday, but even so it was another disappointment: they didn’t even play any Primal Scream and there wasn’t enough 90s music. On the Saturday morning, checked out and caught the train to Rugeley. At the time of writing this remains the last time I was in Birmingham.
Start: Rugeley Trent Valley station, 1:40pm. End: Uttoxeter station, 6pm.
Satellite map here. OS Explorer maps used (offer still open for photo of the route): 244 Cannock Chase and Chasewater, 259 Derby (West sheet).
Made an abortive attempt to start on Blithbury Road but it was too narrow and there were no verges. Set off on the walk proper NW along Colton Road, which I followed all the way to the edge of Colton village itself. Walked through Colton on Bellamour Way and turned left into High Street. More care needs to be taken once you’ve passed the residential housing, as you’re on a downhill without pavement or verge. At the end, turned right into Newlands Lane. This is a long, reasonably wide lane with plenty of grass for you to use in avoiding traffic. It starts off heading SE then turns 90 degrees to head NE, passing a couple of farm buildings and a residence.
You’ll be on it for almost two miles before arriving at a corner. The road continues 90 degrees to the right. I went straight on through a field, expecting to find what looked like a pretty straightforward footpath route to Abbots Bromley. I should point out here that I have been following roads east of the Staffordshire Way, having been put off by other blogs (see links on Day 34) which find the Staffordshire Way frustrating and tedious to walk.
Anyway, this path was easy to start with, but once I was over the River Blithe it seemed to disappear, and as there was a herd of cows in front of me, I decided to try and head west and join up with the Staffordshire Way close to Blithfield Reservoir. This proved a fruitless endeavour, as there seemed no way through the trees on the western border of the field. So I turned round and went back to the corner of Newlands Lane, deciding to follow roads to Abbots Bromley.
Soon joined the B5014, heading north to Bromley Hurst. This was not the easiest road section I’ve put myself through: though not as stop-start as some of the roads approaching Cheddar, it did involve some awkward verge walking and timely sidesteps away from approaching traffic. I’m inclined to recommend sticking to the Staffordshire Way between Colton and Abbots Bromley, basically. The minor road (Seedcroft Lane) was much better: followed minor roads through the southernmost houses of Abbots Bromley before rejoining the B5014.
Not for long. Took the first road on the right (Harley Lane) and climbed a slight hill in fairly heavy rain, again aiming for an alternative to the Staffordshire Way. This one was much more successful and is strongly recommended. Turned right at the junction, heading for Dunstal Hall Farm and beyond to an access road into Bagot Forest. There are notices saying ‘PRIVATE’ but I am 90% sure these are for motorists, as there seem to be many walking guides to Bagot Forest and the surrounding area.
Andy Robinson, incidentally, follows the Staffordshire Way. My main reason for advocating Bagot Forest is that the path through the middle is very straight and clear, both on the ground and on OS Explorer 244. The first section isn’t clear on the linked satellite map but I assure you there is an obvious way between the farm access road and the visible path heading NNW. The disadvantage of my route is the reliance on roads for the last 3-4 miles into Uttoxeter. But that’s a matter of personal preference: on paper the Robinson/SW route seems like an infuriating succession of farms, stiles and changes of fields and I have no regrets about my choice.
Upon reaching the B5013 I turned right and followed it to just south of Willslock, before turning right into Quee Lane (sic, no ‘n’). As on Day 34 I was up against time with regard to catching the next train. A really quick last 2-3 miles would give me a chance, but the equation was even tighter than last week. This, along with Bagot Forest, probably explains why today’s leg was the fastest so far. Again I chose to avoid footpaths, sticking to roads that were plenty wide enough for me not to have to stop in order to avoid traffic. Turned left to pass Flatts Farm on the way to Highwood – this was the only uphill section after Abbots Bromley.
From here I followed the B5017 into Uttoxeter, passing the A518 roundabout and then turning right into the railway station access road. At the end of which I came across (and cue Stephen and Hugh):
John: A car park.
Peter: In Uttoxeter.
After the walk
Missed the train by less than 5 minutes.
And then it started raining.
(waited an hour for the next train to Derby, where my brother picked me up)
No Listening Pleasure incidentally – too many roads for headphones to be advisable.
A week after this walk I moved into my new house for good, six weeks after completion.
Picture of Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie as ‘John’ and ‘Peter’, from one of the “Dammit!” sketches in A Bit Of Fry and Laurie (BBC TV, 1989-1995), taken from abitoffryandlaurie.co.uk.