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Comedy on Radio 4: How Dave against the Machine came to be written

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Dave Lamb 17:52, Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Dave Lamb

Editor's note: A new comedy for Radio 4, Dave against the Machine starts this Thursday night at 11.00pm written by and starring Dave Lamb. We asked Dave where the idea for Dave against the Machine came from. This is what he sent us.

I am best known as 'that sarcastic bloke who takes the mickey out of people's scallops on Come Dine With Me'. From my voice on that programme, not my normal voice, people deduce that I am a camp, confident man (with a moustache strangely enough) who sits in a small cupboard and passes judgement on the disturbed. In reality though, if anyone's a bit disturbed, it's me.

About three years ago I realised I had become frightened of the world.

A number of incidents over a number of years had contributed to this state of affairs, some real, some imagined, but there it was. And this realisation left me with two options: either I could curl up in a ball under a duvet until all the bad things had gone away or I could try to make a joke out of it.

Dave against the Machine is my attempt to pursue the latter course.

It all began on Wednesday 20th September 2000 at 10 o'clock at night when there was a mortar attack on the MI6 building in London. I was living opposite it at the time and in the immediate aftermath of the incident my flat was within the cordoned-off area. When the news broke I headed home to see what was going on and as I approached the police tape near Lambeth Bridge on the opposite side of the river to the Houses of Parliament I passed two men heading in the other direction. One of the men had a large tube over his shoulder. Both were laughing. Now I don't know much about bomb-making but I suspect that to launch a mortar bomb you probably need a length of pipe and I'd imagine that if you have just scored a direct hit on your target you'd be laughing.

As soon as I arrived at the scene I reported my information to the first police officer I came across. He thanked me for my vigilance and said that someone might be in touch with me at a later stage for a formal statement.

The cold, steel grip of fear. I immediately imagined myself in a courtroom stood opposite terrorists waiting to be charged. Several of their associates waiting to silence me if the verdict went the wrong way, silence me even if it didn't. I waited for the follow up call. I waited all night, wide awake, occasionally whimpering - nothing. The next morning the sound of the phone's ring shot through me like a bolt of electricity. Sweating and with a quivering hand I reached for the receiver and lifted it to my ear.

They had been two architects on their way home from the pub. The policeman thanked me once again for my vigilance. This is clearly something they have to say because they were keen to thank me the next time I phoned them as well - I'd seen two men digging in St. James's Park (a fingertip search of the area I'd indicated yielded nothing) - and also the time after that - I'd seen a man with a holdall walking down the railway line outside Waterloo station (he worked for Network Rail).

Over the years, the Climate of Fear got to me. I finally realised I had to do something about the situation though when a man stopped me in Clapham and asked me to start his car while he tinkered with the engine. I refused. I immediately assumed he had stolen the car in order to commit some dreadful atrocity in it and wanted me to put my fingerprints all over the interior to give him an alibi and put me in the frame for whatever he was about to do. I walked away from the man quickly, even breaking into an embarrassing little trot if I remember rightly. I had lost my grip.

But rather than heading to my bed for a month, I invented Dave Railings, a man who is more frightened even than I am at my lowest moments. And the fact that Dave is now out there saying all the embarrassing things that I sometimes think, but which I realise make me sound a bit like a paranoid lunatic, is a great comfort. Is Dave Railings right or wrong to be so frightened? Well, that remains to be seen...

Dave Lamb is an actor, writer and voice-over artist.

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