Gyles Brandreth has been entertaining Brits for decades - charming multiple generations on shows such as Just A Minute, The One Show, Celebrity Gogglebox and Countdown.
His many books include a series of novels featuring his fellow wit Oscar Wilde and a recent best-selling celebration of good punctuation, spelling and grammar, Have you Eaten Grandma?
His latest offering is the anthology Dancing by the Light of the Moon, which celebrates the magic of learning poetry by heart.
‘Words have been my life,’ Gyles says during this episode’s conversation. He also describes bookshops as ‘safe havens in an uncivilised world’ and talks of his time in government, during the 1990s, when his remit at the Department of Culture included crafting policy for libraries.
Gyles lives in West London and selected Barnes Bookshop, run by Venetia Vyvyan, as his home-from-home venue for Ex Libris.
It is a beautiful local bookshop of more than 30 years’ standing. When making that choice, Gyles described Venetia as ‘a model of everything a brilliant independent bookseller should be.’
A full transcript of this episode of Ex Libris, featuring Gyles Brandreth, runs below:
Gyles Brandreth has been entertaining Brits for decades and his broadcasting brilliance continues to charm multiple generations, be it on ‘Just a Minute’, ‘The One Show’, ‘Celebrity Gogglebox’ or his regular appearances on the likes of ‘QI’ and ‘Have I Got News for you’. Gyles is also an actor and Chancellor of the University of Chester. He served in government as Lord Commissioner of the Treasury. It is primarily his writer hat, though, that I want him to don today. Charles’s many books include a series of novels about his fellow wit, Oscar Wilde, and a recent best-selling celebration of good punctuation, spelling and grammar, ‘Have you eaten grandma’? His latest offering is the anthology ‘Dancing by the Light of the Moon’, which celebrates the magic of learning poetry by heart. Gyles lives in West London and has selected Barnes bookshop run by Venetia Vyvyan as his home from home for today. When making the choice, Gyles described Venetia to me as: “a model of everything a brilliant independent bookseller should be”.
So here's a really bad, unwitty, little poem for you:
“lest there be repetition, or repetition
or dread deviation, oh, and by the way, we happen to be recording this on Valentine's Day,
let alone hesitation,
let's commence this very minute... the conversation."
Gyles, Venetia, thank you so much for seeing us here in beautiful Barnes bookshop today. Gyles, question number one, obviously, is why Barnes bookshop, it was the first place you wanted to come to today?
Because I love a bookshop, anyway. A bookshop for me is one of the safe havens in an uncivilised world. If one is feeling low, you've got to walk down the high street or side street, or whatever, and find a bookshop. And suddenly, as you go through the door, you'll feel less low. As you begin to browse the shelves, your spirits lift. As you come down into the basement of this bookshop, you think, “Oh, the world's a good place. After all, everything's all right”. And that's been part and parcel of my life, all my life.
As a child, I was brought up in London, and Barnes is in south-west London, and it's south of the river. And, of course, until I was an adult, I'd never been south of the river, didn't think one dared go south of the river; and I was brought up really in the West End; my parents lived in a block of flats, Victorian mansion flats, in Baker Street. Near us there was a bookshop called ‘Bumpus’, older listeners will remember Bumpus, but almost all your listeners really, whatever vintage, will remember ‘Foyles’. ‘Foyles’ bookshop still exists on the Charing Cross road, they now have other branches, but when I was a boy,