I saw the title in the Radio 4 schedules back in 1979 and was curious. But I didn’t get round to listening to it until I received a prompt on my last day of the LawTutors course in Solicitors’ Accounts. One of our two lecturors, knowing that they would have no further chance to influence us, told the class of this book that featured in this radio series. He wanted us to take to heart the words printed on the front of the book, in large, friendly letters: Don’t Panic.
I missed my chance on Sunday, because I forgot. A week of revision followed, and on the Sunday I caught the coach from Nottingham, where I was living, to Mancchester, where I was doing the exam on Monday. Coach to Stockport, bus to home, for my mother and sister were away, the exam coinciding with their August holiday in the Lakes.
I got in, and I put on the radiogram to listen to Fit the Fifth, the fifth episode of The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy. And I laughed like a drain.
That was forty years ago. I’ve long since ceased to find THHGTG anything like as funny as I did than and for a decade or so later, though Douglas Adams’ humour is by far the most obvious influence on mine. And I have quoted more lines from Hitch-Hiker, and more often, than anything other thing I have heard, seen or read.
Last week, Friday 4 October, Stephen Moore died, though I have only learned that this evening. He would have been 82 in December. He played one of the funniest roles ever on British radio, that of Marvin the Paranoid Android. Just say that name and listen to it. The very idea is funny. Adams’ creation of Marvin, the words he wrote for Marvin to say, or rather to grumble, to moan, to emit wearily, are funny. But in Stephen Moore, they found the perfect, lugubrious voice to make you collapse in uncontrollable laughter.
Marvin and Stephen Moore were one of the things the Twentieth Century will be known by. It hurts that he has been one a week and this is the first I’ve known of it. Such losses cannot be borne in silence.
Thank you Stephen Moore. And now, at long last, I trust you are finally free of that terrible pain in all the diodes down your left side…