Whatever the late Keith Floyd protested about his poor and humble upbringing, there was a permanently evident vein of the old-money, old-school, upper-class isolation from day-to-day reality that divides the few from the many.
It seemed that Keith’s underlying skill was surrounding himself with people who dealt with the chaos that orbited him.Towards the end of his recently curtailed life, Keith lived in Avignon in a farmhouse due for reposession by his fourth and most recent ex-wife. Divorce costs, in every sense, and although he fought to maintain the emotional ebullience he was noted for, in Keith Allen’s documentary it was obivous that he was becoming aware of the Tsunami of consequence that was rising before him. A lifetime’s self indulgence, briefly crossing and reacting with the lives of others. He was charming, and stylish and greatful for the attention and angry and bitter and rude, all at the same time. There was some of the Keith Floyd who got me interested in food; the Keith I remember offering a veiled apology for thickening a stew with boar’s blood; the Keith who was never afraid to admit ‘I’ve fucked this one up Clive!’; the Keith who looked straight into the camera and said “I drink a bit, I smoke cigarettes but it’s my life and that’s the way I want it”.
It’s the last quote that shouts loudest. He may have wanted the fags and booze, but the rest of the emotional carnage? The bitterness at the success of others, thinly disguised as an assault on ‘their obsession with telly rather than food’, the failed marriages and businesses, the plainly antagonistic relationship with his daughter who seem to be doing her best to come terms with his lifestyle whilst maintaining some stability in her own? No-one wants to live like that and it seemed that Keith was resigned to ending his days on the same terms. As Emmanuel Shadrack says in Billy Liar “There’s no point living in one style and dying in another”.
Now, having said all this, I didin’t know Keith Floyd personally, I never had to deal with him on any level and, therefore, I have the privilege of the television viewer’s relationship that can be intiated, terminated, revisited and selectively recalled. Without Keith Floyd’s television programs, my love of food wouldn’t have begun or grown, or developed into a core part of my life. A joy that I can share with others.
I’m a terrible musician, I have no sporting ability, but – and here I cast aside the modesty yashmak – thanks to the early influence of Keith Floyd, I’m a bloody good cook. Not a Chef, or molecuar gastronomist, or fascinateur de cuisine. I’m a cook; and I’m a cook who’ll miss you Keith – Cheers!