The Keith conspiracy, I think you will find, began in the early 1980s. It was during this time that Keith Waterhouse introduced two fictitious shop assistants to his newspaper column and called them Sharon and Tracy. This might not mean anything to you but to all of us adolescent Shazs and Traces, it made life pretty unbearable for a while. He was not the only Keith doing his best to blight the lives of paranoid, pubescent Fourth Formers at the time.
The late Lord Joseph, the then Minister for Education, pulled a blinder with the three years of teachers’ strikes during which time I had no English teacher (others were missing Maths teachers, French teachers, History teachers or Biology teachers; none of us was exempt). Actually, to be fair, it might not have been entirely his fault: it may have been because he was under the Iron Lady’s thumb at the time, but I dont care. I hate Keiths and hate is blind.
Despite having missed certain basic grounding in the rudiments of English (commas, colons, verbs – that sort of thing – nothing serious), I then proceeded to try my hand at writing, starting with a few letters to newspapers… only to find that a certain Keith Flett of Tottenham has the monopoly on Letters to Editors. Which is just like a Keith.
The whole thing about the derogatory neologism Sharon and Tracy was that it was impersonal – it was used as a catch-all phrase to imply any number of things. However, in attempting to paint a picture of the definitive Keith, it’s time to get personal: it’s time to name those Keiths! The next that springs to mind is Keith Floyd, the eponymous presenter of Floyd on Fish(who bears an uncanny resemblance to a tipsy turbot himself on occasions).
Other Keiths who fall into the Keith category include: a clutch of cricketers (Keiths: Piper, Miller, Arthurton, Savage and Fletcher), a game so tedious they had to invent the One Day Test; a monotony of MPs (Keiths: Hill, Langford, Bradley, Vaz, Hampson, Speed, and Best); a rill of Rugby players (Keiths: Rowlands, Richardson and Wood); and a mutiny of music murderers.
Two of the music murderers are jazz musicians (Keiths: Jarrett and Tippett); the latter of whom plays that idiosyncratic style known as ‘free jazz’ in a band called Mujcian. Other music murderers include Keith ‘Firestarter’ Flint of The Prodigy, Keith Harris and that awful Orville (duck-a-la-vert) and Keith Haymer. Keith who? I hear you ask. Keith Haymer from Derby – you know the one – he liked the music that accompanies TV test card transmissions so much… he started a fan club.
Which is just the sort of things Keiths do. Or collect stamps. Or spot trains. Or play Trivial Pursuit at competitive level and bore even the pub quiz team with their relentless parade of useless facts and figures. Is it any wonder that the media tycoon Keith Murdoch prefers to be known by his middle name, Rupert?
Of course there are individuals called Sharon and Trac(e)y who do not conform to type, as there are many worthy and respectable Keiths but if we are going to be nameist, then there is little purpose in examining them – it would defeat the whole object of the exercise. As Keith Waterhouse himself said, when I asked him if he received many letters from Sharons and Tracys: ‘I always point out it could be worse – they could have a boyfriend called Keith’. Quite.
Anyone fancy writing a sitcom? I understand Keith Chegwin is available…