Would Eloise Slaughter and Count Arthur Strong get on in real life? What if they – perish the thought – met up and became a couple?
The possibilities for word-mangling chaos would be never-ending. And imagine how much fun Eloise would have exploiting the title of countess, throwing her weight about in Costas and the dry cleaners.
But would it be a good idea? I took to pondering this weighty question recently (there being nothing much else going on in the world), after a generous reviewer described Eloise as ‘a malapropiste and name-dropper to rival Count Arthur Strong’.
This is not the first time the two muddled eccentrics have been compared to each other. I was bold enough to do so myself before Note to Boy was published, in a Twitter conversation with the Count himself. He observed at the time that Eloise sounded like ‘his kinda gal’. Sadly, romance never blossomed. They never had that first date.
I’ve been a fan of Count Arthur Strong since its Radio 4 days. I find the count’s brand of fuzzy wordplay and beautifully performed physicality irresistibly funny. Then the show moved to telly, and the wonderful Rory Kinnear (Black Mirror, Years and Years, Hamlet) became part of the regular cast as Michael the well-meaning but neurotic Everyman, and Graham Linehan (IT Crowd, Black Books, Father Ted) joined Steve Delaney on the scriptwriting team. My joy knew no bounds.
It’s a crying shame no Count Arthur misadventures have been available on TV to lighten our gloom during the madness of 2020. It doesn’t matter how many times I watch that memory man gag, as soon as the count puts on that red turban, I’m gone.
I’ve seen Count Arthur Strong live only once: at the Oxford Literary Festival, when he shuffled in and immediately and expertly commanded the room and wrong-footed his interviewer. It was a treat to watch him lower the tone of that normally august event.
But on the whole, for all our sakes, I think it best he and Eloise never meet.