Noxback

Against, what would usually be, his better judgement, Seb has remained on the edge of his seat eager to hear what it is that has been dug up about his ancestors.

It’s been a good quarter of an hour since he demanded they shoot whatever they’ve got without knowing what it is and during that time he’s dared to hope, to dream. It could be anything and so he’s imagined all sorts of wild and wonderful possibilities. He knows he shouldn’t have but he simply couldn’t help himself. This is his shot, it could return him to the big time, put him back on top, allow him to earn huge sums of money once again.

You might be sitting there thinking, but money isn’t everything. If you ever said that to Sebastien Knox he’d say that’s because you’ve no brain cells. He’d also say that money is everything and that he should know because he’s earned far more than most, and seen the benefits it brings as a result.

Nevertheless, everything is now ready and so they begin with Matthias the ‘historian’ asking, “Have you ever heard mention in your family of a Jonathan Noxton.”

Wide eyed and eager Seb admits, “No, never.”

A smile slips across the fake historians face as he continues with the notes provided to him by Mary, the real historian.

These notes are hidden by a thick tome Matthias has hold of which is angled just right so no one will be the wiser regarding him reading off a piece of note paper wedged inside rather than from the book itself. It’s a piece of TV magic that when you know how it’s done is not magical at all. Usually, it would be the sort of thing which would shatter the illusion for Seb but he couldn’t care less. He long since lost any interest in the ‘magic’ used to achieve certain things in TV. Though, this is probably the first real reaction he’s had since he first started as a presenter back when he’d been twenty two years of age.

“Well, they were your eleventh great grandfather…” For some reason Seb thinks that doesn’t sound right. And wonders if it should it be said eleventh? He hasn’t a clue but doesn’t want to ruin the flow they’ve got going and so shoves the concern from his mind and returns to the information being delivered by Matthias.

“…he lived in a village known as Washall during the reign of King Charles.”

Eyebrows raised Seb has to admit that he has never once heard of a place called Washall. He doesn’t think this is all made up but for the first time it strikes him that there is the possibility that it is. Just so the episode can be completed and TVC have something to air for the slot when it comes.

He hopes he’s wrong but keeps it in mind in case he has to later rail against TVC for falsifying history simply to get viewership. It wouldn’t be the first time the network has been guilty of such things. Though truthfully, they’ve all done it. You name a station they’ve lied about something, at some time, and if any claim they haven’t, they’re lying and somewhere there are sealed files to prove it. Principally, these files are of the legal, swept under the carpet, variety but they exist. They have to. The legal system refuses to not keep records, which is why sealing exists, at least in Seb’s mind that is why. He’s no lawyer, barrister, judge, but he’s been around long enough to know about the sorts of things that go on. And why wouldn’t they, big money is involved.

And if you think millions for a presenter, which is what Seb used to command before his slump, is outrageous then you should hear about what else goes on because the pay for presenters is nothing compared to programme and department budgets.

“Gotta say I’ve never heard of Washall…” The presenter admits.

He would like to add a query about what happened to it but without knowing what is written on that note Matthias is working off he feels it better not to.

Mercifully, Mary has covered them, which is why Matthias informs, “Sadly it succumbed during a string of plagues several centuries after King Charles’ reign. Tragic really the details but that isn’t why we’re here.”

For a fact Seb knows that last line is pure Matthias. It’s the sort of thing only a seasoned TV professional would add, not a historian. The presenter wonders how he ever fell for the act. He doesn’t know but believes it doesn’t rightly matter so long as the people at home buy it.

“The reason it’s of importance is because it used to lie on the main road between the Palace of Westminster and Windsor.”

Seb is entirely back on board now with no worries that this is somehow all some concoction of a writers mind. It’s why if you were to look at him you would see he is enthralled.

Feeling like a kid in a sweetshop he waits with bated breath as though he is soon to be handed the keys and allowed to run amock.

The ‘historian’ continues, adding a large amount of background detail that doesn’t particularly interest Seb though does nothing to stop him uttering, “Yes, yes…” because he wants, no needs, to know more. To find out what this has to do with a claim to fame that the actual historian mentioned. And his hope is that these utterances will urge Matthias along.

Honestly, they have little effect to the journey he is taking everyone upon for the episode is meant to inform and entertain the viewers, not Seb. He is simply the point from which everything originates, not the focus. History is the focus here and the people who are now a part of it. Doubtful, Matthias thinks, Sebastien Knox would ever manage to get that into his head.

“And on one of these days during the life of Jonathan Noxton, your ancestor, King Charles came riding through on his way to or from, we cannot say, Windsor…”

The presenter feels his heart skip a beat. He can see it now, his eleventh great grandfather met with King Charles, spoke with him, maybe served him in some capacity. It’s why he feels stuffed to bursting with pride, a warm internal smile having scaled over the relief that had first broken through the lingering effects of the despair which had previously remained for far longer than he would like to admit.

Who cares? Is the exclamation in his head which soon fires and Seb is inclined to agree that it doesn’t matter for it seems he was worried, fearful really, over nothing at all. That is until Matthias informs, “Which was the day Jonathan died…”

“What?” Seb blurts unable to contain his shock, his not long since returned pride evaporating into smoke only to be replaced by deep troughs of concern he thinks would equal the Grand Canyon.

It could be he died in battle. Don’t overreact. Listen to what the man has to say. Keep cool. Stay calm.

But he’s not even a historian! The real one is stood out of shot barely interested in what’s going on as she messes about on her phone occasionally glancing up and rolling her eyes. Yes, Seb has noticed Mary’s reaction to what is unfolding.

She doesn’t get the point in all this showy nonsense. That isn’t what history is about at all. It’s about the events, the facts, the remains, the discoveries but this is television. Though, her mood would be less scathing if she were where she was meant to be today, at the races with friends. That is who she’s messaging and why her attention is focused toward her phone more than what is unfolding in studio nine.

After all, she knows what’s jotted down on that note hidden from the camera that Matthias is reading from, because she is the one who wrote it down as it was relayed to her by one of her colleagues.

You see, Mary heads a small team of historians who to earn supplemental income work for TVC so that they have the revenue they need to stay afloat.

“Yes, I’m afraid the day King Charles rode through Washall is also the day your ancestor died.”

The on-screen historian makes sure to use the appropriate facial expressions and tone of voice to ensure they accurately convey sadness, remorse and regret.

Something tells Seb that is all it is, an act; rather than Matthias being truly sorrowful regarding the fate of Sebastien’s very long departed ancestor Jonathan Noxton. Still, the presenter wonders when the name changed from Noxton to Knox. Was it following Jonathan’s death or is it entirely unrelated? He cannot say. He does not know. Part of his, a tiny speck, wishes he did.

“How?” Is all the presenter manages in reply wishing the ‘historian’ would get to the details sooner rather than later. Damn the suspense for TV, he wants to know the cause.

“Well…” Matthias has to stifle a chuckle for he is aware of what the reason for Jonathan Noxton’s demise is before. “…it seems while riding through Washall, King Charles’ horse… Well, there is no easy way of saying this…”

If Seb could he’d like to reach over the table between him and Matthias to force the words out of the man by strangling him. That wouldn’t help at all and so he waits, impatiently for the man opposite to get to the point.

“…the horse threw a shoe.” Seb still hasn’t a clue what that has to do with anything, which is why his face remains contorted waiting for…

“Said shoe… hit your ancestor between the eyes, killing him.” Again Matthias is forced to stifle a laugh by opting to cough into his closed fist. It works and also hides just enough of his face so that the camera does not catch the wry smile that has slide into place.

Seb meanwhile having heard those words, deflates, but manages, “Is that it?”

He’d been expecting so much more than this, than his great grandfather some stupid number of generations back having died because a kings horse threw a shoe which hit him in the head. Honestly, he can’t believe that that is the only thing the historian, still busy with her phone, could find about his ancestors.

There has to be some kind of mistake. This has to be some sort of joke. If it is he doesn’t get it. To him it isn’t funny, not at all. In fact, he feels like wringing somebody’s neck and would if he could summon the energy, but alas he can’t and so is forced to wait for a reply from the ‘historian’ sat across from him. His mind poking fun and reminding him how he knew this was a bad idea but did it anyway.

Still he cannot stop himself from rambling, “Is that my families claim to fame? A relative died because a king’s horse lost a shoe?”

He doesn’t think he could feel lower, filled with more despair, than he does right now.

“No, there’s more.” Is the utterance which seems to come out of nowhere.

Instantly, Seb perks up feeling a glimmer of hope. He knows he shouldn’t but he can’t help or stop himself. And then for a second time his hopes are dashed like a ship in a storm against jagged coastal rocks when Matthias adds that the death of Jonathan Noxton was, “…the start of what has since become known as life insurance.”

Without thinking Seb’s head drops, low. He’s given up. Can take no more of this… he can’t think of the right word, mockery maybe, he isn’t sure other than to say that today has been a complete waste of time.

Time is something he feels he is going to have a great deal of from now on, and to make matters worse the crew are killing themselves with laughter, raucous and loud.

At least someone is getting a laugh out of the train wreck that is his life, even though this isn’t about his life at all but the humorous tragedy of one of his ancestors.

“There’s also you the story of your fifth great grandmother…”

Hearing those words does nothing to wrench Seb from his defeat. He doesn’t want nor dare to hope. He expects if he does it’ll only be dashed for a third time, which is why he sarcastically blurts, “Did she inadvertently bring about the invention of the lock?”

“Better.” Is the reply from Matthias who sounds more upbeat than at any point previously while being gestured to, oblivious.

For reasons he cannot give Seb again dares to hope. It’s an even smaller spark this time, which would barely be worth taking note of under different circumstances he thinks.

Sadly, again the spark is dosed when the ‘historian’ realising his blunder and blushing because of it, the one which was the cause of the gesturing, mutters, “Oh no, wait. Sorry, this isn’t your fifth great grandmother at all.”

A fresh raucous explosion of laughter erupts from the crew. Yet, it is the people at home when the episode airs who are the loudest of all as they cry hearing all of this.

You see, TVC decided to broadcast the car crash of an episode having concluded that it helped humanise Sebastien Knox; a man who during his career has become known for having an, on and off screen, persona which is best termed as obnoxious and odious. It’s largely why his career has been in steep decline and why most loath him whether they have met or simply seen him presenting with what became his trademark condescension which he never failed to exhibit while issuing questions to guests as if they matter not a dot compared to his own brilliance.

Quite miraculously the airing of that episode has indeed revitalised his career. So much so that now Seb is receiving more offers than he has ever before, to the point that he has no choice but to turn many of them down.

Thankfully, he too has changed his attitude, having softened and learned his lesson. It came when the programme hit the air. And when he watched it he too came to see the funny side of his families’ only claim to fame being a man back during the reign of King Charles having died when the aforementioned monarchs’ horse threw a shoe.

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