Iain FM Smith‘s title is presumably tongue-in-cheek. Not because this hour’s bad – it definitely isn’t – but because it’s an allusion to his war hero grandfather, who escaped near certain execution in the Far East, performed a self-amputation, was offered sundry military decorations (but wouldn’t accept them), and whose portrait now hangs in Edinburgh Castle. You’d have to be going some to match that legacy with an afternoon of storytelling at Riddle’s Court.
It’s also a nod to how his own struggles as a shy teenager in Gloucestershire, which are firmly of the first-world variety, measure up to Grandad’s during the war. A mummy’s boy, he overcame the shyness (he’s here today after all) but hasn’t escaped the shadow of his illustrious forebear.
Those expecting tales of Grandad’s wartime feats from this show might be disappointed. This is Smith’s personal story. Anecdotes are drawn from what sounds like a safe, secure middle-class upbringing in the shires, albeit one not unmarked with personal sadness. They include the time his family unintentionally become dog breeders, or when the pair of goats they bought to keep the undergrowth down didn’t do their job. It’s gentle, mild-mannered and, in places, informative. ‘More QI than Mock The Week,’ is what he promises, and QI style facts are what he delivers. You’ll learn, among other things, why nettles came to Britain.
Smith himself is an engaging storyteller who puts his audience at ease. Laminated photos provide a laugh or illustrate a point. It’s all skewed rather more towards him than the blurb might have you believe, and as a result there’s little drama to proceedings, but in and of itself it’s perfectly pleasant. He might not have grown up to be a war hero, but he’s done his grandad proud.