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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Emmeline Saunders

Timmy Mallett's incredible new career as he announces poignant personal news

Timmy Mallett gets some curious glances as he wheels his e-bike through throngs of people languidly enjoying the sun in a pretty park.

Both he and the bicycle are like a mirage in a paint factory: the 67-year-old former children’s entertainer, author and now TikTok star is dressed in blue and neon pink Lycra, which has his name emblazoned across the back of his jacket.

His two-wheeler, meanwhile, is decked out in stickers, badges and pins from his many travels. His famous pink and yellow mallet features heavily.

It’s not long before Timmy is recognised. A lawyer in her forties smilingly approaches to ask for an autograph, explaining she’s halfway through a scavenger hunt with work.

“Well you’ll definitely win after this,” Timmy tells her as he signs her piece of paper. “Hang on - we’ll get you a sticker, too.”

Sticker dispatched, we soon attract the attention of another woman keen to tell us about the energy she can feel and starts explaining to him how spiritualism and science pair perfectly to spell out the answer to any question. After listening politely, Timmy tells her it’s time to get going.

Timmy at the easel (SWNS)

“I stop for everyone,” he says afterwards. “I’m immensely curious about people. Look at the conversations we’ve had just in those 250 metres and the stories we’ve heard. Fascinating.”

What’s really fascinating is Timmy’s career trajectory. Fresh from completing his history degree, he bagged a job at BBC Radio Oxford and soon made a name for himself as a DJ in the early 1980s, before making the move to television with Summer Run on TV-am. Alongside the likes of Michaela Strachan and Mike Myers, he then presented the Wide Awake Club, before its spin-off Wacaday in 1985.

It was there his mascot, Mallett’s Mallet became famous, with contestants bashed over the head by the foam weapon if they got an answer wrong. Pinky Punky, a smaller talking version of the mallet, was later introduced, and Timmy’s catchphrases - ‘Blaaah!’ and ‘Utterly Brilliant!’ - became just as well known as Magic, his pet cockatiel.

When Wacaday was cancelled, Timmy turned to panto and did a stint on I’m A Celebrity in 2008, where he was branded ‘most annoying campmate’ and frequently clashed with Robert Kilroy-Silk. But despite occasional TV appearances, and a star performance in rapper Skepta’s music video for Rolex Sweep, Timmy and his trademark colourful glasses eventually faded from the public’s consciousness.

Timmy in the 1980s (Manchester Evening News)
Timmy with his famous mallet (Mirrorpix)

That is, until now. Having posted his first ever TikTok video in November 2019, Timmy has built up a 66,000-strong community of new fans thanks to his cycling diaries and painting tours. The premise is simple: he gets the glimmer of an idea, plots a vague route and packs up his acrylics and watercolours, bundles them inside some wet weather gear and sets off wherever his bike will carry him.

“I’m intrigued by stories,” he explains. “Cycling feeds my curiosity and stories are everywhere on a bike ride. They can be in the first two minutes or they can be 200 miles in. I usually have a plan but I think detours are a good thing. It’s not a bad way of going.

“I decided I wanted to see if I could cycle around the coast of Britain, and you start off thinking, ‘oh, it’s a long way, I’d better do lots of miles today.’ It took a long time to slow down and think, it’s not about how far you go or how fast, it’s how much fun you have. Slow down, look at things, follow the stories.”

Whenever something catches his eye, he’ll stop and sketch the scene in pencil, then later that night he’ll work it up into a painting in his accommodation. Soon he got the idea to film the process and post the clip to TikTok. “I’m just delighted that people are interested,” he says. “But it’s not done for that reason, it’s because I’m interested. Curiosity is a good thing. Ask questions as often as possible and see what you learn.”

The former doing undergoing a Bushtucker Trial (ITV / Rex Features)

It’s a mantra that has served him well throughout his long and varied showbiz career. “From studying history to his radio job, doing children’s programmes, having a number one record, stage shows, performances. They lead into other things, you just keep asking questions. ‘What else is there to do? What’s next?’ I like that.”

His other motto, and one he’s always practised, is to be kind. “I always stop if someone calls out, because it’s a story. You don’t need to be in a hurry, just say hello - you may end up learning something you didn’t know, or it might just be a hello. That’ll do.”

He was once stopped while cycling up a quiet road in North-East Scotland. “A car came up alongside me and the woman said, ‘Can I have a photo?’ So we pulled over at the next layby and this couple got out. The lady said, ‘I’ve met you before - in 1983 at Piccadilly Radio.’ And she pulls out this photo of us from 40 years ago. It was incredible. And it reminded me that if you ever get a good photograph, print it out! Keeping things in the Cloud, you’ll never find them. Which is why I paint, because that’s a tangible reminder of a moment you wanted to keep.”

Timmy’s wife Lynda - they’ve been married for 33 years and have just welcomed their first grandson Jack - runs his Mallett’s Palette online shop where he sells his artworks, inspired by the modern impressionist movement. She occasionally joins him on his bike rides too, but thinks “less is more” - he was sent off solo for his two-month tour of the 1,000-year-old Camino de Santiago pilgrim route, which took him from their home in Berkshire all the way across France and Spain.

Timmy and wife Lynda (Alpha Press)
Timmy with fellow broadcaster Michaela Strachan and TV-am weather presenter Carol Dooley (Mirrorpix)

Some of his favourite paintings were done on that journey, but Timmy doesn’t like to hoard his finished work. “I like the fact somebody wants to enjoy that painting,” he says of his buyers. “Part of me is on their wall and is considered important enough to be in their life. I’m very happy with that.”

Not everyone he meets can place him immediately, despite his penchant for loud colours and readily available mallet stickers. “I remember somebody stopping me and mistaking me for [Blackadder actor] Tony Robinson,” he laughs. “To such an extent she said, ‘Oh, you haven’t changed a bit, you’re still the same. Anyway Tony, it’s been lovely seeing you, please sign this.’ So I had to sign it from Tony Robinson.”

More people are starting to recognise him again now from his new career twist. “I was in the Post Office, and the bloke in front of me turned around and said, ‘I’ve just been watching you on TikTok.’ He was in his fifties. It’s lovely that those interactions come with a smile. Think back to the lawyer we met earlier, she’s thrilled to bits she got a photo with me and she’ll share her story with her friends. But now I go, wow, I’m blessed. I’m really fortunate that that happens,” he smiles.

Would he be interested in filming a cycling travel series if the TV execs ever came knocking? “Could be,” he muses. “I don’t sit there hankering for a return to telly. Not to belittle it, but it’s because you have to do the things you’re passionate about and that you’re interested in.”

He still has the full-sized mallet at home, which makes an occasional outing. “I get asked to do Timmy Shows, which is nice,” he says. “I remember when we started with the mallet, the bosses said, ‘are you happy with this, because you’ll have it forever?’ I didn’t get that discussion because I thought, we’ll do this for a month or two and then we’ll move on to something else. I didn’t think it would have that longevity or be part of people’s lives in the way that it has done.”

But, Timmy says, that’s not the be all and end all. “It’s about whether you’re happy with the story you create. In the end, that’s the thing that’s important. And be nice along the way. Just be nice. That’s all we have to do.”

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