Saturday, 7 February 2009

Too witless to view

And so we say farewell to the Protestant Work Ethic. The last frontier has been breached and the generations of Methodists who are embalmed in my genes shrivel like vampires touched by the sun.


I have had a TV set erected in my bedroom.


Gone are the days I would not watch TV of any kind during daylight hours. Now I am the unwilling prey of those bumptious young men of little wit and absolutely no presence, those haughty beauties being clumsily and self-consciously coy, who are the presenters of morning programmes of alleged news.


At 3 am one morning I caught myself watching yet again ”Hill Street Blues”.and reflecting that Hell would be being trapped in a police car with one of those caring homespun policemen forever worrying about daddies who, quite understandably, don’t love them. There is worse. Not only do they repeat classic shows like “Minder” to the point where one begins to dislike them: the latest development is to remake old series with a different cast. Presumably they are blind to the fact that “Minder” owed much of its genius to the casting of Waterman and Cole.


In my early days as a freelance reporter I had many friends in the rainbow world of ducking and diving that exists on the edge of the dull world we all inhabit. So accurate was the portrayal of Terry and Arthur they could have slipped seamlessly into the rainbow.

In this age of mediocrity I should expect little else from almost everything I examine. It is not a political statement, merely an observation to say that we are badly governed. Manacled, like the Ghost of Christmas Past, in chains of unworkable legislation.


The brave new worlds of extra terrestrial TV are merely the homes of aged repeats and what little original TV we see is shamed by the quality of our past.


The banking industry has brought Western Civilisation to its knees because, frankly, it is not very good at banking and does not seem to grasp the first law. DO NOT LEND MONEY TO PEOPLE WHO CANNOT PAY YOU BACK. I notice that banks are reluctant to lend money to each other which suggests certain shortcomings. If a bank cannot borrow from a bank should we leave our money with it?


The second rule is not to get involved in things you don’t understand. When greedy bankers moved into property development and building societies, crocodile tears at bonus times were inevitable.


The third rule is to watch the overheads. A professional gambler of my acquaintance put it at its most succinct: “Exes ruin all games and do not place a bet before you have studied the form book.” Poor Lol, he could have saved Western Civilisation with those simple words.


I wrote a couple of weeks ago that I ws going to spend my convalescence trying to find something worth reading in the newspapers. I fear I have failed. There were nuggets, of course, but what used to be a newspaper is now a forum on which a number of people of whom one has never heard  lecture on the government, the drama, literature, schools and any other subject that occurs to their ready pen.


So far as I can discover, few of them have any qualifications in the subjects they seek to dominate.


Radio, which I love above all things, is in a sad state. Would poor Carol Thatcher have been sacked for an innocent remark in the Green Room had she been anyone but the daughter of the Prime Minister the BBC hates above all?


I am frequently called a Teddy Bear and I fail to see why Golliwog should be thought to be a term of abuse since both refer to the cuddly toys we enjoyed in childhood when a Teddy and a Golly served me, an only one, as brothers.


What one should say about transport and education systems that collapse under the weight of a snowflake, I do not know. This news item from the Times did not help. It said that children who threw snowballs in public places were warned they could be arrested or fined for antisocial behaviour.




A distressed friend seeks my advice.


“Flown with wine and impertinence, I behaved very badly at a recent party.  How can I extricate myself and regain social goodwill?”

Lie, little friend.  Whatever you say, your hosts are not going to alter their opinion, because people try to think badly of each other if they possibly can.  Personally, I favour lies so totally improbable they might just be true.

I once behaved so badly at the 100th birthday party of a very aristocratic lady that my attempt to kiss a lady governor of the BBC went largely unremarked.  The next day I wrote to my host:

“I understand that a person posing as me attended your mother’s birthday party yesterday and behaved badly.

“It is not the first time this has happened and the police are on the look out for him. Unfortunately, the likeness between us is so exact I have myself been cautioned by them for behaviour of his.

“He is a cunning fellow and I still cannot think how he managed to sneak into my home and borrow my suit, returning it in the early hours in a disgusting condition.  But that will give you some idea what the police are up against.

“I will of course make good any damage done by him.”

Now that I am virtually bone dry, I can look back on these follies with indulgence, though I am still not to be entirely trusted with whisky-flavoured ice cream.  Of course, there is always that delicious moment when you fall off the wagon and then anything can happen.

The most embarrassing moment of all was not really my fault.  A delicious girl I met in Bad Hartsburg at the end of the war invited me to meet her father, a Junker Baron, warning me he hated the English.


She did not warn me that he hated Scots.  Otherwise I would not have dressed in full fig - kilt, white spats, belt, and hair sporran.

He was waiting for me in the entrance hall of his apartment, seated at a table on which was a decanter of colourless fluid and two glasses.

He poured drinks, barked “Prosit” and downed his in one.  I swear it was rocket fuel. Mine would not go past my epiglottis.  The next one lay on top of it and the merciless third, on which he insisted with mounting malevolence, stirred the others into action.

I rushed to the bathroom.  No time to reach the lavatory.  My pink tribute flowed into the bath.  Reaching for the tap to ease its passage down the drain, I mistakenly turned on the shower and was drenched.

At the frosty dinner which followed no one mentioned my soaking condition, though steam rose from me in billowing clouds, rivers of white Blanco ran down my kilt and small pools of water from the sporran that looked like a drowned  badger formed at my feet.

But you could see the Baron felt some consolation for losing the war.





A reader, Sarah Thomas, writes:


I don't know much about Jesse Matthews. Googled to deal with my ignorance and am not any the wiser: I got, along with much else, a reference to the national Scrabble championship, a notice of appeal, dated 2008, by someone in the state of Tennessee who has been convicted of assault and battery, and a poster dating from 1936 which must be the relevant Jesse but it didn't enlighten me.


Sarah: - Miss Matthews was a Soubrette, star of pre-war theatre and films who lived on to become Mrs Dale in that famous Diary on the Home Service, now known as Radio 4.