Who's coming to dinner?
Amagazine has asked me to name my six favourite and six unfavourite people of all time. Sixty would have been easier but just six is hard. Too many people have to be left out. It would have been all too easy to name the likes of Pinochet, Amin and Khomeini in the shit list but I thought that would have been a little dull. Oddly enough I couldn't think of one woman to put on the list of favourites but Joan of Arc immediately came to mind when I began to think of unfavourites. Were she alive today I am pretty sure she would be living in either Hackney or Islington, subscribing to the Guardian and being a one-parent, militant lesbian family woman. Unless she was a boy in drag, that is. She was closely followed by Napoleon, the man who stamped all over Europe and killed thousands of people. Never trust a man with a small member.
As well as dictators I thought I would exclude members of the Nazi party as being a little too obvious and I certainly couldn't have put Goering on the list since he would have had the good sense to blow up the Arts Council. It was easier to kick off with the list of favourites. Readers of this column will not be surprised that Byron sprang to mind. A kind and humane man I would have liked to have dined with at least once a week for a lifetime. Holland House in the evenings. What days! Fox, Sheridan and Lady Melbourne, pass the salt.
I have to include Nelson who, with all his sillinesses and vanity, is the hero. Most people get him a little wrong. He was ruthless and didn't just want to beat the French, he wanted to annihilate them. Pity he didn't. I had wanted to include Nye Bevan on the list but I had to pass him over for Fred Astaire who made envy legiti- mate. You wouldn't have minded being in his shoes, so to speak. And Charles Dick- ens would have been entirely welcome to this wretched typewriter, the feckless Monica. I gather he was a difficult man. So what? Biographies and dramas are not the gospel and I regard the play Amadeus as not much more than a curiosity. It matters not one jot whether Mozart was anally fixated. Anyway, he would have made a fart sound divine. So he can come to dinner.
Washing up dishes in the kitchen with Joan of Arc and Napoleon I see the dreaded Jeremy Thorpe putting the left- over scraps in the dustbins and so doing something useful. He is not to be allowed a doggy bag. Oh, that ridiculous hat and those silly waistcoats. What a lucky man: I wish I could come up in front of deranged magistrates and judges. Deranged in my favour, that is. The Ulster quack Ian Paisley is in there too, hopefully putting the oven to use by putting his head in it while the cheese is being served. But, as I say, these lists are oversubscribed.
Just to get drunk with I would have liked Ulysses S. Grant to come along with his boss Lincoln. Yes, 60 likes and dislikes would have been a lot easier to choose than six. I would have taken the risk of inviting J.M.W. Turner. As far as I can see no one seems to know much about the man. After this celestial dinner it would have been good to have a game of backgammon with Charles James Fox, one of the great punters in our country's history. Norman, by the way, has been under the table for the duration of this repast clearing up the breadcrumbs. But he does get a pat on the head as well as being blamed by all for Mozart's farts. His is truly a dog's life. There has to be a place too by the kitchen sink for Derek Jameson. He definitely belongs downstairs with Elastoplast across his mouth.
And it is downstairs in the kitchen that the housekeeper Margaret Thatcher runs a tight ship. Starched from head to toe, she gives Napoleon a clip across the ear every time she passes him. Just for luck, she says. And now, with no ladies present, we can smoke, although it is rumoured that Maria Callas is to make a guest appearance accompanied at the piano by Chopin. They can hear her downstairs as they howl with hunger and lick the dirty plates. Grant mistakes Norman's head for an ash-tray and stubs a cigar out on him. Fox is writing me out an IOU and Dickens is taking copious notes. It is with great relief that I know for a certainty that I am going to heaven and not downstairs. Put out the candles, Norman, and let Mozart loose with a lullaby.