12 APRIL 1997, Page 55

Low life

Sick of losing

Jeffrey Bernard

By the time the Grand National finally did get under way, I had come to the con- clusion that no bet was the best bet. Noth- ing stood out to me like Rough Quest did last year or like Merryman II in his day or Red Rum on any day. I ended up by having my minimum stake, £.5, to win on the even- tual second, Suny Bay, simply to have something to focus on on the television screen.

That evening, I was visited by a friend who had lost everything on the race. He had also somehow contrived to have lost everything two weeks previously at Chel- tenham. I am even surprised at my attitude towards people like this man because, hav- ing been there myself, in the deep awful pit of compulsive gambling — I had my share of it in 1970 — I cannot even sympathise with him but can only impatiently despise him a little. That's awful, I suppose, but I feel the same impatience with people who drink too much and people who will, by hook or by crook, find some way of swal- lowing their daily dose of injustice. I expect people like my friend who came up after the National eventually to be made to feel sick at losing, as I was one day. There was a time, in fact, when I didn't seem to give a damn about losing. Nowadays it hurts. And I will tell you what else hurts, or not exactly hurts but has left me too limp even to think, is the dialysis at the hospital. I have always known more than most lay- men about what's wrong with my body when it does pack up, but I know nothing about this newish complaint of kidney fail- ure. They took three kilos off me on Mon- Thanks; Eric, but I'm not wearing any. You're smelling my latest magazines.' day morning leaving me like a dried-out scrap of blotting paper. On the other hand, it occurs to me that, if these people really do know what they're doing, then the way I feel now is the thin end of the wedge that we all fear. My nightmares have become so frightening that I would rather just doze on and off like a geriatric.

Mind you, there must be some sort of spark left within me because I fell in love again last week with yet another bloody television actress. This one is called Kitty Aldridge who was nicely acerbic and not a squelchy pudding like most of the women I meet for real.

And talking of sweets not puddings, Vera came up to see me the other day and we went out for lunch to a restaurant bang opposite where I live that has caught on amazingly quickly and has become trendy almost overnight. It is called Hujo's and it is somewhere half way between strait-laced and a greasy spoon. They are certainly try- ing, anyhow, and the signs of their ambi- tion are things like throwing in some prunes with the lamb and dishing out saucers of olive oil for you to dip their excellent bread into.

And now Richard's, the famous fishmon- ger in Brewer Street, has finally gone under. Doubtless it will be replaced by a dirty video and book shop. So now in Soho there is no longer a fishmonger or a baker and it is infuriating not to be able to get something as simple as good bread. This current weakness of mine might have something to do with the fact that I have gone off food, i.e. proper meals, and have become addicted to chicken or cheese- filled baguettes. A nurse introduced them to me since I am still on the dialysis machine when the clock strikes one.

At last I have become too weak to bother with the preparation and cooking of good meals so I am living on everything the hos- pital dietician tells me not to touch, like cheese and fruit cake. And today I am going to the Ivy with Michael Heath and the publisher of The Spectator and I fear it may be wasted on me. All I really want to do at this moment is to lie down in a very large dog basket in the corner of this room.