13 JANUARY 1990, Page 33

Low life

Culture shock

Jeffrey Bernard

Afriend of mine who is well ac- quainted with Scotland tells me that the reaction of the inhabitants to having Glas- gow made the Cultural Capital of Europe 'Forget the map'. this year is a very healthy one. They are quite simply terrified that it will put 20p on the price of a pint of bitter. The attic that I write from is steeped in culture. The walls are alive with the sound of music. Mostly Mozart. I have a few very heavy books and my telephone only answers to intellectual friends and so I know how these people feel. I sit here sweating or lie here tremb- ling at the thought of International Distil- lers & Vintners Ltd putting 20p on the price of a bottle of Smirnoff because they may hear Cosi fan Tune leaking out of the window. I may even become a tourist attraction. What a way to end.

The marmalade on my typewriter tells me that this isn't exactly a stately home but it does have its little pretensions and I don't much like them when I see them in the sober light of about 3 a.m. We know that Hermann Goring was a vile pig but I know what he meant when he said, 'Every time I hear the word culture I reach for my gun.' Governments, as time goes by, seem to be ramming culture down every one's throats just as the likes of Jane Fonda would force-feed us with bran if they had their way. I cannot for the life of me see why a perfectly ordinary Glaswegian psychopath should have to subsidise a string quartet or a water-colour. Living as I do nearly next door to the Royal Opera House I see the people who queue up for subsidised opera when I go out to Ber- torelli's for tepid pasta — the price of being too lazy or feeble to cook is collosal after a while — and I wouldn't give any of them a penny. Give me a Glaswegian wino who thinks that Beethoven was a sprinter once owned by Phil Bull. (He was so fast he couldn't even stay the minimum distance of five furlongs). No, I don't like people who wear their culture on their sleeves. It should be a little more private I think, like a lot of self-indulgences. I suppose Glas- gow owes it to its excellent architecture that it was picked as being the Cultural Cap- ital of Europe this year. But the Scots are resilient, as we saw at Waterloo and the Somme, and I am sure they will get over it.

Meanwhile, if television is a culture of a sort, I have had a dose of it. NBC filmed an interview with Peter O'Toole — excel- lent I am told — and then they did likewise with me in the pub last Monday. On Tuesday they came to the attic to film me typing a sentence, whence we went to Romilly Street to film me walking into the Coach and Horses. It is doubtful that it will be the most exciting footage filmed in 1990 but I think it should be shown in Glasgow and not just New York. I would like to see Peter on the video but I certainly do not wish to see the rest of it.

I have slightly gone off Americans any- way since they went anti-smoking and drinking and got on to health. That is their culture now. They won't make many in- roads into Glasgow with that one. I have smoked 20 cigarettes since 5a.m. this morn- ing and I am on my second sip. I feel as fit as a fiddle. Nathan Milstein's one which wakes up my landlord in the middle of the night. Yes, there is a lot of culture here in Covent Garden and anyone wishing to sit in my armchair and listen to a bit of chamber music and have a gargle can send me £15, the price of a stalls seat at the Apollo Theatre. I am open from closing time until opening time. Why bother to go all the way to Glasgow?