19 APRIL 1986, Page 41

Low life

Temporary insanity

Jeffrey Bernard

talking of things maritime, although it is difficult to estimate her body beneath the severe black and white costume obligatory to serve drinks in the Groucho, it would seem to be ample. Not too big, not too skinny. Somewhere half way between the Sky Lark and the Titanic. To me, she is delicious. But what on earth do you say? So far our conversation has consisted of, `Good afternoon, sir, what would you like?' and, `A large vodka, ice and soda, please.' I have explained that my name is Jeff and not sir and I now think that 'sir' is a way of kindly saying 'piss off .

The whole business is steeped in para- noia. The more I look at her the more I become aware of my age, weight loss, pending hair loss, pallidness, scruffiness and general physical disintegration. How can I tell her that the inside of the top of my skull is like the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel? Or that my head rings with tocca- tas and fugues? I can't. All she can see is a twit who spends most of his afternoons dreaming, sometimes snoozing, sometimes arguing in a club. I need a PR badly. Perhaps infatuation like drunkenness is temporary insanity. But I am too old to shoot lines. One is like what one looks like. The Marie Celeste.

I know what these people want. Bettina, for that is her name, will end up with a film-maker aged about 30 who drives a Ferrari coupe, one bronzed arm noncha- lantly over the driving door, and who lives in a riverside penthouse with a Burmese cat, several gold medallions, a bottle of after-shave, an extremely expensive hi-fi set and no self-doubt whatsoever. All that is so very achievable if you take yourself seriously when you're young — all you have to do is to work hard which any idiot can do — but is it worth it? For Bettina, possibly. Another odd thing is that when I've looked at her in recent days I have noticed that I get slightly short of breath. Of course, I could be having mild coronar- ies but I don't think so. I think it is because she is so enormously huggable. She has the majesty of an Infanta. Only once have I been temporarily diverted from her pre- sence in the club and that was one evening last week when Germaine Greer called in for refreshment. How some idiot men have got that woman all wrong is beyond belief. The Doctor is quite wonderful and is the only woman I have ever met who doesn't make me resent the fact that she im- mediately makes me quite aware of the fact that I am an idiot.

Speaking of which I would very much like to know just what they teach at Holland Park Comprehensive School. I went to see my daughter last week and we played a game of Trivial Pursuit. She got a very simple history question which was, `Who succeeded Lenin?' She said, `Stanley Baldwin.' It's worrying. I used to eat history when I was her age. And now she has her first boyfriend and the fact that he's French is another worry. I suppose he talks like Maurice Chevalier and plants kisses on her all the way up from her hand to her neck. By now she probably thinks we lost Waterloo or that it is merely a railway station. But, more seriously, what shall I do about Bettina? I have nothing to offer except love, a half share in my current account, some vitamin C tablets and a bottle of Veuve Cliquot for breakfast. That is how we start the day, my landlady and I. Perhaps I should apply for a job as a waiter at the Groucho. It would be a sort of marriage. Oh dear, how very, very much I want to save her from falling into the hands of a really nice man. I could give her blood, sweat and tears.