19 NOVEMBER 1977, Page 28



Richard lngrams

A howling gale whipped round my house, hail rattled at the window panes and a tiny fire flickered dismally in the grate as I switched on the television at the unearthly hour of 10.55 on Monday night to catch a glimpse of our leader Moses o'Callaghan at the Lord Mayor's Banquet. The scene at the Guildhall where the new Lord Mayor Sir Peter Vanneck presided over a glittering array of City gents and their ladies replete with Poached Turbot and Baron of Beef offered a marked contrast to my own circumstances. ('Sir Peter' the BBC commentator informed us, incidentally, 'would rather be a tug-boat skipper on the Thames than the stockbroker he is'. Pull the other one, matey.) Clouds of cigar smoke wafted up round Moses' head as he oiled the bankers with gratuitous tributes to the monarch, flattered the Lord Mayor with complacent jokes — 'Like so many of the best people he started life in the navy' (laughter) — and scatte.red platitudes into the rich post-prandial atmosphere ... overseas con fidence growing our task is to build big job still to be done ... City will play its full part. I was surprised we didn't get 'light at the end of the tunnel' and 'steady as she goes just for good measure. The abiding impression one received was of complacency and irrelevance. It was heightened when, immediately after the programme, Tonight spoke to a group of fireman, shivering defiantly in the storm. Unlike Moses, and deprived of turbot and beef, they did !let seem so convinced that things are looking up. Another bete noire of mine surfaced ill Read All About It in the shape of Jolla Cleese. One might have thought that 'book' was not quite the right word to use in relation to the scripts of Fawlty Tower which have been bunged together for Christmas by some enterprising publisher, but Cleese did not seem ashamed of the result — indeed he thought that a lot of his jokes worked much better on the printed page. Treated with immense deference by Melvyn Bragg and his panel of celebrities Cleese blossomed out as a very promising bore, referring to his interest in something called 'transactional analysis' (did I hear it ea" rectly?) and the fact that he had recently been thumbing through a book called 'The Foundations of Empirical Knowledge'. MY notes, I see, also contain the words: 'Wasn't it Samuel Beckett who said...? but I have no record of what followed. No doubt it was something pretty Profound. I doubt if the author of the Basil Brush scripts George Martin would ever be interviewed by Melvyn Bragg, though he is a far funnier writer than John Cleese and I'm sure if asked about his career would not feel obliged to quote from Samuel Beckett. It is just a pity that the Basil Brush Show is not produced in a manner more befitting Martin's jokes and the brilliant performance of the star who delivers his non-stop barrage of dreadful jokes and puns with unfailing aplomb. Basil deserves somebody better than Howard Williams to interrupt and there are the statutory 'guests', the usual gyrating guitarists and 'singers' whose calibre is, to put it mildly, low. If I were Basil Brush I would stick out for something better. But I suppose that sort of thing is difficult if you're only a little fox.