1 JUNE 1991, Page 42

Low life


Jeffrey Bernard

The last night of the play, followed two days later by my birthday and then a televi- sion interview and a newspaper one, has left me feeling fractured. Peter O'Toole excelled himself. He was brilliant. And then on Monday morning the girls who run the Groucho Club presented me with a cake inscribed with icing. It was very touch- ing, and tasty. Norman even telephoned the pub from the South of France where he is on holiday to tell the staff to buy me a drink — as well as read the till roll to him — and that was moving.

And then the compact discs came rolling home. The Spectator's Christopher Howse gave me The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes read by Michael Williams, Pickles gave me the BBC sound track of the television series The American Civil War — marching songs and sound effects, one of my nieces gave me Bleak House read by Sir John Gielgud, the resident lawyer gave me Vaughan Williams and my brother gave me a would-be ear-bashing with some Tchai- kovsky. My old mate Bill, who I was locked up with in the boozer's nuthouse nearly 20 years ago, gave me a bottle of Stolichnaya. I mislaid it for two anxious days. Then, rushing home to my bed to listen to the discs, I found that the wretched player or amplifier was not working.

But perhaps even worse was the news my brother gave me. He told me he had seen in a newspaper that I share a birthdate with the dreaded Paul `Gazza' Gascoigne. I also got a good card from a woman friend in Suffolk who said she is being driven mad by the sound of cuckoos and crowing cock- erels. I can understand that, having once been kept awake all night by nightingales in Spain. I sat up in bed and cursed poets and poetry. Had I been armed with my Purdey shotgun I would have blasted them out of the trees. You might as well write an ode to a pneumatic drill. Perhaps a Russian once did. Anyway, everyone was very jolly `Of course I'm depressed — I'm a lorry driver with a pit bull terrier.' indeed and I gazed into my glass, misty- eyed, reflecting on what nice friends I have.

And yesterday the BBC spent about an hour in the pub filming for a slot after the News about a book condemning smoking. I watched it and appeared for five seconds. I don't know why they waste their time and money and they probably won't pay me. The woman who directed the said film left me two drinks in the bank behind the bar when she left so I live with some hope for the next hour before opening time. Yester- day morning, though, the festivities came to an end when I was driven out of the Groucho Club by the boredom of four peo- ple from an advertising agency talking about the technicalities of filming a slice of bread. How anyone apart from an Ethiopi- an can take a slice of bread so seriously is beyond me. I presume that their inflated salaries are at risk if they don't.

So I went to the Coach and Horses and stumbled in on a little group talking codswallop about cricket. It is odd to me that so many people are not aware of the fact that one-day cricket and five-day Test matches are two different games. The West Indies don't give much of a hoot for the one-day lark and I am seriously tempted to chance my arm and pocket with a hefty bet on them to win the Test series.

And talking of serious bets, Derby Day is almost upon us. How Christina Foyle can give a literary lunch on such a day quite baffles me. Nevertheless it is good of her to invite me and I hope the manager of the Grosvenor House hotel puts a television set at my disposal circa 3.20 p.m. I would dearly like to see Clive Brittain's horse, Mystiko, win. Good man, Clive, unham- pered by bullshit. Oh dear, that may mean that Norman might make a good trainer. Perish the thought and his horses.