1 OCTOBER 1983, Page 31

Low life

Home truths

Jeffrey Bernard

Most days page three of the Daily . Telegraph is a haven of sense and sen- sibility. There's usually something there to remind one that the world is not entirely mad or without some sort of entertainment value. Still, as Frankie Howerd used to say, I suppose one shouldn't mock the afflicted. The trouble is, if you can't mock the af- flicted, and obviously this includes one's self, then who the hell can you mock? Anyway, this week's touching tale concern- ed a woman of 61 who battered her 79-year- old lover to death with a champagne bottle during a sex session at his flat in the South of France. What a way to go. Knowing my luck it would be a bottle of light ale over the nut in a Camden Town bed-sitter. Worse still, it might be a bottle of Perrier over the bonce in a Salvation Army hostel. We must learn to be grateful for small mercies. Anyway, apparently the old man took a new lover, forced his 61-year-old lady into oral sex and she did her nut. Or, to put it more accurately, his nut. Now, one of the first things to horrify and amuse me about this tragic business is the fact that I've been banking on the sup- posed fact that once you get to 50 or, say, 60 these aggravations melt away. If I really thought that I'd be crazy for all that nonsense in five years' time I think I'd despair. There's something a little undig- nified about the behaviour of this couple although the late Mr Hubbers did have the style to keep bubbly by the side of his bed. (Was it vintage I wonder?) I'm an Earl Grey man myself and I wouldn't trust a woman or myself with a bottle in my bed. To be fair to the 61-year-old Cheltenham-Ladies- College-educated Pamela Megginson though, she might well have thought it was only a half bottle of champagne. Even so there's something deeply depressing about domestic violence. To this day the slam- ming of a door fills me with gloom evoking as it does memories of childhood scenes. And last week at Ascot races of all places I heard of more trouble in the home. I got chatting to a lovely waitress over a lunch hosted by Evelyn de Rothschild and one thing led to another and she asked me if I'd ever been married. 'Not much,' 1 said. 'You should see my body. It's covered in scars.' 'Really?' she said. 'Well, no not really, but I once was stabbed.' That's funny,' she said uncorking yet another bottle of wine, '1 stabbed my husband six months ago.' 'Oh, do tell,' I said examining the nose of the wine. 'Well, he left me for another woman but he came back three days later when he discovered she couldn't cook. So there I was in the kitchen mashing potatoes and him lying there soaking in the bath and I suddenly thought what a bloody cheek and what the hell am I doing cooking for him so I grabbed a kitchen knife, went into the bathroom and stabbed him.' All I could think of was what a mess it must have made of the bathwater. The other thing the champagne bottle case reminded me of was a story about the late Aly Khan I once heard at the races. Ap- parently he kept a champagne ice bucket by the side of his bed into which he'd plunge his hand to prevent premature ejaculation. Mind you, I don't think an ice bucket over the head would exactly kill you but caution should be exercised as to what to take into a bedroom. There was the business of the editor and the electric fire a few years back. This man on his wedding night was making love to his bride and got his foot caught in the bars of the electric fire which was at the end of the bed. I don't know that position. Anyway, you can imagine the agony. He went absolutely crazy and started to scream the place down. She, silly cow, came to the conclusion that she was the greatest lover in the world until he started hopping around the bedroom with his smouldering foot. It's nice to know a thing like that about a man when you're asking for a job. (Hacks can send me a stamped, addressed envelope for his name.) There is an aspect of the champagne case though that does raise a smile of cynicism. I quote Ms Megginson. 'The irony is that I lost control so completely that I destroyed any claim to his estate.' Well, Mr Hubbers might well have been a right bastard but is it irony, or perhaps agony? He was very good with the handouts until he found another mistress and in the beginning he 'showered' her with expensive gifts and paid her bills at Fortnum & Mason, Simpsons and Selfridges. And some stupid bird on LBC the other morning said women weren't mercenary. But, in the final analysis, I think Pamela Megginson's heart is in the right place. After all, the bottle was empty.