1 OCTOBER 1988, Page 58

Low life

A crying shame

Jeffrey Bernard

So what about Ben Johnson then? He has really blown it and I wonder if he will be able to cope with the situation. It will surely haunt him every day for the rest of his life. People will point at him. He stutters already, now what? I remember a boy at school who was caught cheating in an exam and the shame was awful. He is probably doing rather well now in the City.

Where on earth do you get anabolic steroids from? I could use some although they say that they can cause liver damage. I used to know a vet who took a pain-killing drug they gave racehorses and it made him, not as strong as a horse, but very genial indeed. And now I have had an overdose of Olympics and, as winter approaches, there will be nothing much else to watch on television in the way of sport except for bloody football. It also depresses me to think, as I reach for the bottle, that Christmas isn't far away. I must get out of this place. I have taken to lying in bed and reading travel brochures and leafing through the Times Atlas of the World and I am damned if I can think of where to go when the trees shed their leaves. Judging from photographs Goa looks nice enough but were the pictures taken in Goa? You never know with these people and you have to be careful not to be taken in. Poets, for example, make being in love sound pretty idyllic but has a poet ever written about 'You make me sick and I am leaving you but you can keep the car'?

Meanwhile I lie here in Covent Garden dreaming of sun-drenched beaches while the splashing of an overflow pipe outside the genito-urinary hospital keeps me awake for most of the night. For the past three mornings a man has been screaming in the ward opposite my window. What can they be doing to him? Although I am not squeamish it is a disturbing sound and worse than that of a baby screaming.

There was quite a lot of screaming in the pub last week. On Friday night one woman cried twice and another just the once although that was a pretty well-sustained cry. On Saturday another cried at lunch- time which is a bit early. Why anyone should cry at being called a clapped-out old bag by their gentleman friend is beyond me. The only thing that makes me cry now is a happy ending. I dread them showing Lassie Come Home or Pride and Prejudice on television this Christmas, which is

another good reason to go to Goa or Bangkok soon. The last happy ending I saw, though, didn't make me cry and that was when Roman Prose won the Nun- thorpe Stakes. Maybe it was the Portland Handicap.

Anyway, this business of crying in the Coach and Horses must stop. You can understand someone crying when they call last orders but to cry at abuse is silly. What my friend Graham Mason calls me five nights a week is unprintable but I find it quite amusing. I am always hoping to be called something new but there just aren't enough obscenities in our language. He keeps telling me that I am a boring, ugly, something, something. The boring hurts a little although he has a short attention span. The ugly I don't mind. When a woman told me she actually liked my face and added that she loved me five years ago she burst into tears when I said, 'Why didn't you tell me then, you silly cow?'

Of course, it is very good for Norman's business since you always have to buy a drink for anybody who is crying. And it's no good blaming Gordon's Gin. All these women are whisky drinkers. I wonder what it would take to make Norman cry. I suppose if Fortnum's ran out of pepper- mint creams he might and also if we all ran out of money. Then so would I.