21 AUGUST 1982, Page 29

Low life


Jeffrey Bernard

Help! Help! I'm drowning in memorabilia. I want to jump into to- morrow but how big is the drop the other side of midnight? I'm sorry to go on about my wretched possessions but they've be- come an obsession and I might go mad if I don't get this room cleared up shortly. Everything I approach, every book, photo- graph and scrap of paper I want to throw away holds up its arms and screams 'Wait, remember me?' and we sit down together and talk of past times. In desperation I ask- ed my last wife to help me clear out the rub- bish this week and she said, 'No. Old wed- ding pictures depress me as much as they do you.' Quite. Say no more. But you can't throw one away, can you? What about the other people in the picture? It takes an hour to go through such a snap. I wonder where Susannah is now. Seven years ago she spent £40 on a pair of knickers from Liberty. And there's our witness, Charles St George. To think he owned such cracking horses as Bruni, Giacometti and Ginevra and what about the party he gave us at Epsom on the day Shirley Heights won. Of course I'm cutting a lot of short stories short, but you see why I'm stuck in this treacle mire of times past.

There you — or at least I — go again. How did that biography of Edith Piaf get to be on the mantel shelf and why haven't I returned it to John Le Mesurier who lent it me in hospital ages ago? Good old John. I spent two of the nicest days I've ever had with him. One in Devon chez Dan Farson and one in Newmarket at Teddy Lambton's house and yard. John Le Mes, as he's called, introduced me to Tony Hancock and what a monumental piss-up that turned out to be. Hancock and I started out at opening time in the French pub and I saw him off ten hours later. I put him into a taxi — the driver wouldn't have taken him if he hadn't been Hancock — and he collapsed on to the floor and then handed me his card from a supine position saying, 'Phone me if you get into trouble. I think you may have a drinking problem.'

Which reminds me, what a pity John Le Mes and I never got around to writing the Dictionary of Cliches we planned that weekend with Dan Farson. Come to think of it what a pity Dan doesn't come up to town more often. Such a good and jolly companion and what a twit I must have been 20 years ago to borrow his Pembroke College scarf in an effort to impress a bird in the Duke of Wellington that I was an undergraduate. Now there's a pub that's gone right off. Christ almighty. That's where Dennis Shaw told me that Kennedy had been assassinated. But they did very good scotch eggs in the Wellington. Gilbert Wood used to buy me halves of bitter there when he was painting scenery and when I was an assistant in the cutting rooms at MGM. What the hell was that film called? Anyway, what an oaf that Robert Mitchum turned out to be pissing against the bar one lunchtime and the guvnor too frightened to throw him out.

God what a bore that was working in the cutting rooms. The Guns of Navarone wasn't too bad though, what with those ses- sions in the old house at Shepperton Studios. Yes, Gregory Peck took the day off to fly to Rome and back just to see Herb Elliott run in the 5,000 metres. And what was that other race? Oh yes, Chataway v Kuts. I watched that in the Swiss pub with George Barker and we won 10/- each. What would that be — 10/-? Just over five pints of bitter I suppose. Pity you couldn't have stuck to bitter isn't it. When on earth was it you — 1 mean I — first went on the whisky? It must have been 1962 touring Expresso Bongo with Mick Tobin as chippy. How I got those flies cues right at the Royal in Newcastle pissed as a pudding God alone knows. Married to Jacki then and there's that John Deakin photo of her. When poor old Deakin died in Brighton Francis Bacon went to identify the body and said, 'That's the first time I've seen him with his mouth closed.' Yes, I must return that Piaf book John Le Mes.