21 FEBRUARY 1987, Page 42

Low life

Lingering hostility

Jeffrey Bernard

Iwent on a Question Time-type panel in the theatre at the London School of Economics last Monday. God alone knows why they asked me in view of the fact that the only thing I know about is trivia like the meaning of life. There were four of us on the panel including Polly Toynbee of the ghastly Guardian who rumbled quietly up to measuring 8 on the Richter scale when the chat got around to the business of feminism. It seems that all verbal com- munication nowadays gets around to that subject or Aids, which indeed it did. The student chairman kicked off by asking us all to describe an average day in our lives. He then knocked over my vodka which I had nursed all the way from Great Port- land Street, with the microphone cable. When I produced another miniature from my pocket — you have to be prudent there was the odd titter and snigger. Why? We still think all sorts of things are naughty, don't we? But to describe my average day was to tell of a pretty sordid 12 hours and they must have found it incom- prehensible. The first question I was asked was of momentous importance. 'Why are you smoking in a non-smoking area and drinking?' Several of the student audience were smoking and how could one face these people without a drink. I told him that my drinking was my business and that he was polluting my eardrums. Not a good start. But, that young man apart, they were a very friendly bunch. We didn't have them exactly rolling in the aisles but they did laugh in the right places. Polly Toynbee's average day had me on the edge of my seat. Lots of serious writing at the Guar- dian and then home to make tea for the children. Then we were asked had the Government done too little too late to combat Aids? Well, the Government doesn't usually do anything until it is too late or until it is forced upon them, but I do know the cure for it and that is mass castration or celibacy, which is an easy thing for a clapped-out piss-pot and inno- cent bystander to say.

How dreadful for the poor students though. They must be seething with lust. But the friend I took with me to the game didn't come to my rescue. He was sup- posed to ask me a question that I knew the answer to. Something like, what won the Derby in 1932? But it was all politics and feminism. I find neither subject entertain- ing and by God I want to be entertained while there is still some time left. After- wards, in the students' bar, someone asked me which characters in fiction could have most likely died of Aids, which I found more interesting than matters concerning the Government and Aids. Sherlock Holmes and Fagin sprang to mind and possibly Jim Hawkins might have caught it aboard the Hispaniola.

Anyway, the chairman asked me back for another Question Time next month and although I accepted — vanity — I think I shall write to say no after all. There was a little too much hostility in the air and I suppose I stand for everything that Ms Toynbee loathes. Hostility has at last lost its charm for me. I only like shouting at and having rows with close friends now. Hostility lingers. I know some people who are permanently only two drinks away from it. Dear Eva put it all so well and concisely once. She was screaming at me In a pub to the great consternation of the landlord who nervously asked was any- thing wrong. She said, 'Oh, it's quite all right. I was just trying to explain to mY, friend here what a stupid bastard he is. She wrote to me in the country just before she died and said, 'I never knew just how much our rows meant to me.' But I am sick of discussions and arguments about femin- ism. I get angry because I am such a bad advocate of my own thinking. Then, one is immediately pigeon-holed. All men are shits and only think of one thing, la di da di da. I have had it up to here. I am not a shit and I think of three things. Sometimes four. And now I have to go and be photographed with a pretty girl for a magazine feature, which is very sexist so I suppose I am a shit, after all.