23 NOVEMBER 1991, Page 60

Low life

Up the wall

Jeffrey Bernard

Ihave been harping on about my disgust with the Soho mural elsewhere, but my anger and fury is such that I can think of little else. In case you don't know about it, Westminster council, some people called Free Form Arts and another group called Alternative Arts have put up a damn great mural near Carnaby Street called 'The Spirit of Soho'. It depicts a large group of people who have either lived in Soho or been closely involved with it. There are Mozart and Canaletto, Hazlitt and the fool who invented television in Frith Street, and then they come right up to the present day. I am at a table with Dylan Thomas, Bren- dan Behan, Jessie Matthews and George Melly. In the catalogues — they must have printed a couple of thousand of them cost- ing £5 each — I appear as 'Geoffrey Barnard'.

This bloody mural isn't up here for five minutes: it is supposed to last. If my name is incorrectly spelt on the key to the mural — I haven't seen it yet — and if it has not been corrected by the time I get back from Barbados next week I shall personally van- dalise the wretched thing. Then the incom- petent wankers can take me to court.

I am grateful for small mercies, though. At least Michael Corkrey, the man who is painting me, hasn't given me black hair and three arms. In fact the portrait is coming along very nicely and, talking of portraits, I had lunch with Graham Lord, the Sunday Express literary editor, one day last week at the Chelsea Arts Club and how that place has changed over the years I have known it. Where were the artists? Ever since Michael Heath invented his strip 'The Suits' men are looking and behaving more and more like that tailor's dummy John Major. There were some rather dashing painters of the old school at one time in the Chelsea Arts Club. They are all dead. I miss Loris Rey particularly, who I used to drink with when I lived around the corner from the club. I didn't exactly live around the corner, I was taken prisoner around the corner by a woman I couldn't escape from until the day I backed Fred Winter's Anglo which won the Grand National at 50-1. For me that was like the relief of Mafeking.

Later on I wrote a piece about the Arts Club for the Sunday Times magazine and David Montgomery took a splendid group picture of all the old rogues. Francis Bacon figured prominently in the foreground, although he never used the place much. I gather that my father used the club as a sort of refugee as long ago as 1930 if he and my mother had a tiff.

Anyway, what with a mural and a por- trait I feel as though I have paint coming out of my ears. Meanwhile Graham Lord has had some strange replies from people he has written to about me to help him with his biography. He tells me he received a nice letter from John Osborne and that reminded me of how good it was to see him on the South Bank Show recently. Seeing and hearing Osborne again was for me tremendously reassuring. Thank God there are still a couple of his ilk left. Definitely not one of the 'Suits'.

The trouble with being caught up in a time warp is that I don't particularly want to meet anyone new, although I look for- ward to speaking to the barman tonight in the Sandy Lane Hotel, Barbados. The taxi- driver will be here in ten minutes to take me to Heathrow. He used to drive Nor- man's mother to and from the Coach and Horses every day and even went to her funeral. I hope he isn't a jinx.