26 SEPTEMBER 1992, Page 56

Low life

Not a pretty picture

Jeffrey Bernard

I shall be interested to see what the book looks like when it comes out — it is illus- trated — and then it shall be kept closed for ever after. Was Dorian Grey in the habit of looking at his revolting portrait? I wouldn't know since I have never read the book. I would guess that he took the odd peek at it. I was happily surprised, though, to discover that a couple of ex-wives and the odd ex-girlfriend had been fairly Pleas- ant about me, although even they couldn't remember much beyond the fact that I had blue eyes when they met me. (I have just looked at them and they have faded like an overexposed water-colour. What with the pink in them now they remind me of Sir John Astor's racing colours.) Of course, to me, the book reads like an obituary without pulled punches: I wasn't 'convivial', I was as pissed as a rat. And it should be required reading for any boy stupid enough to think that a glass of whisky will make him an instant Jack the Lad. Anyway, when I finished reading Just the One it occurred to me that now I live with a potted palm tree I have arrived at an anti- climax. Or maybe it is a climax in disguise. There are, of course, a few things that are mildly irritating to me and that is only to be expected. Yes, I have ignored my sister in the past and I do now because I have never liked her and I couldn't suddenly feel any, warmth for her when she was certified years ago, just as I wouldn't feel sudden, affection for somebody who was diagnosed as having cancer. It would just make one think a bit. I do that all right. It has also stirred memories and mud- died a pond which I thought was becoming clearer. I had nearly obliterated my Mem°. ries of the horrors of early family life but they.have been brought back to the surface. My brother Oliver's forthcoming autobiog- raphy, Getting Over It, also slightly depressed me for that reason. I used to argue with Frank Norman that his being taken into a Dr Barnado's home was a blessing in disguise but he would have none of it. Nevertheless it can be a terrible thing to be a child and discover that you have inherited a mother. And as for my daugh- ter, Isabel, she came round last week to see me and read a chapter or two which opened her eyes a little. She wasn't shocked but she didn't exactly laugh. But now that she is 22 years old it won't do her any harm. I wish I knew more about my father, whom I strangely miss although I never knew him when he died and I was only seven.

I see now that what I have said looks very much like self-pity but I am not much given to that nowadays since I see that it has all been rather absurd. What Graham Lord's book has done has been to rekindle some guilt and remorse and that is my own fault. Remorse is horribly negative, as is envy, and I was surprised to read an under- current of envy in some of my friends and enemies that Graham interviewed. How anybody can envy a faintly breathing cadav- er is beyond me. Oddly enough, the book has a compara- tively happy ending when Graham Lord writes of the opening and run of Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell. Was it really such a nightmare up until then and did Keith Waterhouse simply invent me? I shall never know. But I can't help smiling at a remark made by a woman in the book who says of years ago that I wasn't very good at cuddling because I got so instantly randy that it led to closer contact. And that is meant to be a put-down? Those were the