28 MAY 1988, Page 41

Low life

Souped up

Jeffrey Bernard

Ithink I may have to get married again or at the very least employ an au pair girl or a gentleman's gentleman. Being ill in bed without a nurse is hell. Yesterday the effort of getting up to heat up a tin of soup made me nearly faint and I don't exagger- ate. The pancreas is an unforgiving bas- tard. But it has been like going back to childhood. Last night I managed a Mar- mite sandwich, a banana and a glass of milk and that is precisely what my mother gave me for tea when I was about 12 years old, although bananas were hard to come

by then and so it was usually an apple. And I remember jam sandwiches with great affection. Whatever happened to high tea?

It is almost enough to make me feel nostalgic for the Blitz. One was too young to be really frightened and I liked sleeping under the basement staircase, drinking cocoa amid the whistle of bombs and the crack of anti-aircraft guns. When it got really bad my mother took me down to the platforms of Holland Park tube station which reeked of fish and chips and vinegar. My mother also used to make very good Spanish omelettes with dried egg powder. The other standby, coupons permitting, was pilchard pie which I wouldn't give any thanks for today. But they were happy days in a way. There was no need for money, no knowledge of sex and no urgency for a drink. You see what happens when you start to grow up and the Ger- mans surrender. You start going mad.

But the last few days have been exhaust- ing. Why it should be so tiring just lying in bed sipping tea or soda water and smoking cigarettes is a mystery to me. It took me half an hour to dress this morning and crawl to the desk. Still it's better than being in hospital, not that you can get into one any more thanks to the collapse of the Health Service. I need to go back to the Middlesex to get restabilised but it's like trying to get into Eton. I should have put my daughter down for it ten years or so ago.

And talking of hospital I am worried about the one behind me. It has an enormous air conditioner outside it and I have had to close the bedroom window for fear of Legionnaires' disease. I have be- come a little preoccupied with that since the outbreak at and via the BBC. You can hardly move these days without catching something and it is essential that I must be well for my wretched birthday this Friday and for next Wednesday, much more important, Derby Day.

And what a tricky picture that's turning out to be. Almost abstract. I must advise Wendy Cope not to back Al Mufti since I have had a few quid on him. It seems very unlikely that I can back five Derby winners on the trot. The compulsion to back a horse just because it is running in a classic or a `big' race is really rather ridiculous. A really good horse in the 3.30 at Bath on a Monday could be a far better proposition and the lesson is so simple nearly every- body overlooks it. It is quite simply that the only horses worth backing are good horses. Obvious really.

But I dread still being stuck here in bed on the great day itself sipping tomato soup between moaning. Our party is having poached salmon and salad followed by strawberries and cream plus afternoon tea after and I'm sure there will be some interesting rows as the champagne takes effect. What I do think is a little sad is that the great man won't be there. No doubt the warders will allow him to watch the race on the television screen but dear oh dear how the mighty have fallen. He is smiling at me now from the wall above the desk and I find it depressing. Such jolly days on the crest of endless waves.

Meanwhile I shall have to go back to bed with a raspberry sandwich and a pot of tea and take a Valium. Dreadful things. I still have a hangover from the one I took 15 hours ago. Next week I hope to be more compos mentis when I address you.