1 MAY 1992, Page 42

Low life

Hack off

Jeffrey Bernard

It came as no great shock to me to be fired by the Sunday Mirror last week. I was only surprised that the editor, Bridget Rowe, bothered to let me know. It was the first and only occasion in all her time at the helm of that ship on which she has both- ered to communicate with me. Even Eve Pollard once took me to lunch. For all I know it might have been Ms Rowe who told Robert Maxwell to go take a running jump. It was a black day for me and many others when that man kicked Mike Molloy upstairs. So, goodbye Mirror Group News- papers after 27 years of on-and-off hacking. I must say that in the last four years or so I never wrote a single column that came any- where near pleasing me although I received three proposals of marriage from so many demented female readers, one free ride in a taxi from a driver who recognised me and a five-pound note from a reader who wrote to say that I sounded like a man in need of a drink. Cheers to that.

From time to time I would moan about the difficulty of writing for the Sunday Mir- ror and I always had the horrible feeling that I must write down to its readers as opposed to Spectator readers. I confided the fact to Keith Waterhouse one day and he said, 'A juggler doesn't change his act because he changes his venue.' How very right and true. But with Mike Molloy it was different and not quite so like defecating in public. In his time I never once faxed a col- umn or dictated one to a copy-taker because it was always a pleasure to go to the office and deliver it personally. He always had the time to read it after telling

'There must be a German transport strike!'

me to help myself to a drink and he always had something encouraging to say — a pat on the head, so to speak, for this little boy, who I am ashamed to say still needs one from time to time. But an editor who is always too busy to give you the time of day isn't on top of his or her job.

I first worked for Molloy in 1969 when he was the editor of the Daily Mirror Maga- zine. Jolly days they were too. Incidentally, Eve Pollard was the fashion editor and I worked alongside Bill Hagerty, Scarth Flett, Russell Miller and Colin Bell when I wasn't downing oysters in Wheeler's in Old Compton Street. When the magazine final- ly folded Colin Bell hit the nail on the head when he said, 'Gravy train derailed'. I think it must have been then when I took to drink.

The next job on what was then IPC was a twice-weekly column for the Sporting Life. That wasn't exactly a gravy train but it kept a pack of wolves from the door while ruin- ing my pancreas. The letter of dismissal from the editor said my behaviour was unpardonable. And now, last week, it was called unforgivable. I would say it was unfortunate. I should never have taken time off and away from this awful machine, Monica, to go to Australia. It has resulted in a double kicking of sorts, since what I wrote for the Sunday Express who arranged the trip out there was postponed. Bridget Rowe's secretary told me I was forbidden to write for the Sunday Express, but why not? I was never ever under contract to the Sunday Mirror and Ms Rowe wouldn't have subsidised a trip to Notting Hill Gate.

But never mind all that; the bad news is that my daughter has just shaved a patch of her lovely hair and she was to sit for her portrait to be painted by Michael Corkrey in two weeks' time. And I have just heard that his portrait of me is to be exhibited in the National Portrait Gallery soon. I am delighted for him and Guy Hart who com- missioned the painting. Perhaps Mirror Group Newspapers may buy it. Or slash it? From where I am sitting everything, but everything, is quite absurd.