3 NOVEMBER 1979, Page 27


Jeffrey Bernard

There are times, and they're becoming more frequent, when being a hack gives me a pain in almost every part of my anatomy. For the past few weeks I've been struggling to think of alternative ways to make a living and I haven't been able to come up with a single idea. The only advantage I can see to this business is that it provides enough free time to pop out occasionally for just the one'; the only other job that does just that seems to be acting. It's a sad fact really that actors are dotted lines only joined up by the 3B pencil when they're working, otherwise they'd be able to enjoy the part of their lives that I so envy — resting. I can think of nothing nicer than being between engagements, assuming of course, the engagements themselves weren't too trivial. No, what I'd really like to be is a businessman. I don't mean the City variety, but something slightly more spivvy. Bloodstock agent appeals tremendously as does nightclub owner, restaurant owner — hours of delicious tablehopping driving the customers mad — or magazine editor of the glossy variety enabling me to delegate work to frightened people in pleasant surroundings. (Actually, some of them do a wonderful job.) I failed pretty miserably at my one and only business venture and that was when I had a book barrow in Earlham Street Market in the early Fifties. I managed to stock it in the first place with unwanted books collected from various friends. Bernard Kops had a barrow next to mine and Quentin Crisp, I think I remember correctly, dabbled in antiques and jewellery a few yards up the pavement. It was quite jolly. The trouble was, my barrow — next to Tubby Isaacs's stall — was just outside the pub by the corner of Cambridge Circus and when I made a sale I'd pop in for a half of bitter. I sold a first edition of a W.H. Auden once for the princely sum of ten shillings and left the barrow unattended for three hours. You see, if you're a businessman you really need to think beyond opening time and concentrate on what women call 'the future'.

Perhaps the best thing for someone to do who's completely untrained to do anything whatsoever is to tell other people what to do or, at least, give them advice. Sidney Graham once set up as an 'excusesmith' selling ne'er-do-wells excuses for ten shillings a time but the denizens of Soho became quite good at it themselves and he had to revert to a different sort of poetry. One thought that did strike me was to open a delicatessen in Lambourn, where there isn't a shop to speak of in Fortnum's terms, and put a manager in it. Of course, managers fiddle but 19-yearold female manageresses don't and God knows why since most barmaids do. It would be dreary I know but I quite like the idea of popping in once a day to empty the till.

I suppose what I want is a job as brief as an assault on a typewriter but one whose result is a little more secret. Professional punter I like, the anxiety can last as little as 58 seconds at Epsom on a dry day, but we all know that luck goes in cycles and I haven't got the stamina for cycling. The gigolo is the one man I can think of who has to earn every penny of his money and I'm too fond of clean sheets and baths etc to ever be a layabout again. I've even thought of becoming a complete drop-out but what park-bencher ever laid a woman? Mould you like to come back to Hyde Park for a glass of meths?'). No, I suppose this will just have to go on. Sorry about that.