5 JULY 1986, Page 41

Low life

Taking a break

Jeffrey Bernard

The media — what a loathsome word — has spent one hell of a lot of time and space on Richard Branson this past week enthusing about his Atlantic power boat crossing and I'm up to here with it. How quickly a man may cross the Atlantic is as irrelevant to me as is how quickly a man may walk from Holland Park to Lancaster Gate. And thank the Lord that the World Cup is over. Once Wimbledon is finished there will, with luck, be no news at all. I don't mind if Fleet Street and television take a long break although I would like to keep in touch with England's cricketing humiliations for the next two months. Yes, I'm so fed up with news I think I'll switch to the awful Sun which contains nothing. The trouble is I am addicted to the Times. It is a fix of sorts. I hasten to add that I am not being paid by them to say so, in fact I don't seem to be getting paid by anyone at the moment. It is only fair to warn all you seething undergraduates wishing to be- come hacks that the bastards keep you waiting for three months sometimes while they accrue interest on your money. It is also a fact that all accountants can't bear to part with money since they unconsciously regard it as theirs. There must be some other way to earn a living that doesn't involve keeping office hours. I had hoped to be left in charge of the Coach and Horses while Norman was on holiday in Sicily, but no. He must be suffering. He hates the sea, beaches, the sun, sand and lying about doing nothing. He even took three friends with him on his honeymoon years ago so that he could while away the time playing cards. There's romance for you. She was probably quite relieved. (The though of being swept into his arms has made me reach for the bottle and it's only 9.30 a.m.) You could see for yourself if this column was illustrated.

But speaking of holidays I am going away to Portugal for a few days. I have never been there but I gather there is nothing to eat save grilled sardines. I am also told that there are no less than eight golf courses where I am going so there should be hundreds of really horrendous Englishmen. I have friends who play golf but I like them one at a time. But what worries me most about Portugal is return- ing to the boat at night and negotiating the gangplank. To be eaten by sardines and subsequently English golfers is not the end I have in mind. Anyway, there's no escap- ing Fleet Street because Barclays Bank is so voracious. I phoned a column over from a Greek island once in a beach bar while a local girl rubbed sun oil into my back and that wasn't too unpleasant but it's tricky in Barbados after a few rum punches and mild sunstroke. The only thing that cheers me up about phoning Fleet Street from abroad is that whenever I have said to the copy-taker, 'What's the weather like in London?' they have always replied, 'It's pissing down.' So comforting. But I don't know why I'm having this little holiday at all really. Wherever I go I am there. People are always saying, 'it'll do you good to get away.' Why will it? Don't they realise it is myself I want to get away from or are they in truth saying it will do them good? At least Norman misses me when I go away. 'What you want to go and spend your money somewhere else for?' he screams. Fancy phoning from Sicily to have have the manager read out the till roll. But to get back to the bad news, I have just been told over the telephone — what a horrid blunt instrument — that Branson's winning journey has 'lifted the hearts of Britons after our defeat in the World Cup'. Perhaps Mrs Thatcher will consider it a fitting moment for a general election. Meanwhile she probably awaits the further adventures of Ian Botham, as we all do, to make up her mind. I've gone off him. My one time hero is the only thing left making Fleet Street tick.