5 JUNE 1982, Page 32

Low life


Jeffrey Bernard

The business of being 50 last week passed surprisingly nicely and wasn't we traumatic horror I'd expected. And what a strange mixture were the gifts. I received af £50 note, Charles Osborne's biography c), W.H. Auden, an Ipswich Town supporter' scarf, an Indian cushion, a tin of olive oil, four bottles of vodka, The Penguin Stephen Leacock, the irony of a wallet and an amaz- ing chocolate and cream birthday cake from Norman Balon — the idealpresent for a diabetic. Blowing out the candle at 11.30 ,, a.m., cutting the cake and wishing for 1•' million at the bar of the Coach and Horses made me realise what a long way Ive travelled since my schooldays, and raY mother, who dearly hoped I'd become a gentleman, must be turning in her grave' e After aperitifs the Spectator kindly gave rti,. and some friends a splendid lunch in atb Boardroom. From there to the Colony Room Club and from there to a slow dissolve and end titles. Most extraordinary though was a hand; somely bound festschrift compiled by Unger-Hamilton the musicologist and stall, nurse of the Coach. I must say that most of the contributions were a little over the top and too nice. I've read the book umpteen times since — you too would be captivated by a book about you — and I seem to be somewhere between Mother Theresa and Falstaff. There are three good and kind Poems in the book from George Barker, Elizabeth Smart and my brother Oliver and a special one from E. J. Thribb (17) of Private Eye which reads:

So, Jeffrey Bernard You are 50.

Keith's Mum Says it is High Time You settled down Again.

My godfather, Joe Links, thanks me for be- mg, of all his godchildren, a discredit to him and he asks me not to turn over a new leaf, since the old one will serve till the 60th ,birthday. Keith Waterhouse simply says; Dear Geoff, Isn't it depressing to get to 50 and find that some people still don't know how to spell your fucking name?' Yes, it is. Auberon Waugh's irony still rules OK. He sent a note saying: 'For Jeff, the last true English Gentleman inscribed with affection on his 50th birthday by his comrade in arms. Bron.' At the top of this note there's a £10 note so severely sellotaped it would be impossible to extract even for the direct of straits.

There's a nice letter from John Le Mesurier. We always meant to write the definitive dictionary of clichés and he reminds me that our favourite has always been: 'You only get out of life what you put into it.' (Anyone who says and believes that should be shot.) Irma Kurtz's notes had me blushing, so kind was she, and to think I Used to scream 'feminist' at her. Eva Johansen was shortly and nicely to the Point. 'Congratulations on the birthday we never thought you'd see and thank you for many things, above all, never marrying me. Love Eva.'

Richard West's sombre but funny chapter is on my and his New Statesman Years. He hits the gloom of the journal right on the head as I remember it. I quote a lit- tle. 'On the back door in the editorial room there hung an old and very dirty macintosh, said to have belonged to H. G. Wells. Any than who put it on, the legend continued, could sleep with the first woman he met. But nobody tried it out, for fear of meeting one of those fierce, iron-grey Hampstead socialist ladies who used to visit the Statesman to put them right on their policy to Albania... Jeffrey Bernard wore a fur- tive look when he would creep down the corridor at 11 o'clock and ask, in sign language, if one was coming out to the Pub . • Jeffrey Bernard felt more at home when he transferred his talents to the Spec- tator, of whose editor, Alexander Chancellor, it has been said that his typical daY begins: 10.55 arrive at office. 11.00 Lose article by Solzhenitsyn. 11.05 To pub for gin and tonic.' Next week this column will return to the truth, nitty-gritty reality and horror of day-to-day existence.