10 OCTOBER 1987, Page 48

Low life

Travels with myself

Jeffrey Bernard

The Lord giveth all right but he doesn't half take it away again. Last Sunday at Longchamp, drinking Victor Chandler's champagne and Rocco Forte's vodka, I forgot for the length of time that it took Trempolino to cover the distance of the Arc that I still have nowhere to live and have therefore run out of jokes.

Other people haven't run out of jokes though. I bumped into one punter in Paris who said to me, 'Why don't you move into the Coach and Horses?' I thought that was so excruciatingly funny, I had to pour a glass of red wine over him for fear his wit would damage my ribs. I sometimes wish I was still capable of hitting some people.

Apart from the nasty nocturne in St Germain it was a splendid weekend. Victor and Rocco's hospitality was the icing on the top of a good cake. I only had one bet, Polonia, and she cruised up at 7-1. The friend I stayed with who works for the Herald Tribune was delightful, the food was memorable, and the weather was gorgeous. Eating lunch and even dinner outside in the sunshine and under the stars at the Brasserie St Benoit made the Mid- dlesex Hospital, the Inland Revenue, the Booker Prize, Mrs Thatcher, the litter of London and my bar bill at the Groucho Club seem a million miles away. But the trouble with travel is that it doesn't remove you from yourself. When Marco Polo finally got to China he was probably worrying that he hadn't locked the kitchen door behind him.

On the first night in Paris, I bumped into an old friend who now lives there. He was legless. Not an amputee, as one American understood the expression to mean, just drunk as a rat. We passed a jolly hour in a bar and then the next day I bumped into his wife. She said, quite severely, 'So you got my old man drunk last night.' That annoyed me nearly as much as the punter who suggested I live in the pub. Why, oh why, do women think their husbands are always led astray by their friends? It is ridiculous and bloody rude and you wouldn't exactly have to put an arm lock on this particular friend to get a bottle of whisky down him.

The next time I go to Paris I shall keep myself to myself, apart from having the one with some of the people who work on the Herald Tribune. They drink in a bar called the Village and the odd thing is that it is the twin bar to the Coach and Horses. The only difference really is that you can get served in the Village.

And now I am preparing for another Journey next month to Kenya, hopefully. I have had a kind invitation from a reader of this column to go and stay at Karen Blixen's old place while she and her husband go elsewhere on holiday. I must say that it's a rather stylish way of solving the bed and breakfast situation for two or three weeks. In a letter outlining the dos and don'ts of Kenya, she advises me that I don't need anti-malaria pills unless I intend to go on safari. I have had some very weird fantasies in my time but my imagination could never stomach the thought of going on safari. This column is not signed Hemingway.

The other thing that caught my eye in her letter is the fact that there are no dangerous animals about, although a leopard did make off with their dog. So a leopard isn't dangerous? And how should it know the difference between me and a dog? I look like an anorexic whippet.

But I love the idea of going to Africa. John Hurt has nearly finished building a house nearby and perhaps we will be able to lead each other astray, difficult as that may be. And will the natives be restless, I wonder? I can't stop thinking about safaris now. I really don't see me with a pith helmet and shorts. I'd as soon walk down Oxford Street in pyjamas if I had any.