17 MARCH 1961, Page 34

Postscript . . •


wouldn't have had to flounce out of a press conference on my ac- count, as she did in New York the other day, be- cause a reporter ques- tioning her hadn't either read Gone With The Wind or seen the film— in which Miss Leigh played the Southern belle, and which is being reissued, on its twenty-first birthday, as part of the Civil War centenary celebrations. I not only read the book, and reviewed the film (in the Manchester Guardian), but still remember Dilys Powell's much livelier, funnier and truer Sunday Times review, which aroused the wrath of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, who barred her from their press shows for a time. That, in its turn, caused ructions in the Critics' Circle from which Alan Dent and I resigned, on the grounds that the Circle hadn't given Miss Powell the support it owed her. Alan Dent and I are long since back, all hatchets buried, and I wonder whether MGM would bury the hatchet too if the Sunday Times celebrated the reissue of GWTW by republishing the Dilys Powell notice, which I have just looked up in the files. It purports to be a message from an expedition to the press show, picked for its 'hardihood, tenacity and powers of endurance'; mentions the famous shot of the 'wounded lying in the sun at Atlanta, which a member of the exploration party, misled by Technicolor, pardonably mis- took for Bank Holiday on Bournemouth beach'; and ended with a message received by carrier pigeon—'sinking into a coma. This is tougher than pole-squatting.'


I notice, by the way, that many English news- papers, including the Times, are now referring to the Civil War 'centennial.' It seems a pity to substitute yet another unnecessary Americanism for the perfectly good English word, 'centenary.'

* I don't know how to comment on what follows. I print it as a note on the world we live

in. A columnist of my acquaintance received a letter from a stranger which read:

Dear Sir,—Two friends of mine are to be married next month and, because the event will be rather special, it may well be that one of your staff may like to be present.

Both bride and groom are well known socially and I'm attaching for your information some particulars of the Wedding. If you are interested in getting further details or would like an invitation to the wedding. please telephone me at my business number.

Attached was a cyclostyled sheet, headed 'Wedding particulars,' with sub-headings 'The Bride,' The Bridegroom,' and 'General.' I omit the names, ages and addresses, because I'm hanged if l'm going to provide any of the pub- licity all parties are pining for, but I am prepared to reveal that the bride's father is man- aging director of a firm that makes 'well-known toothpaste'; that of the bride it is vouchsafed that, 'She is an ex-model (and a good-looker) and spent two years in this field. . . . Keeps a "zoo" of two pekes, a black poodle and a Siamese cat. The wedding gown is a Paris-made job in pink satin. . .' And so on. The bridegroom, I learn, was once an 'under' ADC (whatever that is) to a titled Air Chief Marshal and 'now runs the largest turkey farm in Europe.'

I telephoned the bridegroom to ask if the letter was authentic, and the writer his friend, as he claimed to be. Oh yes, a great friend, and I could accept everything he wrote. He did hope, did the bridegroom, that I'd come along—and he didn't trouble to ask my name or my paper.

A Persian carpet is being flown from Persia for the reception. I hope no one throws up on it. *

One thing about Bradshaw's Railway Guide that I haven't seen mentioned in the obituary notices is that it gave a verb to the RAF jargon of between the wars. When I was learning, not very successfully, to be an intrepid birdman, in the ninety-miles-an-hour, open-cockpit machines of the time, there were those of us who, on their cross-country exercises, relied not on a course- and-distance calculator and a compass, but on flying low enough along a railway line to read the names of the stations. This was to bradshaw.

Long after 'Bradshaw' first came out, an elderly railway director recalled in the Nineties how horrified his board had been, sixty years before, to be asked to provide particulars of their trains. The chairman had said : 'I most strongly object to our complying with this inquiry. I be- lieve it would tend to make punctuality a sort of obligation.' The poor fellow needn't have worried.

When a man's claims to fame are as few and as slender as mine, he may as well make the most of them. My copy of the New English Bible may well be the first one sold to the general public, for I bought it long before nine o'clock on Tues- day morning, the day of publication. It is certainly the first sale from Smith's new shop in Fleet-Street, and 1 got the managing director 'to certify it as such on the fly-leaf, where with an- other book one might have hoped for the author's compliments. I was talked into making it the guinea edition, not the eight-and-sixpenny, and I paid full price, but I did get a breakfast of cold ham and boiled eggs, as part of the opening cele- brations. If Smith's would offer me a similar bonus on every guinea I spent in the future, I'd be quite a good customer.


No British newspaper gives better and more frequent news about the wines and the wine- drinking habits of Europe than the Times (though I doubt whether any single Times corre- spondent knows more about the wines of the country he serves in than Terence Prittie, the Guardian's man in Germany). Only the Times, last week, gave the news that a Bill is before the Italian Senate that would establish a system of appellations contrcilees in Italy such as there is in France. And not before time. There'are some excellent Italian wines, but many are incon- sistent as to quality, and erratically marketed. And it appears that many a wine claiming to come from the aristocratic vineyards of the north has only travelled through those parts, on its way from the coarser south.

Meanwhile, some English firms do take care to find Italian wines that are what they say they are. Peter Dominic, for instance, lists a 1953 Barolo, from Piedmont—perhaps the finest of Italian red vyines, with the same sort of body as burgundy, but a character of its own—at I Is. 6d., bottled here; 13s. 6d., estate-bottled. If the law steps in to prevent the rougher wines of Italy from earn- ing their betters a bad name, some of these finer wines will come into their own.