20 AUGUST 1988, Page 51

Excellent cigars

`THOROUGHLY enjoyed his last fiction,' announced our host, handing out some excellent cigars. 'Marvellous eccentric old character, based, I suspect, on his father.'

'And what of that excellent play of his?' chipped in the military gentleman. 'Mar- vellous old eccentric in that, too.'

`Based on his father?' enquired our host. 'Quite possibly, quite possibly.'

'That Rumpole fellow, he's a . . .' began a tall gentleman down the other end.

. marvellous old eccentric,' con- tinued our host.

By the most extraordinary coincidence, I now find myself compiling a selection of the great man's writings, under the title The Immense Charm of John Mortimer. He produced another real cracker last weekend — a eulogy to the great British seaside resort. Not for Mortimer the du- bious attractions of Provence or Tuscany while there is a stick of rock to be sucked on the shores of Blackpool!