23 AUGUST 1975, Page 14

Spectator peregrinations

This is the time of year when those journalists who are not frying eggs on the pavement are looking for the Loch Ness monster. Now 1 have travelled the length of Loch Ness with my hawk-like eye once or twice and 1 know that there is no monster. But that is no reason why I should not indulge in this ludicrous fantasy. Accordingly I have been rummaging among my collection of driftwood and other beachcomb.ings which pass as objets d'art to see if I have anything which could be described as monstrous in appearance. A few years ago I photographed one of these, suitably blurred to suggest movement, and sent it to the Field which published it. It got a very good response from serious monster hunters, particularly from Captain Lionel Leslie who sent me a copy of the findings of the Loch Ness Phenomenon Investigation Bureau, a hefty book rather like a telephone directory and as unreadable, produced by the people who keep vigil with caravans and electronic equipment. I have since visited Captain Leslie at his home in Mull, where he is surrounded by plastic whales and other props left over from an Alastair Maclean film, but no prospect of finding a monster. He is convinced that there is a monster in Loch Ness but says there's some doubt whether anyone will find it. He also believe' there is a good chance of a similar creature in an Irish lough in Connemara and that if it is there he will certainly find it. He has already tried dredging with a half-ton breaking-strain net. The basis for this belief is a story by three Galway priests who were walking after Mass when the monster ate their dog after a tremendous struggle. The point is — do you believe apparently plausible but static photographs from con-men like myself or the wilder tales of tidal waves from people whose credentials are indisputable. I tried to suggest, without causing offence I hope, that three Galway priests after a good Mass are no more reliable than I am.

Warm work

You may bat believe it as you swelter, bloated with meterological statistics and records, but the last few weeks have been the best that the demolition people can ever remember. Or so I am told by the man who, almost single-handed, sometimes with two hands, has been knocking down the back wing of The Spectator building in Gower Street.' I don't really believe it — I think he has been as happy snoozing in the sun as the rest of us — but he says that property developers are a ruthless lot and that if he had not known all his life what a good paper The Spectator was, he would himself have been swinging his hammer much more energetically. After all, he says, they could whip the whole thing down and whip it up again before the savage winter, which he is predicting, sets in. As it is, it has taken The Spectator some time to find a suitable new home and he does not want to be the one to knock it on the head or see it go under. So we still have a roof. Well, the literary editor hasn't. Sitting on his desk the other day, I reflected that, sad though it may be, it's really quite pleasant when they take off the roof, and one wall, and let the air in. I think the literary editor might still be there if it were not for the dust, insects, demands for money from contributors dating back to 1925 and ghastly yellowing passport photographs of Auberon 'Waugh which have come to light. The thing that makes me think that property developers don't really work in this weather is that my front door has been coming off its hinges for a year or so. I didn't try to fix it during the winter for fear of the draught. Now it's far too hot for this kind of work. The weather is always the idle property man's friend. Even peregrinating is arduous — particularly the fifth Annual Conference of the Union of Muslim Organisations which I went to last week "in the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful." Even at his most merciful, Allah does not contenance long cool alcoholic drinks.

French lessons

Peter Easton, chairman of Scope International, a Park Lane public relations company, recentlY interviewed a French girl who wanted an unpaid job so that she could learn the trade. (No double meanings intended so far.) Now he has had this reply: "Dear Sir, I was very pleased to meet you and strongly moved by your welcome. .I thank you for your gentleness and I do hope I shall be able to satisfy you. So, I can assure you I shall do my best. Referring to our conversation, I shall be at London at the beginning of September. As soon as I arrived, I stiall immediately contact you. I renew to you my gratitude. And I remain, Dear Sir, Yours, faithfully." Does she really know the meaning of public relations? I only get letters from Cyril Ray.


These are balmy August days in St James's Street now that Brooks's and White's are closed for the summer holidays. 1 was asked by an octogenarian trying to get his bearings, in unfamiliar territory, "I thought you were dead. Why aren't you?" Sorry, sir, my mistake.


I understand that since the old Covent Garden site closed as a vegetable market, the offices 01 Country Life in nearby Southampton Street have been invaded by homeless rats. Could it be that the rats are trying to destroy the back numbers which contain copious advice on the extermination of rats? I think Country Life Should consult Sir John Craster, of Craster House, Craster, Northumberland who, as I reported in this column a few months ago, has seen a cat catch two rats simultaneously by their tails as they travelled in opposite directions.


While the editor's office was being cleared out in preparation for the move to Doughty Street, found some pickled vegetables in an old food lift hatch. Bill Grundy took three bottles — Chopped spinach, shredded red cabbage and Whole new potatoes, which he still claims were Pickled onions. 1 got the whole young carrots, celery roots and shredded carrots.

Looking ahead

In the blistering heat last Wednesday, I went to a lunch given by Armagnac brandy on the top floor of the Churchill Hotel. I was astonished to see a room full of women journalists from various glossy magazines knocking the stuff back neat before lunch. More amazingly, for me, because I plan about three days ahead, they were examining the Armagnac Christmas Package. "We get so confused," one of them told me "that we sometimes forget to order our own turkey." Could it be the Armagnac?

All in fun

A new experienced in the life of the innocent Peregrine: a solicitor's letter. Peter paterson is Upset by a paragraph describing The Spectator party in which I said he physically assaulted the wounded Peregrine. "It may well have been intended to be amusing but unfortunately could be construed seriously." It was intended as a joke. Paterson merely grabbed my arm to give me a friendly wigging. It is always good news to find someone not wanting to be an enemy of Peregrine's. But such was my paranoia that night.

Defensive bicyling

Ever since thy cycling disaster after The Spectator party I have been looking for a new machine. My neighbour, a bicycling nut who only last week pedalled to Cambridge and back in a day (at least 100 miles) for a business appointment, says that the secret is aggressive cycling. So I went to a market in London somewhere south of the river near Elephant and Castle where they sell everything from jellied eels to battery-powered fans for cooling your armpits. I bought one of those butcher's messenger's bicycles with tubular steel baskets fore and aft (and a placard under the crossbar) designed to strip the paintwork from the sides of passing taxis. Pedalling around on a machine like this you get the feeling that you're being extremely busy even though both baskets are empty. But this is, I have learned, not aggressive but defensive bicycling. It makes you a bigger target. More than once I have been Wedged between buses in gaps that I could formerly negotiate and have had to abandon my cumbrous machine. The secret of aggressive cycling, 1 am now told, is to travel faster and more nimbley than everyone else on the road. This is something I have not quite been able to contemplate in sun-baked, tourist-infested London.