25 APRIL 1992, Page 50

Low life

A few hiccups

Jeffrey Bernard

There was a sad and rather touching incident on my last day in Sydney and it is still on my mind. I telephoned the great Harold Larwood to ask him if he would grant me a brief audience but he declined saying, 'I'm 88 now and I am nearly blind. I want to be remembered as I was, not as I am today.' I said of course he would always be remembered as he was, but it was to no avail. Pity that. I very much wanted to meet the legend and get him to reminisce.

And then, from the might-have-been- sublime to the downright ridiculous. I had made that call in the Bourbon and Beef- steak bar, returned to my stool and was then approached by a drunken nutter who said, 'I like your style. Come and join me at my table, I think we could become good friends.' I said 'I don't think so.' Become friends over one lousy drink with the ugli- est man in Australia apart from Kerry Packer? Not on your nelly. I asked a bar- maid about him and it transpired that he was of Dutch extraction and earned his liv- ing by importing silicon for breast implants. From what I saw of Australian women I would have thought that was the last thing they needed.

But that was a mere hiccup during some happy hours spent in the Bourbon and Beefsteak, probably one of the best bars in the country, certainly the best I went to in Sydney. Even a couple of barmen and a cashier bought me a drink. That is almost unheard of here. An English barman might steal you a drink when the boss isn't look- ing but these people actually paid for them. It was red carpet treatment for ten days from everybody. And it was no consolation to get home and discover that Norman was having the carpet of the Coach and Horses

'I think the police have over-reacted to what was basically a domestic argument.'

shampooed. The chewing gum, cigarette ash and the tears of two lady customers make a rich mix.

But how daft it was to manage to get to Sydney just three days before the play closed. Before that I might have got the show some good publicity, to judge by the reactions I got on two television shows to say nothing of a few newspaper write-ups. Dennis Waterman was very good and he made a manic boozer unlike Peter O'Toole's more languid lush. But the pro- duction was a little disappointing and the deft hand of Ned Sherrin was not seen on the penultimate night. I noticed that most of the laughter in the audience emanated from women. I don't quite know what that says for Australian women but I am sure it must be good. You have to be flattened by a bus to get a laugh out of one here.

And now I have just been interviewed in the pub by George Melly for that long- standing BBC radio programme Down Your Way. He has done the latest slot in Soho and both Dan Farson and Ian Board, the proprietor of the Colony Room Club, have been heard. It is a pity that Ian's nose can- not be transmitted by radio waves. And it is a pity you can't choose a request tune on that show any more. I would have selected Mendelssohn's Wedding March as a ges- ture of respect to my last three living wives.