30 MAY 1992, Page 40

Low life

Happy birthday

Jeffrey Bernard

ixty at last. I can't quite believe it but here it is in today's Times alongside some oddballs who make me even more sceptical of astrology: Cilia Black, Paul Gascoigne, Henry Kissinger and Vincent Price, to name but four.

There must be members of the staff of the Middlesex Hospital who won't quite believe it too. I know Norman is quite incredulous and yesterday he told me that he was going to buy me a lobster. It will be much appreciated but I will have to scrounge some mayonnaise from the kitchens of the Groucho Club. Try making the stuff with the shakes. You can't.

Anyway, whether or not I can make may- onnaise is the least of my worries. My recent obsession with reaching this 60th birthday has given me a new recurring dream in which the walking stick The Spec- tator gave me turns out to be rotten and crumbles while I am leaning on it. Hot on the heels of the financial disaster of getting the bullet from the Sunday Mirror it is not surprising, and now the LEB are threaten- ing to disconnect the electricity because I filled in some form or other incorrectly. I think it is a miracle that most of us are not completely mad. I no longer think of going to bed to sleep, I stagger to my bedroom thinking let's go and have a nightmare.

And the daymares are pretty bad too. That is why I shall now have an early glass of Stolichnaya. It is a birthday present from my friend Bill Haddow who I was in the drying-out bin with 20 years ago and con- sidering he doesn't touch the stuff any more I thought it was a noble gesture on his part. When he presented me with it he apologised for it not being a very imagina- tive present. But it is, it is. It is a bottle of sweet dreams in which walking sticks don't crumble.

And now the telephone — no, not cut off yet — has been buzzing this morning with calls from surprised well-wishers. And the birthday cards in the post this morning have cheered and moved me. I even got a call from a 40-year-old woman who has claimed in the past to be my daughter. And now two people, one of them our own Jen- nifer Paterson, have just called to inform me that I can now get cheaper rail travel. This would be a good thing if only I could get on to a train without assistance.

This telephone doesn't stop. My ex has just called and I heard her children in the background, so she's all right at last. Well, it sounded like a pretty picture anyway. It's nice that they fall on their feet when they leave me. So for some, marriages do have a happy ending.

But I must not allow this birthday non- sense to obscure the great puzzle of what is going to win next week's Derby. I am still with Rainbow Corner and I am beginning to think that Silver Wisp might be the best outsider, although it must be years since an Epsom-trained horse won the Epsom Derby. But looking for dangers to my origi- nal fancy has often in the past led me to waste valuable ammunition.

I shall not be going this year, although the Groucho Club are having a splash of an outing for the day, and I shall never go to the Derby again. It is now, for me, strictly a television event as is a Test match. You can barely see a yard of the running unless you are at the top of the grandstand. Even Charles Dickens was complaining about Epsom 130 years ago. This drought, though, could make a mess of the form book. When Harry Wragg's horse, Psidium, won at 66-1 I seem to remember it was like concrete. As hard as the looks a young woman would give to a man who has reached 60.