Magazine article The Spectator


Magazine article The Spectator


Article excerpt

A fair cop

Sir: A former colleague has drawn my attention to the recent correspondence in your magazine regarding your restaurant critic, David Fingleton.

On 26 July you published a letter from one David Sawyer in which, after bleating unconvincingly about angst and piety as personified by Mr Glenn Wellman (Letters, 19 July), he goes on to relate an encounter with David Fingleton during the latter's career on the magistrates' bench.

This encounter (Regina v. Sawyer) concerned the dislodging of a policeman's helmet at a CND rally in Trafalgar Square resulting in a conditional discharge. Now I (like Sawyer) must declare an interest. That helmet was mine. I was that policeman.

It is my opinion that the severity of the offence warranted at least a fine, if not a custodial sentence. But Mr Fingleton thought otherwise. May I suggest that his decision had nothing to do with 'discrimination and fairness' as claimed by Sawyer, but rather his patrician disdain for my untutored Scottish vowels and imprecise syntax, a disdain which he made no effort to conceal? The old class system again.

I might also add that his leniency in the matter foreshadowed attitudes to law and order which have brought our country to its current plight regarding wrongdoing in the youth of today.

I shall never read Mr Fingleton's restaurant reviews. I wouldn't give a stuffed pepper for them anyway as I assume they are informed by the same absence of discernment and judgment as he displayed in the discharge of his duty all those years ago.

William Duffy 11 Glenloch Court, Glenloch Road, London NW3

Sir: It was unkind, even cruel, to have brought in such a big gun as Mark Archer (`Eating for the Third World', 19 July) to demolish Joanna Ritchie for the gentle letter she wrote expressing moral concern about David Fingleton's exploits and their cost. It appears she scored a bull's-eye. Let this be a warning to readers not to trifle with your food critic. From my point of view, in a Third World country and grateful not to be starving, I find David Fingleton's column most interesting and intriguing. Most of the things he writes about I have never heard of. The only time I could relate to a meal he described was the gargantuan breakfast at the Savoy when he mentioned such mundane fare as bacon, eggs, sausages and seven or more other delights suitable at that meal. I wonder how big the plate was.

W Nichol Box 665, Howick, South Africa

The evil eye

Sir: Taki's ruminations (High life, 26 July) on the persisting `malignant influence' on the British press through the `snideness and sneering' of Private Eye from the days when `that particular evil organ' was taken seriously, prick me into telling you more.

It was in the autumn of 1973, a nasty bit of history, when Private Eye got wind of the publishing company I had launched three years earlier having cash-flow problems. I had built that enterprise out of my earlier career in journalism and politics. The profile was high, the growth spectacular, the philosophy conservative.

We were a sitting duck for Private Eye which -- without a word to me - in two successive issues exaggerated our liabilities, with, indeed, the customary snideness and sneering. Worthy Rotarians who printed and processed for us, and read the evil organ knowingly over their ploughman's lunches, issued writs as one man for monies as little as a week overdue. At such moments as these, one has two weeks to live or die.

We needed 200,000 for three months. I flew to Paris with my accountant and saw my old buddy Jimmy Goldsmith. He took 20 minutes of scrutiny of our accounts and asked six rapier questions before he guaranteed us 100,000 providing we could match the sum elsewhere. The Yom Kippur war was upon us. We could not raise a single further cent - nobody could. The company went down that very next week. All but two of my gifted staff of 105 lost their jobs, and some their careers, and authors were left unpublished. …

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