Magazine article The Spectator

Diary

Magazine article The Spectator

Diary

Article excerpt

One of the joys of working early mornings is not having to work after 9 a.m. But there are pitfalls.

My colleague Jeremy Bowen, during a stint on morning television, went for a pleasant lunch in central London and emerged from the restaurant to see a 176 bus. This goes close to the unfashionable area of south London in which we both live. He boarded and sat at the top. The next thing he remembers is waking in Penge bus garage, in darkness, still wearing his makeup though no longer remembering why. He had to struggle to find a way out of the garage and home.

Mindful of this, I always come straight back in a bus whose journey ends near my house. The result is that I find myself with time on my hands and the urge to Get Things Done. Why, for instance, has the old furniture we have been chucking out not been taken by the council as they promised? I ring them and they tell me that there was no access to the place where the rubbish was left. They have a photo to prove it. May I see it? No.

Have you seen it? No. Would it help if I point out that we paid for the dustmen's cameras? No. By now half an hour has gone and I reflect, as I admit defeat, that if I worked normal hours I would never even have made the call. I would have slung the stuff in the Thames, and gone to work without another thought.

Not since the days of Beau Nash has the city of Bath had a bigger knees-up than the one I just attended for Sir Michael Caine. A thousand people came to see him launch his autobiography. I had been asked - as a local boy - to lead the conversation. I was hardly needed:

he is still a master of storytelling. His best is about Paying for Sex in Peckham:

it's a cautionary tale and for the details you must buy the book. But he had a Bath-based story that can be quickly told: when he was young and relatively unknown he was starring in a film in the city and bumped into Cary Grant in the Royal Crescent. 'You're Cary Grant, ' he stammered. Grant replied, 'I know!'

I am a coward. The other day on the Today programme, John Humphrys was harrumphing at some newspaper story about the Americanisation of English - I meekly harrumphed in agreement.

This was silly. John likes a friendly set to (you are surprised? ) and I should have tackled him on this. …

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