Magazine article The Spectator

Low Life

Magazine article The Spectator

Low Life

Article excerpt

Another sunny Sunday morning and the phone rings. I pick up the receiver. It's Frank. I groan inwardly. Frank is a doctor and an old family friend and a great talker. What he has to say is always intelligent and interesting and often funny. He will explain scientific laws or philosophical arguments or biological functions with elaborate care and in the simplest possible terms, so that even a child might understand them. My immune system, for example, is run by soldiers with powers of arrest and internment, constantly on high alert for terrorists. His talk is invariably sprinkled with his favourite Jewish jokes, and bawdy songs, which he breaks into with little or no provocation, his cherubic face aglow with pleasure.

But he has zero emotional intelligence and his talk is always delivered in the form of an interminable and exhausting monologue.

So on this sunny spring Sunday morning with the primroses out and grass to be mown, he's the last person I want to talk to. But it's been a while. And in the fast lane of the local pool earlier something in my knee went twang! and I'm crippled. So I take my mug of coffee and do a choreographed fall into the nearest chair and resign myself to being subjected to a Frank monologue.

He'd been to Cambodia with a party of doctors on a fact-finding tour. Goodness, those Cambodian women! They had to be seen to be believed. As the doctors were strolling together in the town, one of the women doctors had teased him by saying, 'Gee, Frank, I don't know how you can resist all these fabulous women.' Frank replied that he woke up every morning wondering the same thing. But in truth he hadn't been resisting them at all. In fact, he'd been conducting his own independent fact-finding tour from the moment he'd stepped off the plane.

His approach was capricious rather than systematic, by the sound of it. Instead of heading for the bars, like any normal monger looking for local colour, he patrolled the outdoor markets, imagining presumably that every Cambodian woman he saw was a possibility.

Which seems a trifle arrogant and wholly misguided to me. But I don't cavil, partly because one doesn't interrupt Frank when he's in full flow, and partly because he had a tremendous success almost right away.

He had his sights set on this one particular 'gorgeous piece of ass' in a shop. …

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