Magazine article The Spectator

Diary: Barry Humphries

Magazine article The Spectator

Diary: Barry Humphries

Article excerpt

Do fish have loins? Last Tuesday, in a pretentious restaurant, I ordered a 'loin of sea trout'. It looked just like an ordinary piece of fish -- a bit small, as is usual in pretentious restaurants -- on a plate sprinkled and drizzled as though the chef had perhaps coughed over it rather violently or vigorously scratched his head before giving it to the waiter. In Australia, I was once offered a shoulder of some other fish, so I suppose one might even be able to enjoy a rump of whitebait or even a saddle of flounder. But generally speaking I don't mind loin when applied to the loinless, and somehow a loin of fruitcake sounds appetising, or even a loin of sourdough bread. After all, a loaf of bread has a 'heel', which I always pluck out of the proffered basket. It's crunchier.

I could never hold a candle to that parodist of genius, Craig Brown, but I have always been irritated by former Spectator diarists of the crassly 'self-serving' kind. You know the sort of thing: 'Seated in my spacious and surprisingly comfortable economy seat on my British Airways flight to Los Angeles to see my publisher about my forthcoming collection of essays, Having Said That , I ordered a delicious brie and beetroot wrap from a courteous member of the inflight team. I travel very lightly with my stylish featherlight Marinetti wheelie and matching garment bag. My PA, Lexi, had emailed ahead to my favourite boutique hotel, Waves in Santa Monica, which those two brilliant Los Angeles ladies Fran Lutoslawski and her husband Trish Wong opened two years ago to stunning reviews in the always infallible Top Traveller magazine, which I subscribe to for its stunning full-page photographs of wrist watches. The new 'Clooney' Cartier is my favourite, if I could only afford it.'

Having said that, I went to a wonderful party last week at the Langham Hotel to celebrate the 160th birthday of Oscar Wilde. It was thrown by the hotel and Gyles Brandreth, with a speech by Wilde's grandson, Merlin Holland, and a hilarious reading from The Picture of Dorian Gray by the great Sir Derek Jacobi, whose hand I sought to shake, but it meant pushing past Joanna Lumley (not easy or desirable) and Peter Bowles and Maureen Lipman and Craig Brown and Edward Fox and Steven Berkoff and Jeffrey and Mary Archer and Jonathan Aitken and Patricia Hodge, and, if you looked up, Stephen Fry. …

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