Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator's Notes

Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator's Notes

Article excerpt

Encouraged by the success of her memoirs, which have captivated the nation thanks both to their literary excellence and the glittering launch party, Lady Annabel Goldsmith is planning a follow-up book. This volume will be a biography - or homage, if you will - to her late dog, Copper. Among the mongrel's endearing eccentricities was that, according to Lady Annabel, he learnt to distinguish between different numbered buses, and would wait to hop aboard the right one to go to the pub, where he had trained locals to buy him drinks. Once, he took the family cat along and got it tipsy. Lady Annabel's daughter, India Jane (by her first husband Mark Birley) will provide illustrations.

While we're at it, what a brilliant scoop by my colleague Taki, who revealed in his review in the London Evening Standard of Lady Annabel's book that he had staggered drunkenly out of the aforementioned glittering launch party and found himself playing high-stakes poker until 6 a.m. with Lady Annabel's son Zac. He seems to have been cleaned out. This veteran gambler had no idea at the time, he confesses, that Zac is a finalist in the world poker championships.

But, more to the point, is A.N. Wilson's entertaining new novel set in the newspaper world, My Name Is Legion, a roman à clef? Everyone except A.N. Wilson seems to think so, and this shy and diffident man has already been forced to fend off accusations that he has included in his story a character based on his saturnine successor as literary editor of the London Evening Standard, David Sexton. He is wise to do so. Mr Sexton discerned - honi soit qui mal y pense, some will think - a likeness of himself in his ex-girlfriend Amanda Craig's novel A Vicious Circle, and kicked up such a stink that copies had to be recalled. For the record, this rodent's perusal of the manuscript produced no obvious Sextons, but a small portfolio of other, glancing, likenesses will keep us all entertained around publication date.

Good taste corner. 'I am sure all of us were shocked by the tragedy that hit the Morecambe Bay cocklers recently,' writes Nigel Slater in the Observer's food magazine. 'Appalled and saddened by the loss of life,' he continues, 'I also found myself stunned by the sheer quantity of shellfish involved - literally millions are dug from the sand each year. Now, I love a juicy little cockle and don't eat them nearly often enough, but most of those I do come across are preserved in vinegary brine. So where do all the fresh ones go? We sent Rachel Cooke to explore the case of the disappearing shellfish. . . . '

More jollity is to be found in Oxford Today magazine - where Dylan Thomas's biographer Andrew Lycett recalls amusingly the relationship between the drunk Welsh poet and the starchy historian A.J.P. Taylor. Taylor invited Thomas to stay for a week. He hung on for a month - and by the end Taylor, according to his memoirs, had to ration access to his beer barrel on the grounds that his guest was helping himself to '15 or 20 pints' daily. As he was leaving, Thomas announced he had lost his return ticket and hit his host up for a non-returnable loan of two quid. …

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