Lost Innocence

By Spencer, Charles | The Spectator, November 5, 2005 | Go to article overview

Lost Innocence


Spencer, Charles, The Spectator


It comes as something of a shock to realise that I have known Liz Anderson, this magazine's admirable arts editor, for almost 20 years. We first met in 1987, as junior sub-editors on the Telegraph's arts pages, and sat trembling in shock and awe together as the arts page supremo, Miriam Gross, and her deputy, Marsha Dunstan, conducted furious rows over the page layout. It was the best spectator sport in town, but attended by the constant risk that some of the fire and ire crackling across the desk might suddenly be deflected our way. We kept our heads down.

Liz and I have kept in touch ever since, along with another much-loved refugee from the Telegraph's arts pages, Kate Chisholm, and reunite for lunches that are hugely enjoyable and not nearly as frequent as I would wish. But there is something I have never dared say to Liz's face.

I'm just a tiny bit scared of her, too. Not as scared as I was of Miriam and Marsha, but, in spite of her delightful good humour, Liz sometimes makes me feel like a grubby schoolboy in her presence. She is, in short, a proper grown-up -- a condition to which I have long aspired but never quite attained.

So it was with considerable nervousness that I filed last month's 'Olden but golden' column. It was entirely devoted to the putative size of Mick Jagger's penis, following some outrageous remarks on the subject from his old mucker Keith Richards. It was one of those pieces I regretted as soon as I had hit the send button. With the whole of pop music at my disposal, was this fourth-form smut the best I could manage?

After tanking up with three mugs of coffee and half-a-dozen roll-ups, as close as I can get now to Dutch courage, I phoned Liz. 'Did you get the copy all right?' I asked, trying to keep the nervous tremor out of my voice.

'Yes, thank you, ' she replied, sounding like Mary Poppins at her most starchy, as if she had just discovered one of her charges devouring the whole bag of sugar rather than confining himself to the designated spoonful. 'And very smutty it was, too.

Could we have a clean column next time, please?' I promised, blushing with shame, that I would do my best.

And, stone me, a couple of days later, I found myself in HMV and staring at the perfect 'clean' album. It's a new double CD compilation aptly titled Golden Oldies.

The cover features a picture of a teapot clad in a delightful hand-crocheted blueand-white tea cosy, while a sticker declares that the collection is 'For the Golden Oldie in Your Life! …

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