Thursday, 20 June 2013


A great week for fecundity. I went today for a test of my foolish heart, foolishly.

"What are you going to do?" I asked nervously.

"It's the test we give pregnant ladies," the nurse told me.

Now I know the Good Lord has in his lack of wisdom designed me on circular lines but this was altogether too much. Over the near century I cannot tell you the number of clumsy jokes I have suffered. Not only jokes. The last time I went to the dentist I was required to fill in a form denying I was pregnant.

The nurse reassured me. All she was going to do was rub cooling ointment on me and send exciting little charges coursing through my eager body.

"I won't bring the wife, then?"

"Oh bring her," insisted the nurse,"she will be interested."

By the time we arrived the little heart was pounding. The wife was reserving her options. Reassuring myself that there were no three-king-carrying camels in the car park, I hurried to begin what sounded like a merry meeting. It wasn't. The nurse just took pictures which came up on a screen which I couldn't see because my face was turned to the wall. The nurse was right, though. My wife WAS interested. But my tale of fecundity was not done.

First Great Grand-daughter. Now I have full set!!!


Not all meetings have been so trouble free:

Harrop by Ed Rawlinson

When Oscar Levant was conscripted, the recruiting sergeant asked him if he would be able to kill the enemy. Levant replied: ‘The enemy? No. A friend? Yes.’

His friends felt much the same about George Harrop.

George was Night Picture Editor of the Daily Mirror in Manchester when I ran the night news desk, a job I would have held much longer had someone else run the picture desk. A former cinema manager, wartime Chindit and PR man, he had the fastest tongue in the West - and also the loosest. Predictably so, since he incessantly lubricated it with whisky. He was even shaped like a Dimple Haigh bottle.

The telephone was his straight man, and his conversations with it were endless. On one occasion, the Sports Editor Peter Thomas tweaked his phone line out of its socket. George went on talking for a full five minutes.

His tongue frequently got him into trouble, but it feared no man. Not even an editor, a wartime Commando major whose nickname was ‘Strangler’ and who had once held a junior executive by his ankles out of a fourth floor window.

"George, get off the bloody phone," he raged one night.

"Have to go,’ said George, in a voice everybody in the room heard, "the editor wants permission to change a crosshead."

A photographer who fell foul of him was ‘a panchromatic Judas Iscariot’. Describing the foremen’s Christmas lunch at a smart hotel, he said: "They rushed through the swing doors in their suede clogs shouting, 'Where is the foremen’s lavatory?”’

Once, returning home, he could not find his front gate. He hacked a great hole in the hedge, assuming he was back in the Chindits. It would be dishonourable to him to call him predictable.

I was not the only man to suffer from his friendship. Another martyr, the Night News Editor of the Daily Express, was on his way to a Christmas party when he discovered George asleep in the back of his car. Something which quite often happened to many of us.

Good sense dictated dumping him at the earliest - or nearest – convenience, but foolishly he took him to the party. In quite a short time, the host was so keen that my friend should take George home that he gave him the keys of his car.

The years have not diminished the horror of that drive. Distracted by George’s seamless monologue down some imagined phone, my friend drove over the bumpy flowerbeds of a roundabout. This startled George who demanded to know where he was and how he could open the steamed-up passenger window. A few moments later, my friend felt a breeze and assumed George had opened the window. But his seat was empty and in the rear mirror my friend saw a bundle of rags rolling down the road. George had opened the door and fallen out.

Numb with fright, my friend knelt in the road beside the rags, fearing the worst. To his relief, George`s head emerged. He got to his feet, dusted himself down and insisted on being taken to a pub 500 yards down the road. The pub was in darkness but George hammered on the door until the bedroom lights went on and the landlady appeared in her dressing gown and curlers.

"Madam," said George at his most courtly, "I am sorry to have awakened you but there has been a terrible accident. The victim is in shock: a large medicinal brandy would help."

Still half asleep, she only began screaming for the police when George explained that he was the victim and that he preferred his brandy without ice or soda…

My friend eventually shook George off, which was never easy, and got home on Boxing Day to find his wife had left him. The party host subsequently attacked him with his crutch when my friend told him he could not remember where he had left his car.

Alas, George has long ago gone to the Great Saloon Bar in the Sky. Somehow R.I.P seems inappropriate.

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