After all, Socrates did it, though the guests at my going away will not be offered hemlock. I am offering single malts and, thanks to my generous American friend Jerry Jasper, I will die an authority on the subject. My mouth mewed with delight this morning when the postman arrived with a collection of tastings of the finest malts and most noble blends from "Master of Malts". Let them roll off your tongues:
Ardbeg Uigeadail, Glenfiddich 18 Year Old, Ballantines 17 Year Old, Old Pulteney 21 Year Old, Highland Park 18 Year Old, Johnnie Walker Black Label 12 Year Old, Auchentoshan 20 Year Old, Chivas Regal 18 Year Old (3cl 53.20%).
Americans are legendary for their generosity. I know of only one Englishman who approached them.
Freddy Brabin was a wealthy chemist with a shop on a prime site at The Cross in Chester. It was his misfortune to look like Freddy Frinton, the comedian who pretended to be a drunk. Freddy wasn’t pretending. When it came to being a drunk, Freddy was very serious indeed.
He was tiny but drove an enormous Cadillac. When it ran out of petrol he left it where it was and went home by taxi. But not always. Once he was so far gone in the little club we used that I had to drive him home, where he plied me with so much drink he had to get out his Cadillac and drive me back to Chester. But for timely intervention by a third party we might still have been going to and fro.
He was a kindly man. He told me one day how worried he was about the starving children in Africa. He said he had been reading about something called War on Want where people gave public dinners and wondered if I could fill him in with the specifics.
I explained you invited all your friends to dinner, gave them dry bread and water and sent the money a good dinner would have cost to the starving children.
He said, “You must have got it wrong.” He wouldn’t dream, he said, of asking his friends, or for that matter any enemies he might have, to drink water when it was his round. “Besides,” he said, “I thought I would have it at the Country Club and I have never seen bread and water on the menu there.”
So I suggested a compromise. “Give them a decent meal,” I said, “and, whatever it costs, give the equivalent to War on Want.”
Accordingly, about 40 of us sat down to a four course dinner, which followed a champagne reception and ended with vintage port. After the meal Freddie spent a few hours and about a thousand quid downstairs in the Casino.
He didn’t fancy driving home because he kept falling over, so he stayed the night.
The next morning he woke up around six o'clock with a mouth like the floor of a budgie’s cage. In his nightshirt, he wandered down to the kitchens where the early morning chef was still scratching himself and said, “Make us a cup o tea.”
The chef said he didn’t start work, not till seven, so Freddy could …… off.
At seven o’clock Dennis Ewan, the manager, came in and the chef complained to him about drunken guests invading his kitchen. “Just a minute,” said Dennis, “can you smell burning?”
They rushed to the dining room where they saw a crescent made of blazing dining chairs. In the centre stood Freddy, haloed in flames. “Now will you make us a bloody cup of tea?“ he said.
He was quite proud of the fact that he was the only member barred from the Chester Country Club the night after he had spent around two grand there. But, good as gold, he sent the starving kids a cheque for the same amount.
FROM JOHN JULIUS’ S CHRISTMAS CRACKER
From the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: “In 1867 Rossetti decided to put Swinburne (the shy flagellating poet) in the hands of “some sensible young woman who would make a man of him”. He solicited the aid of Adah Isaacs Menken, a stage performer, to seduce him. Needless to say, the attempt failed, and Miss Menken returned the £10 fee to Rossetti as unearned. “I can’t make him understand,” she explained, “that biting’s no use!”