Dear God, did he really say this?

Soon afterwards he met Susan Senior, daughter of a director of the Cunard shipping line and granddaughter of Lord Joicey, a wealthy Northumbrian coal-owner. “I probably met her at a party,” he told an interviewer. “As long as you had a dinner jacket and a pair of white tails you had a good time in those days. There were a lot of parties and a lot of girls around.”

White tails? What was he, a band leader?

Now begins the more complex task. What is it that the Times obituary writer has managed to mis-transcribe?

I think it’s “white tie tails” that is meant, such tails, of course, being black.

The other explanation is that I’m too far out of that world – which I am – and so have missed that the with it drop the word tie in the phrase.

This, I like

There’s an old story – apocryphal, of course – that a guest at a State Banquet takes a drink out of his fingerbowl. So Brenda does too. You know, just to not show him up.

Margaret Tebbit, paralysed by the IRA bombing:

At a banquet at Buckingham Palace, Margaret, struggling with a salad, asked a member of the Royal Household whether he minded if she ate with her fingers. “Not at all,” came the reply, and he quickly imitated her.

And I think better of the One Eyed Viking for this too:

Margaret never forgot a kindness, whether that was Gordon Brown bringing food, wine and guests to her side at No 10 when her wheelchair failed to fit into the lift,

Great stuff

Yeager had met Glennis before leaving the US for Europe. He had been tasked with organising a dance for his fellow flyers in a gym in Oroville, California, and dumped the task in the lap of a “very pretty brunette” he came across sitting in a small office next door to the gym. His chat-up line proved decisive.

“You expect me to whip up a dance and find thirty girls in three hours?” said the exasperated 18-year old girl.

“No, you’ll only need to find 29 because I want to take you.”

The line worked and they were a staunch couple through thick and thin until her death from cancer in 1990.

It’s the details of the regulations that matter

On VJ Day he was based in Sydney and as “officer of the day” instructed not to leave the base. Disappointed at being unable to join in the celebrations, he discovered, on perusing the regulations, that part of his duty as “officer of the day” was to investigate any “disturbances in town”. He set off to do just that, and so briefly experienced some of the jubilation of the hard-won victory. His displeased commanding officer, hearing this explanation, said: “And I suppose when you get back to civvy street, you’ll be a bloody lawyer.” Which is what he did.

Now that is a damn good comment

There was more misery when the family was bombed during the Blitz. “Our house had a direct hit and it took four and a half hours to dig us out,” he recalled. “My mother was crying. I remember the skies were red with fire and my mother said to my father, ‘We’ve lost everything.’ He said, ‘No, I’ve just done a head count. We’ve got everything we’ll ever need’.”

Is this right?

A cartoon always hung in the study of Jonathan Sacks. It showed him with two heads, one wearing his rabbinical barretta-type hat, the other the small skullcap or “kippa” that he wore when he was not conducting services.

Barretta is a type of hat? Not berretta?

Reading obituaries

As time passes on I find myself reading the obituaries, something I never did do a couple of decades back. I’m sure there’s an explanation for that.

But one bit that amuses/puzzles. The number of people who leave comments “RIP” underneath an obit. I mean, yes, OK, it’s that announcement of the life passed and so on so RIP seems reasonable enough. But on the other hand, well, it’s a damn obituary. RIP seems a bit superfluous.


In 1991 Geller sued Randi and his group for $15 million for slander after Randi told the International Herald tribune that Geller fooled quite reputable people with the sort of cheap tricks that used to be found on the back of cereal boxes. The judge threw the case out when Randi produced in court a cereal box with instructions for performing the spoon-bending trick.

Had some interactions with Randi 15 years back. Good man who had a good run.

James Randi obituary
Stage magician and escapologist who performed as “The Amazing Randi” and who devoted himself to debunking psychics

Well, yes, but……

Davis might have fared better if he had not rejected a young hopeful named Reg Dwight, who auditioned to replace Winwood.

The impression I get is that Reg auditioned for everyone and everything back then. Undoubted skill and talent etc but no one was really quite sure where it was going to fit in….

Yes, that’s a comfort to take into the night

What pleased him the most was the knowledge that “somewhere in the world tonight, some mum or dad is going to be reaching down a copy of a book that I wrote and reading it to the most precious thing they have in the world. For writers that’s the holy grail. And that gives me enormous pleasure.”

Sam McBratney, children’s author, was born on March 1, 1943. He died after a long illness on September 18, 2020, aged 77

Slightly odd route

In August the following year he managed to leave France, traverse Spain and Portugal and reach Gibraltar, where he was flown to London to link up with De Gaulle’s Free French Forces.

Although possible. It’s just that Portugal isn’t on the route from France to Gib.

Tee hee

Anne-Marie Hutchinson was born in Donegal in 1957, one of six children of Gerry, a barber, and Kitty, a nurse. A proud member of the Irish Catholic diaspora, she was brought up, ironically, in Oliver Cromwell’s constituency of Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire. Her parents referred to the lord protector as “that bastard”.

This also being a PJ O’Rourke joke about his Republican grandmother. Never would allow the word “Democrat” to be spoken in the house, always said “bastards” instead.

Where in buggery is that?

Margaret Nolan was born in Norton Radstock, Somerset, in 1943

Yes, it was a parish and an administrative unit. But no one at all ever refers to the area as that. Midsomer Norton is a nice little Somerset town. Radstock is a fiery hell of inbred ex-miners. The distinction is always made.

True story. Brother was offered tenancy of a Radstock cider pub – rent free! Turned it down as too dangerous. Went off to run catering in Helmland instead. No, really…..

Another one gone

Johnny Nash, a singer-songwriter and performer of the million-selling anthem I Can See Clearly Now, has died at the age of 80.

Nash, who had been in declining health, died of natural causes at home in Houston, the city of his birth, said his son, Johnny Nash Jr.

The writer of this obituary……

….is just squealing with joy at being able to get this line in:

Her other lovers included Serge Gainsbourg, Sacha Distel and Davis’s friend Quincy Jones. Another was Darryl Zanuck, the Hollywood film producer who accompanied her in Uganda during filming of The Naked Earth (1958)

It’s an English thing, a colloquialism…..

An interesting inversion

After Forrest Gump Groom felt bereft of ideas that “really grabbed me”, so he focused mainly on non-fiction books about subjects close to his heart: the American Civil War, the American West, the history of aviation and the history of Alabama football. “I think that every novelist, with the odd exception such as Dickens, has one really good book in them, but the trouble with so many writers is that they keep on writing novels when they run out of ideas. They get pressurised into writing books they don’t want to do and get burnt by the critics. Fitzgerald drank himself to death and Hemingway blew his brains out. I didn’t want that to be me.”

Perhaps not everyone does have a novel in them but those who do only have the one?

Cool story

In 1978 Askews was nearly destroyed. A business partner, furious when Askew tried to stop him sleeping with the models, poached her three bookers and 22 of their models. The industry rallied round her and when the Askews managed to rearrange their existing bookings with new models, a group of “heavies” was sent to Bruton Street to take her booking diaries.

When the lead heavy demanded she hand them over, she offered him a cup of tea. Looking at the pictures of models on the wall, he saw Lorraine Chase, his daughter. “You looked after my girl. I’m not doing anything here,” he said, finishing his tea and leading his men out.