A multiple questionmaster calls his own bluff

We should cherish Robert Robinson as we used to cherish Evelyn Waugh, says Sheridan Morley; Skip All That by Robert Robinson, Century, pounds 15.99

When I grew up, I wanted to be Robert Robinson; others of my 1963 ITN graduate-trainee generation had their sights set on Robin Day or Alistair Burnet, but Robinson was always my man. First of all, long before it was fashionable, he had a healthy disregard for, and distrust of, politics and politicians; secondly, he had a prodigious capacity for work - at one stage I seem to recall him writing a Sunday movie column while chairing Today, Call My Bluff, The Book Programme, Points of View, Ask The Family and Vital Statistics simultaneously on BBC sound and vision; and thirdly he always managed to imply that he had really meant to be somewhere else at the time.

For years I vaguely imagined him on leave from some rather elegant Oxford or Cambridge professorship, and I was a little nervous that these memoirs would turn out to be another port-drenched anthology of favourite High Table or Garrick anecdotes; I should have known better. Skip All That works as a wondrous comic novel, as well as an autobiography. Like two other, but curiously lesser-known Radio 4 broadcasters, Paul Vaughan (with whom he shared a headmaster) and Christopher Matthew, Robinson has a perfect ear for the eccentricities of outer-London suburban life in the years just before or after World War Two.

Robinson now turns up all too seldom on the airwaves, but can usually be seen popping into the more rarified delicatessens along the King's Road in Chelsea; that is now where you'll also find Sir Dirk Bogarde, and though I have no evidence that they have ever met, they remind me irresistibly of those two little men who used to pop out of weather-forecasting huts, Bogarde severe and gloomily predicting rain and frost, while Robinson beams with the promise of eternal summer.

Only occasionally in this book can there be found a sense of waste or regret, although looking back he feels he should have done something more meaningful with his life than journalism or broadcasting. Like many of us who had Nevill Coghill as an Oxford tutor, he seems to think he has never quite managed to deliver the right essay in the right week to the right man, although I would argue that some of his documentaries, notably the quest for B Traven, author of Treasure of the Sierra Madre, will live as long as arts programmes are valued or discussed.

Here too are ruefully funny accounts of trying to act with John Osborne and an increasingly recalcitrant Jill Bennett, of a pitched battled with Edith Sitwell and an unwise attack on American students published in Time magazine.

Robinson also has a dramatist's ear for great dialogue: interviewing Jayne Mansfield he asks about rumours that her bathroom has carpeted walls: "To which do you refer?" she trumps him, "I have 13". And a world of Strindbergian marital gloom is revealed when, after witnessing several decades of work, his mother asks his accountant father, "You like figures, don't you?" and he replies simply "No".

Far and away the best autobiography of the year, Skip All That is also infinitely sad in the realisation that, were you to start in television now, it would be impossible to make a living out of it as Robert Robinson has done. By the standards of today's tele-children he is politically incorrect, far too knowledgeable and ultimately not desperate enough to be allowed to earn a living in front of camera or microphone. He remains the last of the gentleman broadcasters, and we should cherish him as we used to cherish Evelyn Waugh.

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

    Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

    His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
    'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

    Open letter to David Cameron

    Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
    Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

    You don't say!

    Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
    Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

    So what is Mubi?

    Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
    The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

    The hardest job in theatre?

    How to follow Kevin Spacey
    Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

    Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

    To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
    Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

    'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

    The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
    Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

    This human tragedy has been brewing for years

    EU states can't say they were not warned
    Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

    Women's sportswear

    From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
    Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

    Clinton's clothes

    Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders