Coale's Notes: Mettle fatigue: Writing from his sick-bed, Gordon Coales addresses the new Minister for Fun

Click to follow
MONDAY Last Monday, while making a statement on local TV news about our controversial exhibition, I collapsed and had to be taken home. The doctor diagnosed 'nervous fatigue'. I have been prostrate for the whole week - Rowena in constant attendance with a selection of root remedies.

It seems that, under intolerable pressure from all sides, Alan's exhibition was abruptly terminated last Tuesday.

On Wednesday, apparently, I passed into mild delirium, and murmured obscurely about 'the arts' and 'a great fire falling from heaven'.

I am still under doctor's orders and trying to rest.

TUESDAY Today, a visit from Fiona. She blamed 'bloody British artistic illiteracy' for the whole trouble. But reading between the lines, I gather that publicly they are trying to explain the fiasco as a personal aberration on my part. And in a wider sense, there is a kind of truth in this.

WEDNESDAY This evening we watched David Mellor defending himself on Newsnight. He said at one point that the political life was not everything to him - he also had what he called a 'hinterland'.

I fear that this may have been a fatal admission - suggesting, as it does, interests of a suspiciously dark and incomprehensible nature. And, as Rowena said, 'It sounds German, doesn't it?' I do not think he will be long in office now. He is a figure with whom, for some reason, I identify.

THURSDAY Tonight: deeply saddened by the resignation of the Secretary of State for the National Heritage, but not surprised.

I think, though, that the full story will probably never be understood. I believe that, more than anything else, it was essentially Mr Mellor's close personal association with the arts that was his downfall, being responsible both for unbalancing his character, and for undermining his support in the country at large. This is what happened to me too.

FRIDAY There was a letter in the Times this morning, signed by various high-ups in the arts world, supporting Mr Mellor. Of course it can make no difference now. But had it appeared any earlier, there could hardly have been a more incriminating document.

We now have a new Heritage Secretary. I have written a letter to him, as follows:

'Dear Mr Brooke,

As the Director of a not-insignificant Regional Arts Centre, may I be among the first to congratulate you on your appointment. There is no advice I can give you on the Broadcast and Sporting dimensions of your new portfolio. However, with respect to the arts, may I offer one word of warning.


As I understand it, you are someone who has previously had little connection with the world of the arts. I would strongly recommend that you keep it that way. The accepted formula for the relationship between government and the arts - 'arm's length' - does not come anywhere near to conveying the very great distance that a wise man should maintain between himself and the creative process. I would suggest then that you confine your activities to closing down theatres and facilitating the export of irreplaceable national treasures to any country that will have them. There will always be a warm welcome for you at the Wormwood Centre should you be in the area, when I hope we will be able to discuss matters of no cultural import whatsoever, such as cardboard, soil types, and the age of steam.

Yours sincerely,

Gordon Coales.'

I have shown the letter to Rowena. She believes I still need to rest a little longer.