I have noticed that Dennis Potter is in the news again, despite being dead. There is a book out about him by Humphrey Carpenter and there are TV profiles of him... why is this all suddenly happening? I mean, it is not happening about Robert Bolt, or anyone else who has recently died, is it?
Nat West writes: Well, you have to remember that Dennis Potter spent the last year of his life knowing he was about to die and writing non- stop TV dramas to fill up the next 20 years of broadcasting, so he probably spent a week or two writing all these tributes as well. Maybe he wrote the Humphrey Carpenter book, too. Who knows?
I have noticed little newspaper stories recently saying `Potter family up in arms over Carpenter book' or words to that effect. What was all that about?
Nat West writes: I expect these were newspaper stories written by Dennis Potter before he died. He liked to plan everything like that, you know. Who can tell?
This Humphrey Carpenter chap: I've seen him on TV and heard him on the radio and he seems to be a jolly, inoffensive, quite enthusiastic sort of a chap. Indeed, he seems to play the bass saxophone as well, which shows a kind of muscular innocence. Yet whenever he produces a biography, there's always a whiff of danger and controversy about it. Benjamin Britten, Ezra Pound, Robert Runcie, now Dennis Potter. Is it because Carpenter is drawn to dangerous subjects? Or because he knows how to make them dangerous?
Nat West writes: No. It is more likely that his publisher has a good publicity department. Who knows?
Why do you keep emitting those little questions such as `Who knows?' and `Who can tell?'
Nat West writes: Shall we ever know?
Just tell us.
Nat West writes: This is designed to impart a slightly Jewish world-weariness to my gnomic statements. And the next!
I wonder if you could offer me some advice. I am running a very successful opera house in central London, but it is losing millions of pounds a year. What should I do? Nat West writes: Sell to Murdoch.
Why would Rupert Murdoch want to buy the Royal Opera House?
Nat West writes: Well, come to that, why would he want to buy The Times?
Who can say?
Nat West writes: Leave the fatalistic shoulder-shrugging to me, if you don't mind. And the next!
I would very much like to be an announcer on Radio 3, as I can pronounce `Janacek' correctly and don't like hard work. Can you advise me?
Nat West writes: Well, now, one thing you will have to have is an Irish accent. Just as it is becoming mandatory to have a Scottish accent if you are presenting current affairs and to be called Gordon or Kirsty if possible, so it is becoming obligatory to have an Irish accent for culture. In the old days an Irish accent in a broadcaster meant having the common touch, being a man of the people - Eamonn Andrews, Terry Wogan, and so on. Nowadays there is a cultural overtone to an Irish voice. Anthony Clare, being in charge of psychiatry... Sean Rafferty being drafted into Radio 3... Tom Paulin on late-night culture... Henry Kelly masterminding Classic FM...
Where does Frank Delaney fit into all this?
Nat West writes: Where indeed?
What about the Welsh accent? How does it fit into your scenario?
Nat West writes: How indeed?
The other day in `The Spectator' I noticed the poet Hugo Williams starting an open season on the universally loved Seamus Heaney. Not loved by Williams, it has to be said, who much prefers Larkin and poured cold water on Heaney's fame. The implication of what he said was that you couldn't really trust a man who had won the Nobel Prize - he was too establishment. What do you feel about all this?
Nat West writes: Well, I am reminded of what Erik Satie said when Ravel was offered - and accepted - the Legion of Honour.
What did he say?
Nat West writes: He said that even if Ravel had accepted the Legion of Honour, all his works had rejected it.
Sounds very clever, but what does it mean?
Nat West writes: Who can say?