Churchill's Other Lives, Radio 4, Monday-Friday
Churchill: Gourmet and brickie
Sunday 20 March 2011
I'm not sure whether it's fashionable to like Winston Churchill, but I do. Quite apart from his wartime heroics, he was a fine writer and a man with a hinterland surely more wide-ranging than any politician before or since.
Which is why David Cannadine's Churchill's Other Lives needs 10 parts to do him justice. Monday's concerned his enthusiasm for bricklaying – he was a busy builder at Chartwell, and even joined the bricklayers' union – while on Wednesday we learnt of his prodigious journalistic output.
After his war reporting came a lucrative torrent of articles on anything from being knocked over by a car to the perils of iced water. He also won the Nobel Prize for Literature, and not many hacks can say that.
But my favourite was Tuesday's, which dealt with his massive appetites. The cigars, we discovered, were a bit of a con, flourished more than smoked, and the ever-present whisky and water was weak – "no more than a mouthwash". But his consumption at mealtimes was off the scale. The politician Rab Butler certainly couldn't keep up. "I had eight gargantuan meals with him," he reported, "each followed by libations of brandy so ample that on more than one occasion I thought it prudent to tip the brandy into the side of my shoe." Sensible fellow.
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