BUNHILL; Making a clown out of Idi Amin

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The Independent Online
A CHIPPERFIELD dropped by the other day. He didn't swing from the chandeliers in Bunhill Towers. He didn't even wear a funny nose. He was wearing a suit and wanted to show off a device he had invented to stop glare on a computer screen. Was this, I wondered, an example the John Major syndrome - son of the circus seeks job in accountancy?

But as John Chipperfield, Jimmy's son, rolled out his life story, it became apparent that it is difficult to be an ordinary Chipperfield. He certainly has not succeeded.

In 1975, his elder brother Richard was killed in a car crash while collecting animals in Uganda. John had to go out to Africa to take over. Idi Amin was in charge then, and at first he could not have been more helpful: my picture shows him having a chinwag with John and Jimmy. But the sweetness and light ended abruptly in 1976, on the day of the Israeli raid on Entebbe. It was also the day John's son was born, and he hitched a lift back to Britain to see him. An hour after he had taken off, two of his colleagues were arrested on suspicion of spying.

Six months later, he returned in the hope of mounting another safari but soon discovered he had been noticed. Arriving at his camp in Entebbe with a colleague he was told that "some gentlemans with dark glasses and flowery shirts" had been looking for him.

"We went to the British High Commission, where an Englishman was locking up the door. We told him people were looking for us, and he asked us what they were wearing. 'Dark glasses and a flowery shirt,' we said. 'You're in trouble,' he said."

They went back to the camp and just missed the gentlemans again. They drove to the border with Kenya, where a friendly immigration officer told them to "get going now". "We walked swiftly to the car. A bus load of Africans was making its way towards the border, which was a bridge over a ravine. As we got into the car there was a lot of shouting behind us. We just managed to overtake the bus, and smashed through the gate just as it was being closed ... " James Bond eat your heart out, I say.

I WAS recently lent a motor car called Sharon. It is really a Volkswagen Sharan, and the name is almost universally regarded as a marketing disaster.

I say "almost" universally, because I am one of the few exceptions. It is impossible not to call Sharan a "she", thus giving her a status alongside the family animals (and well above the dog after she had had the litter bin). In my view, this is greatest marketing coup since Nissan launched its Cedric.

Christmas crackers

BEFORE we get on to Bunhill's First Annual Business Carol Competition, Prof JC Wells of Wimbledon writes with some interesting reinterpretations of proverbs, which for some reason come from Montagu Butler's Step by Step in Esperanto (1948). Here is an easy one:

Inhabitants of domiciles of vitreous formation,

With lapidary projectiles should make no rash jactation.

Now on to those carols, which earn a bottle of champagne a apiece. First from Derek Norman of Stourbridge:

As Barings watched their stocks by night

Investments pure and sound

A man called Nick

Did a Futures trick,

And lost a billion pound.

Another from a Bunhill regular, Chris Sladen of Ealing:

Chanc'lor Kenneth Clarke looked out,

With thoughts of fiscal tightening;

Sensing electoral rout,

Agreed it was too frightening.

"Bring thy slide rule, Waldegrave,

Eke thy calculator;

How much can we let them have,

How much claw back la-a-ter?"

The cellar is not entirely bare, so send in more business carols if your Christmas muse is feeling chirpy.