How We Met: David Mellor & Julian Lloyd Webber
'It's important to have a male friend you can talk to who you know won't go gossiping around'
Sunday 11 January 2009
David Mellor, 59, is a former barrister and Conservative MP. He resigned from the Cabinet in 1992 after becoming embroiled in a string of scandals. Now a newspaper columnist and radio presenter on Classic FM, he lives in London with his partner, Penny Cobham
I knew Julian as an excellent cellist before we met more than 20 years ago. He's someone whose performances I admired and who, I feel, has unfairly been known just as the brother of Andrew. I've always regarded Julian as a terrific musician in his own right. I'm not going to say he is the best cellist there has been, but he's one of the greatest of our time. His is one of the few versions of Elgar's concerto that can be mentioned in the same breath as Jackie du Pré's. There are things he extracts from it that other players just don't notice.
Apart from music we also both like a drink and football. I often take him to see Chelsea but I've always managed to find an excuse not to go and watch his team, Leyton Orient. But it's a tribute to Julian as a man without pretension that he doesn't have a fashionable football club, and his lack of pretentiousness generally is quite interesting. He may not thank me for telling you about the night when his brother unexpectedly dropped round. Julian is a beer drinker, while his brother is a wine connoisseur and Julian had only beer, so he looked around and found a bottle of Asti Spumante. He poured his brother a glass and his description of the look on Andrew's face as he sipped this disgusting substance is wonderful.
Neither of us has been without our troubles on the domestic front. Julian is always there for me and I'm always there for him. Like the closest relationships, ours is not one we plan in our diaries months ahead, but one where you know if you ring up and say, 'Hey, what are you doing this evening,' he's not going to say, 'Oh, God, why is he asking me now?' Some people would be offended to be asked at such short notice because they assume somebody else has let you down. But with Julian it's just because we're great friends.
Julian Lloyd Webber, 57, is a renowned cellist, who has performed with artists ranging from Yehudi Menuhin to Elton John. He is the younger brother of composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lives in London with his partner, Jia Xin
David was quite junior when I met him in about 1986 at a dinner. I knew his name but didn't know much about him. He gave a speech and impressed us all with his music knowledge. Most politicians don't know much about classical music but he was a refreshing exception. We got talking, exchanged numbers and agreed to meet up.
The more I discovered about David, the more we turned out to share tastes in most things. We're both great football enthusiasts, although I support Leyton Orient, which, some would say, means I don't like football at all. But that would be very unfair. A lot of classical musicians are quite fanatical football supporters. Perhaps it's because it's so different and relaxing. Shostakovich even went so far as to direct a ballet about football, and a lot of orchestras have their own teams.
I've been to watch Chelsea with him several times, though he has cunningly avoided going to Leyton Orient – it's something that has to be corrected. He's a petulant supporter, I would say. People wonder why fans criticise their teams so much. It's because we care – I get just as agitated at Leyton Orient. He has very high standards of all those around him and that applies to everything he does.
In his short spell as "Minister of Fun" – he was Secretary of State for what was the Department for National Heritage – David made a lot of changes in sport and music. In fact, he introduced the regulations that made it possible for a station such as Classic FM to come up. He wouldn't consult me directly about the industry but he would ask me what I thought.
He often comes to see me perform, which I appreciate greatly. When I did the Elgar anniversary concerts last year, there were two in one day – in Worcester and at the Royal Albert Hall. He could have just popped round the corner to the Albert Hall but he made it down to Worcester. It meant a lot to me that he was there.
When David had all his marital troubles I felt extremely sorry for him. I had my own problems and it's important to have a male friend you can talk to who you know won't go gossiping around. But, although David has a wicked sense of humour, you wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of his tongue.
David and I are both very busy and go through periods where we see each other quite often and then won't meet up for another nine months or something. We get on very well with each other's partners and I'll often have dinner at his house or we'll go out to eat somewhere.
There's something else I'd like to say about David, and that's our expectations of politicians. I think that in David's mind and the brilliance of his brain we lost somebody who could have been a great benefit to this country. In a politician you want someone who can really do the job. If you've a squeaky-clean politician who ends up invading Iraq, is that what you want?
Julian Lloyd Webber is chairing In Harmony, a new Government anti-poverty scheme that uses music to promote personal and community development in some of the most deprived areas of Britain. For information, go to www.julianlloydwebber.com
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