Miles Kington: Houston, I have no problems. Honestly

'The Cuban word for rum is, of course, "ron" and I am always glad to help out the Cuban people'
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The Independent Online

Before I start this column, I want to make an important announcement.

At a time when everyone is coming under suspicion of having received favours from transglobal energy companies, I wish to place on record that at no time have I, or anyone connected with this column, accepted money or gifts from Enron or, indeed, any of its subsidiaries.

I hope that clears that up.

Of course, this column, like other columns, is not perfect. From time to time we receive little offerings through the post. Press releases, for instance. These press releases are, if you like, gifts. Gifts of knowledge. But I do not acknowledge these gifts. I do not write and say thank you for them. Nor do I return them, saying that I refuse to be bribed by free knowledge. No, I throw them away or use the back for shopping lists. Or, if there is nothing more interesting in the news to use in this column, I print the contents of the press release unchanged.

It has not been unknown, either, for this column to receive money. But that makes sense. You see, sometimes I announce that certain books are for sale. The Bumper Book of Albanian Proverbs comes to mind. Learn to Speak French like Julian Barnes. The Beryl Bainbridge Book of Etiquette. The Nick Brown Book of Farming Wisdom. Publications like that. Books that are clearly works of fantasy and do not exist. However, sometimes I mention a (purely fictitious) price, and you would be surprised how many readers send in fivers and tenners to secure a copy of whichever (merely notional) book they are after.

If I were to send the money back, and therefore reveal that they have allowed themselves to be hoodwinked, I think that this would have a terribly humiliating effect.

So for my readers' sake, I feel obliged to keep the money.

This applies also to the many schemes which I have (entirely playfully) floated in this column. For instance, the Time Travelshare scheme, in which, for a down payment of £1,000 you could secure a seat on the first timeshare scheme that travels to another time and gets you a guaranteed niche in the century of your choice!

Shall I tell you how many cheques for £1,000 I was sent?

I would rather not, as it might come to the ears of the Office of Fair Trading.

At no time, however, have I received any money from Enron.

I have just been reminded that this time two summers ago I did receive a generous dollar gift from an American company, to help to brighten up the column a little. It had slipped my mind that the company concerned was called Enron. At the time I was under the impression that it was a Cuban firm making rum, for the Cuban word for rum is, of course, "ron", and I am always glad to help out the Cuban people.

I have also been reminded that, just after this gift, I did in fact write a series of articles pooh-poohing the ecological brigade and saying that global warming was imaginary. But to say that there is any connection between the generous gift and my articles is to enter the realms of fantasy. In any case, I have never received any gift of any kind from Enron since that day.

It now occurs to me, after my memory has been jogged, that last spring I also spent five weeks in Houston, Texas, at the expense of a local energy company, where everything was laid on for me, including a delightful Texan companion called Charlene. The name of the energy company escapes me, but it may have been Enron. It may also have been at that time of the year in AD 2001 that I wrote a series of scathing pieces attacking the idiocy of the Kyoto agreement and defending President Bush's brave stand over the whole business.

If anyone wishes to draw a connection between the two, let him. I cannot see one.

Perhaps I should also mention that I have recently heard from my erstwhile Texas friend, Charlene, saying that she thinks she may be expecting my baby, but that the energy company who introduced us will look after her generously, as long as I am prepared to follow certain guidelines in writing about world energy.

I cannot see anything wrong in this humane and reasonable arrangement.

So may I just say this. Viva Saudi Arabia! Down with Kyoto! Hands off Saddam Hussein! Give Enron a chance!

Thank you. Back to normal tomorrow.

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