Simon Kelner: If you can age like Michael, you're on to a winner

Kelner's view

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The Independent Online

I have said previously that there are various tell-tale signs of getting older, like forgetting where you've put your spectacles, or finding automated ticket machines troublesome.

But another indication of advancing years is discovering that you're in agreement with almost everything that Michael Winner says. I have met Mr Winner on several occasions and I have never known him to be anything other than courteous, entertaining and, I have to say, nearly always right about things he knows and cares about, like the minimum distance between restaurant tables (30cm, if I remember correctly). There is a whole generation of people in Britain who probably don't know that Michael Winner earned his notoriety as a film director.

For many, he'll be the man from the car insurance ad, or a ludicrously self-important restaurant critic.

Winner is an adornment to modern life who betrays a rare willingness to speak in unmediated terms, or – more likely – be spectacularly rude about someone.

I have admired him ever since, some years ago, he lambasted Richard Littlejohn on live television (its still one of YouTube's greatest hits). Littlejohn was tackling the subject of gay marriage in his typically caring and liberal way. Winner interjected: "I am appalled to be on a British TV programme where lesbians are wheeled in for you to make smutty and offensive remarks," he told the host. "It was a shameful exhibition of vulgarity directed towards a minority."

It took nerve and moral courage to do that, and although the older, frailer, less pugnacious Winner was to the fore last night in an extensive face-to-face interview on Sky, the man of many opinions was never far from the surface. He has rejected an OBE on two occasions – you may not agree with his views on law and order, but you can't knock his work with the Police Memorial Trust – and told a newspaper at the weekend that, on his second refusal, he was rung by his friend, the musician Don Black. "Why have you turned it down?" Black asked. "I've got one and so has Joan Collins." "My case rests," said Winner.

He claims that he gets more outspoken as he gets older, but a serious illness, caused by eating infected oysters, and the general ravages of age – he is now 77 – have definitely slowed him down a little. He has taken to Twitter, although his commonplace offerings reveal that he needs more than 140 characters to express himself.

When he says he has had a marvellous evening with Cameron Diaz, you are left to wonder whether he's been watching her on the screen or taking her out to dinner. And then, in the early evening, he announces to his followers that he is "retiring to the bedroom area".

There is something reassuring in this homely routine, and in the realisation that we are, in fact, all getting older together.