When Adams was at a meeting in Boston last year, an American academic offered him a biography of one of his heroes and asked him to autograph the title page. I don't know how he felt when he saw it was a book about James Connolly by Ruth Dudley Edwards but he duly wrote "Le gach dea mhein [with every good wish], Gerry Adams" under my name and returned it without comment. The academic, who had offered the book in all innocence, sent me a photocopy of the page as a keepsake. Adams behaved in a more statesmanlike manner than I could manage if anyone asked me to autograph the title page of his mawkish Selected Writings.
London Underground used to have wonderfully English advertisements showing ticketless passengers being challenged by inspectors and becoming overwhelmed by embarrassment by being shown up in public as dishonest. The new campaign is exclusively Mammon-centred and merely goes on about the automatic £10 fine. To my outrage - but not embarrassment - I got done last week by an inspector. His case was that I was carrying a day pass for zones 1-4 when I was in zone 5. Mine - which I thought I articulated with great clarity - was that I was visiting my chiropractor in his new premises and could hardly have been expected to realise that this took me into an unfamiliar zone. I felt completely in the right, but he was unmoved. Not wishing to be late for my appointment I agreed to fork out the tenner and appeal later to the address he provided. (Incidentally, who says London Underground is behind the times? You can pay on-the-spot fines by credit card.)
I drafted my abused-citizen letter several times in my head during the next few minutes before the thought occurred to me that my self-righteousness was entirely based on an unreasonable belief that one should be penalised only for being dishonest, not for being vague. It astonishes me in retrospect that I assumed the inspector (a) should recognise the difference and (b) care. I blame my upbringing in Ireland, where it was automatically assumed that if you were educated you were entitled to be an idiot.
A tirade against the educated, delivered in a marked Irish accent, kept emanating from my bathroom last week. "Yeh. You're real intelligent and I'm not," howled my guest. "There's been so many good, intelligent blokes for so long explaining things to thick lads." And, almost tearfully, "I'm thick. Thick lads don't feel, they can't be offended." This extract from an excellent if bleak play by Tom Murphy gave way from time to time to Henry V wooing Princess Katherine in an English accent, for my young friend Francis is auditioning for drama school. It made a change from those visitors who sing badly in the shower.
I had read an article on Damien Hirst, his sheep, his bluebottles and how his staff turn his ideas into actual works of art. My subconscious had obviously laboured overtime to dredge up my worst experience of modern art - an exhibition completely devotedto the soiled nappies of Mary Kelly's son. So I dreamt that I dispatched a minion to India with an enormous white linen sheet, which he placed for a time under a herd of cows in Agra and then brought back to London, pats and all. I had it encased in perspex, called it Holy Cow, and sold it to Charles Saatchi for £48,000. I hope you're as impressed by my creativity as I was when I woke up.
One of my readers fears that my wish that more women would emulate chaps by taking off for wild weekends might have led me - like some rugby fans - to play golf outside Stansted airport at 1.20am, stark naked. To the best of my recollection I have never done this. I can't play golf.
I had to draft in my friend Mairin to assist me with the common cold competition, for I became too uncritical about all the entries on the grounds that it was nice of so many of you to bother. Mairin's qualities for this job include deep intolerance, extreme impatience and - to be fair - good judgement. She demanded to be called a stipendiary magistrate, but there's no stipend, so we settled for justiciar. However, it's my whiskey and my diary, so I get to counter-approve and make the final decision.
Sheila Silcock shamed me by sending me Ogden Nash's "In Praise of the Common Cold", which I should have guessed existed. Sample: "By pounding brow and swollen lip/By fever's hot and scaly grip/By these two red, redundant eyes/That weep like woeful April skies/By racking snuffle, snort and sniff ..." Good, though not his best, since he clearly had a cold at the time. So had CF Adams in 1910, when, L Platt tells me, he wrote this tender poem to "Bary Jade": The Bood is beabig brighdly, love; The sdars are
shidig too; While I ab gazig dreabily, Add thigkig, love, of you, You caddot, oh! you caddot kdow, By darlig, how I biss you - (Oh, whadt a fearful cold l've got ! - CK Tish U! CK Tish U!