Fun and games in the 'Oldie'

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The Independent Online
I'M SITTING on a hot potato - my first, as it happens, since I scooped everyone else a year ago by revealing the winner of The Literary Review's Grand Poetry Competition.

The fact is, Richard Ingrams, without knowing it himself perhaps, is participating in the artistic earnings, to the tune of pounds 8 per week, of Mrs Partridge - in this regard doing rather better than my friend Andy From The Sixties. Andy From The Sixties doesn't know Mrs Partridge, I think, but he fell on his feet recently - or so he supposed - when Dawn Upstairs invited him to move in with her.

'What about artistic earnings, Dawn Upstairs?' said Andy From The Sixties. 'I don't want to get potted, do I?'

'Never mind get potted,' said Dawn Upstairs. 'Don't you know there's a recession on? You'll be paying me.'

Things aren't going too well for Andy From The Sixties. Some weeks ago, you may remember, he failed to impress my friend Abby From The Eighties and he won't mind my saying that since then he has been known - in my circle, at least - as Janet.

Keen, obviously, to recover his reputation as a real man (an ex-Mr Fulham Broadway who can still squat-lift a grand piano) and aware that I'm on the lookout for an older woman - preferably French - with whom, after I go off the rails, I'm supposed to emerge from a log cabin in the North, he pitched up at my place on Wednesday evening with Dawn Upstairs and Consuela from Peru.

'She's not French,' I said.

'Who's to know?' said Andy From The Sixties. 'And she's definitely an older woman. She must be 32 at least.'

'That's true,' I said.

So I put on Red, Hot + Dance and I offered Consuela from Peru a drink.

'Would you like a Pimms?' I said.

'No thank you,' she said. 'I can get my own work.'

'She thought you said 'would you like a pimp',' said Dawn Upstairs. 'You'll have to speak more distinctly. She's from Peru, is Consuela from Peru.'

And then Andy From The Sixties suddenly got busy with Dawn Upstairs and she charged him pounds 250, cash on the table, even though he lives with her and, as he pointed out, has put her cupboards up and that.

And at this point, I might have said: 'Bad luck, Janet,' thereafter offering to introduce him to Mrs Partridge, but I couldn't do that, because I didn't yet know about Mrs Partridge, so I said: 'Funny sort of day for the time of year, Consuela from Peru, neither one thing nor the other.'

In fact, I only discovered about Ingrams and Mrs Partridge the next day when Alison, my beloved, came round to my place to find out why I was dumping her.

'It's a temporary measure,' I said, 'to do with point-of-sale and so forth. As you know, I love you to distraction. Without you, my life will be a desert stretching as far as the eye . . .'

'Never mind that,' she said. 'How are the ratings?'

'Very good,' I said. 'And the book of Root Into Europe is bombing up the charts at such a lick that my friend Michael O'Mara is afraid that it's about to knock Diana: Her True Story off its perch.'

'Hm,' Alison, my beloved, said. And then she got out her pocket calculator and she did some sums and then she said 'Hm' again, and then she asked me when, in that case, we could expect my ship to come in.

'Very soon,' I said. 'According to my publisher, Geoffrey Strachan, all I have to do is become addicted to cocaine, dump you, undergo a cure in a rehabilitation clinic, thereafter emerging from a log cabin in the North with an older woman on my arm, preferably French.'

'My fat American flew to New York last week for Red, Hot + Dance's slammin' launch. Alas, he didn't make it.'

'Too fat? Too old? He tried to attend with Sandie Shaw?'

'No, he was arrested at the airport with Axl Rose. If Geoffrey Strachan discovers this, he'll sign him to a three-book deal. Perhaps you should consult the lonely hearts column of the Oldie. 'Sordid non-smoker seeks squalid-Capricorn to share country walks and collection of Woody Allen films'.'

That was a good idea. I ran out and bought the magazine, was about to ring 'Lady, 60, enthusiastic traveller, nursing experience, will accompany invalid anywhere', when I spotted two entries - 'Fun and games for golden oldies - visit full-bodied mistress of the arts' and 'Strict governess gives traditional lessons' - which made me suppose that I'd bought a different sort of magazine entirely.

The full-bodied mistress of the arts offered me intercourse for pounds 50 in Hammersmith ('Wash your mouth out, madam.') and a Mrs Partridge, trading in Oxford, offered corporal punishment for pounds 75.

I was still reeling when Andy From The Sixties pitched up.

'Your troubles are over Janet,' I said. 'Thanks to Richard Ingrams, I can introduce you to Mrs Partridge.'

'Is she looking for a Pimms?'

'She didn't mention that.'

'What about Ingrams?'

'He doesn't drink,' I said.

Talk about a hot potato.

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