Funny business on the classroom circuit

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I was up in London the other day, trying to find out which was the first train I could decently come home again on, when who should I bump into in the purlieus of Soho but my old friend Adrian Wardour-Street, doyen of British PR.

"Adrian!" I cried. "What new devilry are you up to?"

He winced at my rural heartiness and dragged me into a place where they sell very strong coffee in very small quantities.

"Buy me an espresso and I will tell you," he said. "But speak softly, for I was at the River Cafe last night till late."

"Good heavens!" I cried. "Does the River Cafe really exist? We provincial folk thought it was a joke manufactured by Londoners to make us jealous!"

"No, no," he said. "It exists. It is not very real, but it exists."

"And where is it? I have no idea."

"Nor I," he said. "I've only been there at night, by taxi."

"So tell me, Adrian, what are you up to now?"

He looked round cautiously.

"I have a small child in tow."

I looked round, baffled.

"Metaphorically," he said. "A new client."

"Surely you're not talking about that 12-year-old girl who has had a baby!?" I exclaimed. "In any case, I thought Max Clifford had taken that one over?"

"So he has," muttered Adrian, crossing himself as he heard the cursed name. "No, I have something better than that. I have the world's youngest stand-up comedienne on my hands. She is ..." He paused for effect. "...eight years old".

"An eight-year-old comedian!?"

He nodded gloomily.

"It isn't just mothers who are getting younger. It's comedians too. We used to think that the Frank Skinner lot were young. Not any more. Victoria Pesto is eight years old and what's more, she's out working on the circuit already."

"I don't believe it!" I said. "Where does she get her material from?"

"Well, you know how young comedians are always harking back to their school days for their material? Saying things like, `Have you noticed that bullies at school are never called Fatty?' or, `Remember how there was always one boy in the class who farted?' "

"Sort of."

"This girl is harking back to her pre-school days."

"I don't believe it!"

"Oh, sure. After all, it's the only material she knows first-hand. She has one routine which starts: `Hey, do you remember your first day at school? Wasn't that a pisser?' "

"I don't believe it!"

" `Do you remember the way your mother brought you to the door of the classroom' ", continued Adrian relentlessly, " `and then, when she thought your attention was distracted, just vanished, right? And you saw your mum had gone, and you thought to yourself, "That's it, I am five years old, my mother has gone and I now have to fend for myself, for the rest of my life, and the only person I have to help me is a teacher who is plainly off her push chair because she is saying, `Victoria, how would you like to learn how to make a little doggy out of spaghetti hoops?', and I want to say, `Lady, you are exactly the kind of incompetent teacher that David Blunkett is going to leave on the doorstep for the binmen to take away', but I can't, because I am in this madwoman's power, so I say to myself, I have been abandoned by my mother, I have two choices, I can cry non-stop for the rest of the day or I can do really wicked things in my underwear'..."

"Stop!" I cried. "I cannot believe this!"

"Nor could I," said Adrian gloomily. "Then she does the routine about how to embarrass your parents by asking about sex, and a routine about gay clergymen."

"What kind of a routine can an eight-year-old girl do about gay clergymen?"

"It goes a bit like this," said Adrian dully. " `Hey girls, want to know how to get the wind up your mother? Just say to her, "Mum, what's a gay clergyman?". And she'll say to you, "Well, dear, when two men are very fond of each other...", and you say, "Oh, Mum, I know what gays are! What are clergymen?" And she'll be so freaked out by thinking that you know all about sex and nothing about religion that she'll demand that your father gives you a God talk! Can you imagine? Your embarrassed father saying, "Well, have you ever wondered where the birds and the bees come from?", and you saying, "Well, father, I imagined they evolved from primitive flying organisms by Darwinian process..." and him squirming because it is so embarrassing for him to talk about God, more so than sex ever was' ..."

"Stop!" I cried. "I want to hear no more!"

"You will," said Adrian grimly. "You're going to hear a lot more of her before she is very much older."

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