In or out, I'm well mannered: William Donaldson's Week

YOU'LL remember the film in which Naunton Wayne, accused by his pal, the other old buffer (Basil Bedford, was it?) of being in love with his umbrella, said: 'Nonsense] Fond of it, yes. In love with it, no.' Now I'm obliged, it seems, to clear up a similar misunderstanding with regard to Pete the Schnoz.

So - what's the opposite of 'coming out'? 'Going in', I suppose, and, offensive as it is to someone

at the leading edge of political correctness, such as myself, to do something as definitively right off as

to announce publicly that he's 'going in', that's what I've got to

do.

The fact is, my last few columns have been misconstrued; and not just by Honest John, which was to be expected, but also, which is more surprising, by various friends and relatives of Pete the Schnoz, together with solicitors acting for him (or, as they've now made clear, not acting for him); by Wandsworth Neil, my new best pal; and, most seriously, since it affects work in progress, by Geoff Atkinson, who wears a ginger wig and with whom I'm toiling up at Kudos on a new Root series.

The first to show his hand was Honest John, who rang me on Saturday and suggested that we meet.

'That won't be possible,' I said. 'I'm spending the week at Kudos.'

'Wouldn't it be cheaper,' he said, 'if I brought them to you?'

'Brought what to me?'

'The rent boys,' he said.

That caught me by surprise. Had I failed to twig that men in ginger wigs had, on the street, become a synonym for rent boys?

'What rent boys?' I said.

'The rent boys at Kudos,' he said, 'a gay club in Trafalgar Square, as you very well know. You're gay yourself, I take it?'

Here was a poser. To announce that you're 'going in' strikes me as being very bad manners to anyone who's 'out', 'coming out', thinking about it, or minding their own damn business. I therefore played for

time.

'Possibly not,' I said.

'But you went to Winchester?'

He had a point. At Winchester, that was all we did.

In my day, the whole school was in love with Johnnie Patterson, who won't mind my saying this since he's a sheep farmer in New Zealand now. We used to bathe in the buff in Gunner's Hole - a disgusting patch of river cordoned off - and when Johnnie Patterson appeared in Gunner's Hole the word went round in a flash. Cricket matches were abandoned, the chapel emptied, and visiting parents were left wandering up side-streets on their own. The whole school descended on Gunner's Hole, masters included. They all pitched up - 'Sponge' Walker, Head of History, 'Oily' Emerson and 'Hearty' Hardisty, the PT master, who jogged up and down on the spot. They'd stand at the edge of Gunner's Hole with their thin shanks and ghostly pubic bushes, squinting at Johnnie Patterson.

'Nevertheless, possibly not,' I said.

'If you say so,' said Honest John.

That was OK, then, but the next day, Wandsworth Neil, my new best pal, blanked me for Sunday supper, and this was a blow since for the past few weeks I'd become accustomed to sitting down with him and his extended family, which includes his grand-daughter, Kate, a delightful 11-year-old, with whom, unusually, I get on like a house on

fire.

'Sorry to say this, old pal,' he said, 'but here in south London we're a bit straight up and down, if you take my drift, and it might be better if you didn't, for a while, come round for Sunday supper.'

That hurt, and worse was to come. I pitched up at Kudos on Monday to discover that Geoff Atkinson, who had taken off his ginger wig, was wearing heavy-duty plus fours covered in blood and feathers, and was carrying a gun.

'Morning, old bean,' he said, in a voice at least three octaves lower than usual. 'Sorry about the blood. Spent the weekend killing things. What about you? Kill much, did you? Climbed a mountain, perhaps? Anything of that sort?'

'Not really,' I said. 'I was wondering whether you'd like to go out dancing tonight?'

That seemed to be the final straw. 'Look here,' he said. 'Are

you some damn fairy or other?'

I was embarrassed, frankly, not least because Debbie Mason, whom I think I want to marry, had chosen this moment to drop in at our cubicle, checking on work in progress.

In the circumstances, I abandoned my right-on stance. 'Absolutely not,' I said.

'Why, in that case,' he said, 'have you been writing for the past few weeks about how much Pete the Schnoz has hurt you and how his solicitors, Kingsley Napley & Co, have threatened you with proceedings if you attempt to contact him?'

'That was a joke,' I said.

Atkinson was thunderstruck. 'A joke, eh?' he said. 'Don't meet many of them, these days. Sorry about that. No sense of humour, do you see?' Then he produced his ginger wig from his top pocket and put it on his head. 'OK,' he said. 'Let's get down to work.'

That was the end of it, I thought, but when I got home that night, I found a letter from Kingsley Napley & Co, advising me, quite robustly,

to make it clear that 'we have never previously written to you in re Mr Pete the Schnoz, who is not, and never has been, a client of ours - though this is in no way to sug-

gest that Mr Schnoz is anything other than a writer of the first

rank, for whom we should be happy to act, should he ever wish us so

to do'.

All in all, I'd be well advised, I think, to follow the example of Mr Naunton Wayne and his umbrella. I'm fond of Pete the Schnoz, but I'm not in love with him. Unless I am, of course. The desire to be politically correct persists.

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