Kinky intercourse that you will never see on News at Ten

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THAT News at Ten may be for the chop seems to have disturbed a lot of people, but it left me fairly unmoved. This is for the disgraceful reason that I don't watch News at Ten. Even more disgracefully, I don't watch the news on TV. At the first sound of that portentous music, I leap to my set, turn it off and go and do something more interesting, on the grounds that if the news is important enough it will almost certainly be reported in greater detail in next morning's papers and on next morning's radio, which I can listen to while doing something more important (ie, shaving).

While the rest of you, for instance, were breathlessly watching Mr Mates resigning, I was reading a crime novel by Kinky Friedman. Mark you, I wouldn't have been reading Kinky Friedman if it hadn't been for the radio. On Monday last week I was listening to Melvyn Bragg starting the week with an interview with Kinky Friedman, and for once the normally cool Bragg seemed unable to get over the appearance of his guest. Black cowboy hat, cowboy waistcoat, big boots, sunglasses, cigar stub - it didn't sound like the average Booker Prize aspirant.

Nor was his behaviour. Friedman not only writes crime novels about a country and western singer detective hero called Kinky Friedman, he also runs a genuine country and western band called Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys, which had a hit a few years back with a song called 'They Don't Make Jews Like Jesus Any More', and he sang a delightfully subversive anti-feminist song in the studio to back up his credentials. What I never caught was the name of the book that Friedman was on the programme to publicise.

I had an unexpected chance to find out two days later. On one of my rare rail trips to London I was walking to the buffet when my eye fell on a curious figure sitting in standard class. He was wearing black cowboy gear. He had sunglasses, big boots and a cigar stub. Surely it couldn't be . . ?

'Mr Friedman?' I said.

He nodded. He pointed to the empty seat opposite.

'Sit down,' he said. 'Let's talk.'

I sat and talked the rest of the way to London. Well, listened, mostly. To him and one of his companions, a lovely girl called Rita from Texas, who, he said, was about to become a star back home through a TV show on country dancing she was about to present.

'Rita,' he said, 'We have ample time and space. Why not show this gentleman how to do a country dance right here in the train?'

I declined the offer, much, I think, to Rita's relief. I also shyly declined the offer to exchange garments with him. He took a fancy to the blue-and-white striped jacket that I had on, of a summery British design which they don't seem to have back in Texas.

'Tell you what,' he said, making as if to unbuckle his huge, chunky metallic belt. 'I'll take your jacket in return for my splendid latent homosexual belt. No? Well,' (here pointing at his feet), 'what about my brontosaurus foreskin boots?'

No matter that I have since come across both these jokes in his crime novels. A good joke is always worth reusing. As the train neared Paddington, he reached into the inner recesses of his cowboy luggage and pulled out a three-cornered bit of tortoiseshell plastic.

'I have enjoyed our encounter. As a memento, I'd like to give you this priceless plectrum. It is the very same plectrum with which Hank Williams wrote 'Your Cheatin' Heart'.'

No matter that I had heard him give away the very same plectrum to a fellow guest on Melvyn Bragg's programme. No matter that the plectrum had 'Kinky Friedman' printed on it, and that he clearly had a never-ending supply of these priceless mementoes to give away to strangers - it was still a touching moment, and I still have that plectrum tucked away in the inner pocket of my wallet to show to jealous fans of country music, not to mention crime novel fans.

I wager Kinky Friedman has never been on News at Ten. No sir, he is too interesting. Here's another thing. I came up to London again yesterday, with my double bass, and I have discovered that since May British Rail has been charging you half the adult fare to put your double bass on trains. A child's ticket for a double bass] And the same goes for skis, surfboards and cellos.

I bet that wasn't on News At Ten, either. No, sir, you can keep your News at Ten.

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