MY PIN-UP Driffield has surfaced again, with a new Drif's Guide to the second-hand bookshops of the British Isles for 1993 ( pounds ll. 24 from Drif Field Guides, Box B, 41 North Road, London N7 9DP). What makes this one different from its predecessors is that it's legible, in a typeface you can read without a magnifying glass, fairly literate, correctly spelt and neatly laid out. 'Yes it's awful isn't it?' Driff said when I congratulated him; 'It's all the fault of my partner, she's keen on all those dreadful improvements.' But why, I asked, had he changed his name from Driff to Drif? 'Really? Have I? I'm not very good at spelling. I think it was so that it could be called Drif's Field Guide - joke you know.' But the book is not called Drif's Field Guide. 'Oh well.'
I once spent a day as Driff's chauffeur, driving him round his beastly bookshops. He taught me the proper way to remove a book from the shelf - by pushing the books on either side backwards and then grasping the middle, rather than top or bottom, of the spine - and this has stood me in good stead in bookshops ever since because the owners give me a trade discount without my asking.
Months later, I took Driff out to dinner and he gave me a long, moving account of his childhood in Malta, and his subsequent sojourn in Grendon Underwood prison for offences connected with defrauding the post office on behalf of an anarchist group. He now tells me he has never been to Malta or to prison in his life. The novelist Iain Sinclair, who knows him well from having chauffeured him from Land's End to John o'Groat's for years, is sure that Driff was brought up in Richmond though he may have spent some time in Portsmouth. He has a friend in Grendon Underwood, a murderer, whom he visits regularly.
You should be able to see Driff soon in a television film called The Cardinal and the Corpse by Iain Sinclair and Chris Petit. Channel 4's Without Walls is supposed to show it soon, but it keeps putting it off, because, Driff says, 'the commissioning editor isn't overkeen on us and he hasn't even met me yet'. The film-makers were meant to have made a 20-minute film, but made 50 minutes, and have now cut it down to 40 by sacrificing any pretence to a narrative structure or plot. Other stars include Derek Raymond (Robin Cook), Michael Moorcock and Tony Lambrianou, former employee of the Kray twins. There seems to be a theme about the similarities between gangsterism and book dealing, and many references to the murder of Jack 'the Hat' McVitie; Driff, however, had the impression it was about 'the magic of books'. I found it gripping, nicely photographed and hardly any more confusing than Eldorado.
Meanwhile Driff is still out searching the bookshops, fulfilling his boast that he can find any book anyone wants at a price (ring him on 071-607 1828 but haggle hard). This week he is looking for books on adult bedwetting. 'It's the last great taboo,' he raves. 'When you go into a bookshop and ask for A History of the Great Flood in Britain or anything else on enuresis everyone goes silent - it's the best thing that's ever happened to me.'
ONE of the many digressions in Drif's Guide is a long diatribe against British Rail, or British Frail as he calls it, in the course of which he pinpoints exactly what is wrong with modern trains. They are trying to make them look like planes. That is why they have started jamming the seats together with no legroom, and sealing the windows with no air, and giving conductors a Tannoy so they can free-associate aloud throughout the journey. This must be because BR management comes from that generation - 50-plus - which still thinks, despite the evidence, that flying is glamorous. That generation, born into the war, was brought up on stories of the Few and learned to thrill to words like cockpit. What they fail to realise is that there is a younger generation who grew up at Gatwick waiting for the 6am Dan Air flight to Malaga. They know that flying is nasty.
THIS IS the time of year - the start of autumn and the nights drawing in - when I always decide to change my life dramatically. Well not too dramatically - I'm not thinking of moving house, or stopping smoking or taking up theatregoing or drinking rose wine. But, for instance, I might try waking at 7.20 instead of 7.15. I could probably adjust to that. I might sacrifice the fourth or fifth Nescafe of the morning and try some of those funny teas with floating bits. I could make a totally radical 180-degree shift in my lifestyle and listen to Radio 4 on the way to work and Capital on the way home. Phew] I could sleep on the other side of the bed, I could watch the news at nine instead of ten, I could even - this is getting pretty hairy now - contemplate wearing some colour other than black - break into brown, maybe, go glitzy in grey. Far out]Reuse content