Taken aback by a flying sea bass

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A GOAL has been scored in the Eton Wall Game for the first time in 147 years, albeit at the Kensington Place Restaurant. Further, and on the same occasion, a pig-faced young patrician from Gloucestershire beat John Birt (or it might have been someone else - these chaps all look the same when stripped to their designer braces) at 'Are You There, Moriarty?' by three whacks on the back of the neck to none.

I know this because after six weeks off in shock this column has returned to normal, gunning into the fast lane, cutting up ambitious young men with flat-top hairstyles and, to keep them guessing, putting metaphorical marbles under the feet of close associates - in this case, and because at the moment I have no other close associates, Mark Chapman of Tiger Aspect Television.

My plan is to ditch him in favour of Debbie Mason of Kudos Productions, whom I think I want to marry. Either way, I took Miss Mason to the Kensington Place Restaurant on Friday with a view to offering her the new Root series, which Chapman recently commissioned.

'Let me take you away from all this,' I said, 'set you up in an executive bungalow in Cornwall with a Jacuzzi and a catamaran . . .'

'Don't start,' she said - at which point a sea bass came flying across the room and hit John Birt - if it was John Birt - full in the face.

That was unusual. You expect all manner of things at the Kensington Place Restaurant, but flying sea bass isn't one of them. Since it's doing very well, its proprietors won't mind my saying that it's a most unpleasant place, currently the preferred meeting ground of Filofaxes on the up, serious players pitching and lying to one another from behind shades reflecting the vis-a-vis.

Pitch it wrong, commit yourself to words which in your frenzy to impress you can't pronounce, and you could be on the skids before the artichokes arrive; at best, directing a corporate video or writing jokes for Have I Got News For You; at worst, out of the business altogether.

To gain entry, you must first fax your credits to the pony-

tailed matre d', and even then, if admitted, the easily intimidated can, on stepping inside, be washed back into the street by a tidal wave of sheer achievement.

You'll get the picture: mad women in charge of publishing conglomorates; Jeremy Paxman passing between tables; Yentob in conference with Birt; a 21-year-old screenwriter who's so hot that six people on the other side of the room have caught a tan; a boy director who's so globally hot that they're waking up with tans in Japan ('Good gracious] What's this?').

Why, then, the flying sea bass? Amazingly, 30 genetically challenged aristocrats from Gloucestershire had been ignorant and vicious enough to choose this, of all places, to celebrate the 21st birthday of Hugo - seemingly, but only by a short head, the most loutish of their number.

They'd booked two tables - with the grown-ups, as it were, at one, and the children at the other - and the best you could say of the former, apart from looking as if they belonged in a South Kensington stable, was that they were quite unconcerned by the antics of the latter.

The girls, who had put their car keys on the table next to their Marlborough cigarettes, were more or less identical, with callous little faces and voices like seagulls after a

herring catch, but the boys came in two varieties: half of them looked like Jeremy Sinden - fat and bald and with food down their fronts - and half of them were unnaturally tall, with flopping hairstyles and careless, cherry pink mouths.

We ignored them until the sea bass began to fly around the room, and then Hugo climbed on to the table, if you please, to make a startlingly vulgar speech.

'It's incredible,' Miss Mason said. 'This room is stiff with achievement, yet these well-born wankers, who have done nothing in their lives, are behaving as if unaware that they're in a public place. They'll be thrown out, surely?'

'On the contrary,' I said. 'You'll not mind my saying, since I'm better bred than you, that I understand sheer privilege off the leash. The matre d', who once refused Michael Grade a table, will retrieve the sea bass and the media hotshots will retire with their tails between their legs.'

And so they did. When Hugo challenged John Birt - if it was John Birt - to three frames of 'Are You There, Moriarty?', the latter meekly acquiesced.

And when Hugo removed his blindfold, ensuring that the still unsighted Birt flailed away at empty air while he, Hugo, caught Birt with three blows to the head that would have stunned an ox, we fell about with laughter.

As we left, two programme controllers and a children's book editor were being coached by Hugo and his pals in how to set light to their intestinal gases, while 10 media high-fliers obligingly scrummed down for the Eton Wall.

'It would be a mistake,' I said, as we waited for a taxi, 'to suppose that, had the restaurant been taken over by terrorists, Hugo would have behaved worse than the media liberals. He'd have been heroic, sitting on a bomb to save the rest of us.'

'You have an unfortunate habit of stating the obvious,' Miss Mason said. 'I think I'll pass on Root.'

Let's hope Chapman doesn't read this.