The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold : When Mrs Bridges marched with the miners

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Sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, morning, noon and night. Personally, I've had enough,

And do not imagine that there is any less sex when the main TV channels close down. Oh dear me, no: for little more than a few hundred pounds a year, subscribers can hook themselves onto "Red Hot and Gulping For It", live from the least salubrious parts of Old Amsterdam. Even at three in the morning, judicious twiddling of one's remote control can produce an unashamed feast of naked breasts, thighs, and b-t-m's, forcing one to hold the aerial at an awkward angle for hours at a stretch.

So it is with arms akimbo that I welcome the announcement of repeat showings of that most fully clothed of all series, Upstairs Downstairs. Hard to believe, but it is now 25 years since it first appeared on our screens. How the world has changed! Gentlemen no longer wear wing-collars, maids have foresworn their crisp white aprons for hot-pants or "mini-skirts", the basement which once contained kitchen and scullery has been given over to student lodgers with "bean-bags", "joss-sticks" and a full range of solvents, and in place of pheasant and all the trimmings for Sunday luncheon one must expect a single vacuum-packed sausage, choc-a-bloc with Bovine Spongiform.

Veteran viewers will recall that I myself was a frequent visitor to Number 165 Eaton Place, Belgravia in the early years.

"Mr Wallace Arnold has arrived sir. Shall I show him in?"

"Very good, Hudson. Oh, and Hudson?"

'Sir?'

"There'll be one extra for luncheon. That's all Hudson." This snippet of dialogue eventually became so regular that viewers would hum it in the streets. I soon found myself a much-loved figure, recognised and admired by our old friend, the Man on the Clapham Omnibus, with fans writing in from places as distant as Dar es Salaam.

Of course, I went on to be one of our greatest men of letters. But what, I hear you ask, became of my fellow characters? Fascinating question. In their story lies the history of our topsy-turvy age, an age in which established values have been thrown to the winds and the social order has been overturned. Shortly after the series ended, Mrs Bridges, who had served as our loyal cook and housekeeper for many a long year, opened up a chain of health-food restaurants in the North-east before turning her attention to the political sphere. Throughout the series, none of us had the foggiest idea that she was a member of the Hard Left. It only emerged when, during the miners' strike of 1983, she made a fool of herself by marching side-by-side with Arthur Scargill, a baseball cap where her cook's bonnet had once been.

I need hardly say how the news cut Lord Bellamy to the quick. Shocked and upset, he made the journey all the way to Barnsley to plead with Mrs Bridges, "I beg you to leave things be, Mrs Bridges!" he intoned. But Mrs Bridges would have none of it. "One out, all out" she replied, slamming the door in his face.

I sometimes think it was the shock of this rebuff that hastened Lord Bellamy's decline. Before the year was out, he had moved from Eaton Place to a two-bedroom flat above a turf accountants in Balham, and his losses with Lloyd's only served to make matters worse. I last saw him in an old blazer selling copies of The Big Issue just off Sloane Square. So as not to embarrass the poor chap, I crossed the street and strode off with due haste in the opposite direction.

Frederick the footman came in for fierce criticism last year, when, as chairman of a privatised water company, he was found to be paying himself over pounds 1m a year. Ruby the Und- ermaid is now Shadow Spokesman on Food and a member of Mr Blair's inner-circle. Thomas the Chauffeur has the largest Rolls- Royce franchise in the South of England, and is a leading contributor to Conservative Party funds. Meanwhile, The Hon James Bellamy, after a short term in custody for fraud, is now said to be earning in the region of pounds 250 through selling the story of his three-week fling with the Duchess of York to a leading Sunday newspaper. And what, you may ask, of our old friend Hudson the Butler? He was last seen arm-in-arm with Mr David Mellor, performing the hokey cokey at a party thrown by Mr Adnan Khashoggi. Some things, I fear, do not change for the better. 0 tempora, o mores!

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