The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold: And the rest is history

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The Independent Online
SPEAKING personally for once, I would have given Koresh the black ball long ago, but the matter was out of my hands.

Let me attempt an explanation. The news that Mr David Koresh, late of Waco, Texas, was a long-standing member of The Garrick Club has afforded predictable amusement to those in the media whose shoulders are burdened with sizeable chips. But might I ask them to remove the smirks from their unwashed visages for just one minute while I explain quite how unwelcome Koresh had become within the portals of The Garrick, many months before the dread hoo-ha at Waco?

I find it painful to admit that, yes, I too was taken in at first. It was whilst partaking of a hearty pre-prandial puff in the smoking room of The Garrick with My Lord Wyatt in - what? '85? '86? - that I first clapped eyes on a man of youthful but well-shod appearance, who was loitering in the corner of the room exchanging confidences with My Lord Norman St John of Fawsley. 'Wallace] Woodrow]' purred Norman, ushering the aforesaid young man in our direction, 'may I introduce a very dear young friend of mine called David? David is most anxious for Election.'

'I am one of the Elected,' said the youth with a confidence commendable in one so young.

'Let's not count our chickens quite yet, David]]' chuckled Norman, before buying him a second tomato juice.

'I am the Lord]' continued Koresh.

At this point, Woodrow's ears pricked up. 'The Lord who?' he asked, offering him a cigar.

'Follow me and you shall be saved,' announced Koresh.

'Excellent idea]' I replied, genially. 'It must be yonks since we've had a halfway decent barber as a Member]'

'You really wanna be saved?' said Koresh, a gleam in his eye.

'David is very, very interested in saving,' cooed Norman. 'Very wise, very wise,' said Woodrow, taking a goodly puff on his panatella. 'Always best to squirrel something away for a rainy day, what? He might be a valued addition to the club finance committee, eh, Norman?'

'Indeed he might]' agreed Norman, 'Indeed he might]' May I add that there was nothing about Koresh to suggest he would make anything other than an upstanding member of The Garrick? At that point in time (dread phrase]) the club was anxious to recruit a handful of members under the age of 73, to help out with stacking chairs, shifting furniture, and so forth, and Koresh looked just the ticket.

Pleased by his general deportment, I added my name to his list of proposers and thought nothing more about it until, five months hence, I noticed that 'Koresh, D' was situated between 'Knight, A' and 'MacKenzie, K' on the list of new members. 'Some excellent new blood there, I see]' I commented to Woodrow as we passed on the stairs, and he puffed a semaphore of assent on his cigar.

But it soon dawned on us that we might have picked a wrong 'un. I suppose our first inkling came when my old friend and quaffing partner Sir Robin Day asked Koresh ('Yes, sir, you sir - the gentleman in the white robe]') to throw a log on the fire. A grim smile seemed to alight on Koresh's face as he picked up the fireside rocking-chair and threw it on to the fire. Normally, this might not have raised an eyebrow, but our old friend Frank Longford was asleep on the chair at the time, and, but for a swift dousing with Perry Worsthorne's gin and tonic, he might well have been reduced to a cinder.

Further boorish, behaviour was to follow. Things came to a head when Koresh ran amok in the Upper Smoking Room with a rolled-up copy of the Illustrated London News, having convinced himself that the Devil was inhabiting the body of Sir Roy Strong, who was giving a lesson in flower arrangement at the time to a select gang of Members' Wives.

Asked to desist, Koresh left in a huff, only to set up a rival Garrick with one or two disaffected members in Waco, Texas. And the rest, as they say, is history.