The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold: I publish my letters for all to see the truth

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The Independent Online
AFTER the gruelling ordeal of my 'trial by media' last week, followed by my resignation as Vice-Chairman of the Honesty Helpline, I have decided to confound the devilish ways of the dread Paxman by reprinting my entire correspondence with that wily little reptile, Mr Mustapha al Satian.

My decision to publish these letters has been, I will admit, intensely painful, but I have no doubt that, looked at from the right angle, they will establish my innocence of all charges of malpractice. They will show how my business with Mr al Satian was based solely on friendship, or, to put it another way, how my friendship with al Satian was based solely on business.

December 17, 1986, Biddle and Bobbs Food Halls: Dear Mr al Satian, Christmas shopping for this year finished at last - and most of next year's shopping too] And all thanks to Biddle and Bobbs] Receipt enclosed] Prompt reimbursement would be appreciated] Yours ever, W Arnold.

PS As a first-class season ticket-holder with British Rail, I will of course be using my influence with the PM to ensure that the proposed Channel Tunnel Rail-link emerges not at Victoria or King's Cross but in Knightsbridge, bang opposite Biddle and Bobbs - by far the most sensible choice for all concerned.

July 25, 1987, The Hotel al Satian, Rome: Dear Mustapha, Bedroom excellent, service faultless, receipt enclosed. By the by, you might notice that today's bill includes luncheon for four. Though I ate by myself, my meal proved so delicious that I ordered three more to be sent to my country address in Berkshire for consumption at a later date - a terrific compliment to you and your superlative chef] Incidentally, as a cardholder of the Marylebone District Library, I will have no hesitation in using my contacts in Government to make doubly certain that the proposed extension to the M4 will be diverted straight through South Kensington to the front door of Biddle and Bobbs. Yours, WA.

PS Room service of full afternoon tea with champagne has just arrived - all well up to scratch as per u, particularly the extra eclairs.

December 19, 1990, Luxury Resort al Satian sur Mer, Marbella. My dear Mustapha, Having a lovely time. 'Wish you were here' (an old English expression, not meant to be taken literally).

Thank you for your letter. You ask why the Channel Tunnel Rail-link seems to have emerged at Victoria rather than opposite Biddle and Bobbs in Knightsbridge. Fair question, and one which I look forward to answering in due course.

Where shall we meet? May I suggest the Presidential suite at your excellent hotel in Manhattan? It is so wonderfully well-equipped for the busy traveller. A stay of two or three weeks would suit me down to the ground, and I'm sure I could fit you in for a good few mins. Would you be so kind as to arrange it for me? With many thanks, Your old friend, Wallace Arnold.

PS I have every hope that the new PM will look warmly on our plans to convert the little used Westminster Hall into a prestige development of the central London arm of Biddle and Bobbs, specialising in fabrics and soft furnishings - but I plan to give him a month or two to 'settle in' before 'locking him into it'. W.

May 2, 1993, Smith Square. Dear Mustapha, But I thought we were friends] I never promised that al Satian Holdings would be the natural choice to develop Hyde Park as Britain's foremost Grand Prix circuit, with full catering facilities overseen by Biddle and Bobbs - I merely mentioned that if the Park were to be so developed, I could see no reason why Biddle and Bobbs couldn't handle the ice lolly franchise. Yours sincerely, Wallace.

PS You wrongly assert that I have accepted 'hospitality' from you in the past. Not so. I have paid absolutely all my bills in full at each of your commercial outlets, save those you chose, for whatever reason, to pay yourself.

February 4, 1994, From the Office of the Vice-Chairman of the Honesty Helpline: Dear Mr al Satian, The Vice-Chairman has asked me to thank you for your letter. Due to pressure of work, he regrets he cannot enter into personal correspondence. Nevertheless, he strenuously denies all knowledge of everything appertaining to anything. Yours faithfully, D. Smithers (Mrs).

PS Please find enclosed a copy of our new departmental leaflet, 'Honesty - The Best Policy'.