William Donaldson's Week: Great is Diana on 'er grammar

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OK, IT'S gloves off time vis-a-vis Penny, my beloved's, Fat Benefactor. Until now, I've taken his ill-bred behaviour pretty well, I think you'll agree, turning the other cheek with a patrician nonchalance that amounts to extreme stylishness under pressure.

I'm not a saint, however, and my patience ran out when Oscar 'Scoop' Morse, my man in Cornwall (more accurately, Kudos Productions' on-the-spot expert on the more squalid local rituals) rang me on Monday to say that the Fat Man has been saying some quite uncalled for things about me in the Cornish Guardian.

Well, if that's the way he wants it, so be it. I, myself, am not unaccomplished up an alley.

Meanwhile, and not irrelevantly, I mislaid the heir to the throne on Saturday. No, I didn't. My boy Charlie mislaid him, but only for an hour or two. Not my fault, nor my boy Charlie's come to that.

The Princess of Wales had dropped in for tea and had left Wills and the other one with me while she and her detective took Classy Cressida on a shopping spree at Harrods.

I don't know about you, but I work flat out over the weekend, and I can't work while a couple of schoolboys run all over the place, shouting 'I'm bored]' and 'Where are the computer games?'

In the circumstances, I was quite relieved when my boy Charlie pitched up unexpectedly and pressed the intercom.

'Daddy?' he said.

'He's moved,' I said - and then had second thoughts. 'No, he hasn't,' I said. 'Do come up' - thereafter suggesting that he take Wills and the other one off my hands for a while.

'Turtles or dinosaurs will be up their street,' I said.

'Try the Natural History Museum.'

After they'd gone, I went back to work on the script of El Independo - just managing to complete an excellently funny scene, in which the Fat Man, lunching with software types who are happy to have their names pinned to their lapels, blows on his gazpacho before the Princess of Wales and Classy Cressida returned from their shopping expedition.

While Classy Cressida made the tea, the Princess started to read my column from last week's Independent - shortly remarking that it seemed not to have been sub- edited by Roger From Chicago.

'Roger From Chicago,' she said, 'would never have passed the fifth-form philosophical howler at the top of column two'.

'You'll be referring,' I said, 'to the sentence, 'I haven't spent a weekend in the country since 1962, on which occasion, and mistaking it for a fox, I inadvertently shot a local buffer's labrador'. I'd like to point out that 'inadvertently' was added by the sub on duty.'

'And one clearly,' said the Princess, 'who is unfamiliar with Austin's seminal paper, A Plea For Excuses, which, you may remember, contains the characteristically witty footnote, 'Shooting The Wrong Donkey'. Austin, you'll recall, points out that shooting a donkey because you think it's a pheasant would be a mistake; shooting another chap's donkey while aiming at yours would be an accident. 'By mistake' and 'inadvertently' contradict one another. Bring back Roger From Chicago.'

'Thank you,' I said. 'You've lost me 500,000 readers.'

'I thought the Independent had at least a million readers on Saturday,' the Princess said.

'Half of them are still with us - just,' I said.

That was all right, but then the Princess remarked that I 'still seemed to be potting away at that frightful Cornish couple.'

'Merely for the sake of El Independo,' I said.

'In a pig's arse, Button - if you'll pardon my French,' she said. 'You're a sac of venom, eaten up with thoughts of revenge when you should be getting on with your life.'

It crossed my mind to say something along the lines of pots calling kettles black, but the Princess hadn't finished.

'May I use an analogy from American football?' she said.

My heart sank, but I waved her through.

'When a quarter-back's lost faith in his offensive line,' she said, 'he takes a step back after the snap and then, instead of taking one step forward, he balloons the ball off in any direction before being buried under several hundredweight of coked-up line-backers. He doesn't feel safe in the pocket, do you see?'

'What's that got to do with me and the Fat Man?' I said.

'Nothing at all,' she said. 'I just wanted to show off my knowledge of American football.'

'Thank you,' I said. 'You've just lost us the other 500,000 readers.'

'That's as may be,' she said. 'Anyway, it's time to go. Wills] Harry] Where are you?'

At that point, luckily, my boy Charlie returned, full of the news that he'd taken Wills and the other one to the Christmas Computer Fair at Wembley.

''It was great,' he said. 'Wills has a souvenir that he wants - bless my soul, where is the boy?'

He'd left him and the other one at Wembley, of course - whither the detective was now dispatched to seek them out. And that was a fruitless journey, since they pitched up within minutes of his leaving, having made the journey back by bus.

'It was brilliant,' said Wills. 'I haven't laughed so much since Uncle Andrew put a corgi in a bagpipe. The show was organised by a fat man from Cornwall. He was craned on to a reinforced podium to make a speech, and went clean through it, knocking himself unconscious.'

The significance of this hit me on Monday when Oscar 'Scoop' Morse apprised me of the Fat Man's uncalled-for insults in the Cornish Guardian. The fall, obviously, had rattled his brains, and, if the insults continue, I may have to consult my Mr Stephenson of Peter Carter-Ruck & Partners.