William Donaldson's Week: To Mustique for a knee up

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I'M FILING this from Mustique, where I appear to have landed up as the punch line of a joke - and not one of his best, I think - by my friend Craig Brown. Never mind. By the time you read it, I may well be in Miami, or even New York, as a guest of David Bowie.

Let me explain. Due to have tea with Brown on Monday at Harvey Nichols, I parked the Buick (lent by Pete the Schnoz) and, leading with the political message on my head, floated on my pumped up Air Jordans to the fifth floor, where I banged about a bit - cannoning off well-behaved women and nicely brought up girls - not because I was unable to master the Air Jordans but because I'd been deafened by the music in the Buick (I'd installed eight new Super Sound Speakers the size of cabin trunks), thereafter losing all sense of spatial relations and reeling around like a victim of the latest SAS sensory deprivation techniques.

'Ah, there you are,' said Brown.

'Do what?' I said. 'You'll have to speak up. Damn music in the Buick's too loud. I've had a colour change.'

'Really?' said Brown.

Then he inquired after my Gazza knee. Some months ago, you may remember, he almost caused me to miss a football match between the Academy Club and the Groucho Club by making me hobble on it up and down the King's Road while he tried to buy a suit.

'I've just done it again,' I said, 'ricocheting off that fat woman eating an eclair.'

'You're very brave,' he said.

'Naval man,' I said.

'I thought you'd had a colour change?'

'A black naval man,' I said.

'You don't see many of them these days,' he said.

Then he suggested that I fly to the Caribbean - Mustique by preference - in search of my roots. I could have my knee fixed at the same time, he said, since the island is run by lunchtime charity women - the bored wives of multinational types - who have nothing better to do, it seems, than help my afflicted brothers.

That seemed like a good idea, and I caught the next plane to Mustique, where, to my surprise, I was redirected to the tradesmen's entrance, so to speak.

What Brown knew, but had omitted to tell me, was that Mustique is not so much an island as a Public Limited Company, run by a board of directors who have turned it into one huge golf club, what's more, in which my brothers are not altogether welcome. Most, it seems, have been evicted, though a handful have been retained as servants - outdoor servants, that is, since imported Filipinos are thought to be more decorous indoors.

Not knowing this, I limped up the drive of a large house with a manicured lawn and knocked confidently on the front door. This was shortly opened by a woman who was wearing too many rings, I thought, and whose startled expression suggested that I was the first black man she'd ever seen.

'I'm searching for my roots,' I said.

'Wrong neck of the woods entirely,' she said. 'Try Barbados. She was about to shut the door, but then had second thoughts. 'Name?' she said.

'Plantagent Ambrose,' I said.

'You appear to have a limp.'

'A rugger accident,' I said. 'I can still play soccer, of course, but that's a girls' game.'

'So, you're something of an athlete, Ambrose. Follow me.'

I shuffled after her into a large drawing-room, where half a dozen other facial surgery victims were in committee over tea. Leaving me standing awkwardly in a corner on my own, she then talked about me to the others as if I wasn't there - not something I minded too much, in fact, accustomed as I am to attending meetings with important people such as independent producers of television programmes.

'It would be a feather in our cap, charity-wise,' she said, 'were we to have Ambrose's knee mended in time for the island marathon. Dorothy, you're still in touch with New York's top knee specialist, I take it?'

Dorothy said she was, and then the other charity ladies pitched in with their connections. One's husband had a private plane that would fly me to Miami, where the husband of another could arrange for me to fly first-class to New York, where the husband of a third could arrange for me to be put up in David Bowie's house while waiting for the operation. Once it was established that the whole thing could be carried out at no cost to the charity ladies, I was told to wait


I went into the garden, where I palled up with a brother in a wheelchair.

'Who are you?' I said.

'Hamlet Trippingham,' he said. 'Winner of last year's marathon.' He nodded towards the house. 'Then they flew me to New York for an operation on my knee. I haven't walked since.'

I'm not stupid. I'll go along with the caper as far as Miami and then I'll scarper. And I'll have something to say to Craig Brown when I get back to