William Donaldson's Week: Yo, Morgan, gimme five]

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The Independent Online
WHEN I pitched up for work on Monday, Peter Morgan, my young collaborator, met me with a face like thunder.

'Run out of eyeliner?' I said. 'Cathy's pinched your cleansing cream?'

'No,' he said. 'In fact, I'm not at all pleased by what you wrote about me in Saturday's column. Nor, I may say, are my red-hot legal advisers, still less Jenne Casarotto, my startlingly influential literary agent.'

Well, stuff that, frankly - how does he think I felt?

Like you, I imagine, I had sat down to breakfast with Saturday's Independent, picked my way like a paunchy gourmet through the best bits and eventually landed up here, where, to my amazement, I discovered that young Morgan had described me as the only obvious down-and-out in a fry-up cafe.

Squinting with rage, I was dialling the first three digits of my own legal adviser's home telephone number ('We've got them this time, Mr Carter-Ruck'), when I thought: 'Calm down, Button, it would be better for the sake of work in progress to smooth young Morgan's ruffled feathers, to go back to square one and paint a more flattering picture of him here.'

Asked how we met, Morgan likes to say 'at a dance', which is quite funny, I suppose, but not entirely accurate. In fact, we met in a gym, though in pursuit of rather different disciplines.

Morgan wears tights and practises terre-a-terre thigh defining evolutions on the mat, while I, in Royal Navy tracksuit, box and headguard, take on all comers in an adjacent ring. Up on the toes, feint with the left, one in the breadbasket and another fat stockbroker goes down like a sack of meal.

You never lose it, and a good thing too since Morgan, being less able than I am, I suppose, to take a joke against himself, spent most of this week seeking his revenge.

On Tuesday evening, and still irritated, I must admit, by Morgan's silly remark about my clothes, I asked Alison, my beloved, whether I do indeed look like a derelict.

'Never mind that,' she said. 'Listen. I saw this video on Sunday, OK? It was brilliant. I was really pleased I got it out.'

My heart sank. I've made it clear before, I think, that Alison, my beloved, is the meaning of my whole existence, but instead of watching television she does have this habit, like other young people, of hopping out to a video shop on Sunday night and hiring some daft film which features actors you and I have never heard of and has to do, as often as not, with snakes, turtles and the insultingly paranormal.

'Don't tell me,' I said. 'Six serial killers are travelling through Arizona when a giant alligator lands in a pod from outer space and . . .'

'Shut up, right? It was brilliant, OK? It was about the weather . . .'

'The weather? My word, I must get that one out myself. There'll be a waiting list, I take it?'

'Don't be silly,' my beloved said. 'It was called something or other Idaho and . . .'

'Anyone in it?'

'The Brat Pack. Anyway, there's this gay, OK . . .'

'What's the Brat Pack?'

'Ask Pete the Schnoz. Anyway, he's in his car, OK, and . . .'

Morgan won't mind my saying that, as a kindly meant tribute to his heroic nose, he's known in cineastes' circles as Pete the Schnoz. Morgan's is a nose which, frankly, makes Mark Chapman's by comparison look facetiously inadequate.

Be that as it may, and thinking it was time, perhaps, to brush up on my street credibility, I asked Morgan on Wednesday to give me some tips on fashion, music and the latest phrases.

'Safe,' he said. 'That's the word. As in 'Tuesday? Safe.' Even better would be 'yeah yeah yeah', 'cool', 'gear', and 'yo'. As to your wardrobe, I suggest something by Ossie Clark.'

'Safe. And is Bruce Springsteen gear?'

'Yes and no. Rednecks don't like him, but his message is still popular with the effeminate left. P J O'Rourke and so forth.'

'And what's the Brat Pack?'

'A strenuously cerebral group of East Coast film-makers, whose work - starring the likes of Donald Sutherland, Telly Savalas and Jack Nicholson - is a tribute to the searing intellectuality of Jean-Luc Godard and the nouvelle vague.'

The next day, as luck would have it, my godson, Kim Kindersley, asked me to meet some of his fashionable young friends at the Globe in Notting Hill, none of whom, I think, would have been mistaken for a nose tackle with the Philadelphia Eagles.

'Yo,' I said as I entered. 'Safe. Gear. Yeah yeah yeah. Gimme five, Winston] I like the frock. Ossie Clark, is it? What shall it be? Back to my gaff for a video with the Brat Pack? Telly Savalas and so forth? Or the latest single by the Boss?' - and I was punched at wildly by six wispy young men.

Three were shortly hanging from a chandelier, two sailed out of the window, the other went headfirst down the beer chute, and the next day Pete the Schnoz seemed surprised to see me in the gym.



'You've put things right in this week's column?'

'I think you'll be pleased,' I said.