Eastern Promise, Jeffrey Bernard, The Spectator, 17 December 1988
Speaking as a man with little faith I find this whole business of Christmas one hell of an inconvenience. It must be even worse for a turkey. One of the things that annoys me is the fact that I can hardly find a table in any of the restaurants I use because of the number of wretches who only seem to eat and drink once a year. Where the hell are they in, say, August?
I spent one Christmas in St Stephen’s Hospital years ago and it passed almost unnoticed. The fact that I was not allowed to eat anything at the time was a blessing in disguise. I wouldn’t mind at all that much being on a drip of my choice next week. I have to cook, though, this year for a couple of friends who are coming in to lunch and a fairly ordinary lunch it is going to be. Last year the goose was too big for the oven and I quite literally had to kick it in so that it was jammed. When I came back after an aperitif the kitchen floor was swimming in fat. It was quite disgusting. This year I might casserole some pigeons with a little port. I wonder what the daughter will be eating in Adelaide. The last I heard she had stopped off in Bangkok so she might even have been kidnapped by monks, God bless her. How I would dearly like to be there in my bar at Bang Pa-In. (The next reader who has the impertinence to write and tell me how to spell Bang Pa-In will receive a letter bomb by return of post.)
But one of the things about Christmas that I keep thinking about and which is rather odd is the fact that Jesus was born in what was obviously a pub. So God can’t be all that bad. And now to the awful business of buying a few presents. I would like to buy Edwina Currie an egg-timer filled with cigarette ash. No, it would be a waste of money. I would like too buy myself some anabolic steroids. I now tip the bathroom scales at 8st 12lb and it damn nigh kills me just to go downstairs to answer the telephone. It is new legs that I need for next year. Either that or a ground floor flat.
And now, just two minutes ago, the postman delivered a letter from India and to hell with everything else. I shall go there, especially as I am told that there are people who will bring me vodka on silver salvers. Had I not lost the address of these friends I would have gone to India for Christmas where, I suppose, the festivity is ignored. Still it will warm the bones in January. It’s a pity about the price of the fare and I shall have to dip into the money I have put aside for my funeral expenses. I flew Air India once to Paris and I was a little embarrassed at the hostesses bowing all the time. You don’t mind Norman bowing – the poor sod can’t straighten up now his back is so bad – but I really don’t want women bowing to me. Nursing me yes, but not bowing.
I don’t know why I have always felt drawn to India. Probably because of a youth misspent in the cinema. India and Turkey. There are also countries I wouldn’t go to if I was paid to. China, Libya, Iran and Greenland. Can you get served in such places? The first three of those may ignore Christmas but Libya must be horrendous on the lunatic Gadaffi’s birthday. Yes I shall take off to India at the fall of the first snowflake next month. I see waterlilies, peacocks and palaces. The truth of the matter may well be cobras and corpses just like the Coach and Horses but it is worth the risk. I would guess it wise to have a mongoose on a lead wherever you go.
Here in London I would dearly like to have a leopard on a lead to starve off the revolting dogs I meet. As I reported to you last year from Kenya, leopards are very partial to eating dogs. The friends I stayed with have written to say that a leopard at the bottom of the garden has just had cubs. The next few months will be hell for dogs. They will feel just like a turkey does now.