Christopher Fildes

Lovely girls on the townhouse’s staircase —it’s how The Spectator works best

Lovely girls on the townhouse’s staircase —it’s how The Spectator works best

A health warning greeted me: ‘LIBEL. Mr Christopher Fildes and Mr Auberon Waugh have today joined the staff of The Spectator. As from today, The Spectator is no longer insured against libel. Gatley’s Libel and Slander (sixth and seventh edition) may be consulted in my office. Nigel Lawson, Editor.’ Times were hard. I had come to write a City Notebook and found myself in the attic of a tall, narrow, messy townhouse. The bicycle in the hall was Jock Bruce-Gardyne’s. Lovely girls climbed the stairs in short skirts. Writing was done at the last frantic minute. This still seems to be how The Spectator works best. Bron Waugh and I managed not to libel anybody, although he tinkered with the contents page and varied George Gale’s name to Lunchtime O’Gale. Nigel sacked him, he sued for wrongful dismissal and won, but in the end he could not keep away, any more than I could. At the time my City Notebook had caught Patrick Sergeant’s eye and he had no trouble in outbidding The Spectator for my services. I looked on as the times became harder. The editor’s secretary had put all her friends on the free list for Christmas, and when their names were crossed off the circulation collapsed. The proprietor stripped out the assets (including the lease on the townhouse) and passed the title on to Henry Keswick, just back from Hong Kong. May his shadow never grow less, for The Spectator revived.

Martini, kir, negroni

It was Algy Cluff, Henry’s successor, who explained to me why owners came and went so regularly. ‘After four years,’ he said, ‘you get a letter from your inspector of taxes. It says: is this investment of yours supposed to be a business, or is it just a hobby? You then have to sell it to someone with a different inspector of taxes.’

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