Archive for March, 2012

My night with a bender

March 27, 2012

 From my brief stint as a restaurant reviewer. This was first published in Manly Monthly October 1971


My darling editor called and suggested I try something new this week. Excitement rose immediately, then I realised she was talking about a restaurant. ‘Which one?’ I asked. ‘Le caprice? The Ivy? Wyngarde’s in Bond Street? ‘No,’ she replied. ‘The Wimpy Bar!’ I confess that I hadn’t heard of such an establishment. And my first reaction was that such a place much be a drinking venue, surely? But no, I soon learned that it is part of a new chain of restaurants, catering for the young who no longer want stuffy old establishments where crockery, table manners and evening dress are required. Tsk, I thought, what is the world coming to? But then I recalled my own youth, not that long ago, it seems to me, but pre-history to today’s youngster with their long hair and ‘trannies’ and misguided belief in ‘peace and love.’ They may think they have invented sex and having a good time, but I can tell you we knew how to have fun in those glorious pre-war days. And some of us had a jolly good time during the war too, thank you very much! We didn’t let bombs and wholesale slaughter get in the way of being gay.

So I called my potential guest, TV sex-kitten Anne Aston, and invited her to join me for a novel cuisine experience. She jumped at a chance to sup with old Stirling, but admitted that it wouldn’t be such a cherry-popping occasion for her; she and the ghastly Monkhouse often frequented the Birmingham branch after each episode of The Golden Shot. Frankly, I had been rather worried this old duffer would make a fool of himself in such a youthful environment, so having a pretty and trendy young thing taking me in hand was a relief.

I picked up Anne up in my Rolls from her flat in London’s fashionable Roehampton, and we drove to The Wimpy Bar in Coventry Street. We parked, instructed my driver to be back within 3 hours, and made our way into the gastric future!

We were led to out table by a young waitress. My first impression was the place was very noisy, and then I noticed that the food was being cooked in front of our very eyes! A counter ran along one side of the restaurant, and behind that was a large very hairy man of, one presumes, Cypriot background, frantically scurrying about. I made a mental note to examine him in action more fully after I had ordered.

We sat at our table. I was relieved to see that table layout was reasonably conventional with knives and forks, salt and pepper. I had worried that we might be expected to eat with our fingers, and I could foresee my de rigeur ¾ inch of cuff getting messy. The menu was, amusingly, illustrated with photographic images of the dishes! This was a relief as I wouldn’t have guessed what each dish was from its name, although some of the pictures were extraordinary! The Bender Brunch was particularly confusing! As for the Fish Salad, I would never have guessed that one of our marine chums was anywhere in the vicinity from the picture on display! An entrée is, apparently, not ‘groovy, man’ so we leaped straight to the main course. I ordered the Bender Grill, and La Aston chose the straightforward Wimpy & Chips. I confess I had no real idea what would turn up for either of us!

I then tried to order a nice Burgundy, but he waitress explained they didn’t have a licence. At first I was outraged and I could sense a Stirling explosion was imminent, but then she explained that the Wimpy bar was aimed at the youth so alcohol was not encouraged. Partially mollified, I took a swig from my hip flask and then the lovely Anne ordered a Pepsi Float each for us.

While waiting for our food I took in the surroundings. The decor was very a la mode, with orange pop-art drums protruding from the ceiling inside which was concealed lighting. So unlike the home-life of our own dear Queen. Amusingly, the tomato sauce was presented in a tomato-shaped dispenser. I am not sure what brown sauce is, so couldn’t verify the authenticity of the mysterious brown vegetable in which it nestled.

Oh, and points deducted for paper napkins.

The chef – I presumed he would be designated such as he was dressed in white and wore the requisite hat – was still frantically working away. I noticed he was grilling ‘beefburgers’ and onions on a large griddle which was obviously very hot – and from which he regularly scraped burnt detritus, extra points for hygiene there – while simultaneously toasting buns in an immense set of toasters! Regularly, these buns, toasted to – one hoped – perfection would pop up into the air and would be expertly caught by our hirsute grillardin!

Our Pepsi Floats arrived. These were served in a tall glass made of space-age plastic, and seem to comprise a Pepsi Cola – an American beverage – on the surface of which bobbed a Titanic-sinking lump of ice-cream! It seemed more like a dessert than an aperitif, but I took a sip and I must admit it was delicious. Miss Aston and I squealed with delight at the creamy moustaches with which we both ended up!

After what seemed like mere minutes our main courses turned up. Anne’s comprised a ‘beefburger’ in a bun with fried onions, presented with chips. Mine was more unusual to say the least. A bun-less ‘beefburger,’ chips, a fried egg, and – I kid ye not – a frankfurter sausage with regular incisions along one side, curved around a fried tomato! As my father would say, ‘the sights you see when you haven’t a gun.’ And he always carried a gun. Excellent staff control.

Whatever the aesthetic curiosity of our meals, we both agreed the food was delicious. I polished mine off and even, metaphorically, licked La Aston’s plate clean e.g. I finished her chips! Ladies off the telly are always obsessed about ‘the camera putting on pounds!’ Quite right, we don’t want fatties on the box!

For this very reason my guest declined a pudding while I ordered the intriguingly-named Brown Derby which turned out to be a doughnut of exceptional firmness, the ring of which was filled with ice cream and layered with chopped nuts and a brown sauce(NB not the same brown sauce served in the brown tomato – this was sweet). Delicious, but maybe a bit of stodge too far. I seriously worried for my trousers and their ability to keep my waist in check.

We paid the bill – which had unusually been placed on the table as soon as we ordered – which was a very reasonable 97 new pence, not including the 3np tip I left for our waitress. She’d have got more if she’d been prettier.

It had been a lovely, if unusual, evening. I drove my delightful guest home – hers, not mine despite my best efforts, although frankly, I wouldn’t recommend a Wimpy meal if one expects to share a bed with a young lady; onion breath – both ends! – isn’t conducive to a romantic night!

Will I visit a Wimpy bar again? It’s ideal if one wants to seduce someone too young to remember the war. But for grown-ups who need alcohol with their meal, think again.

The sad state of Rt Hon Archie Space-Oddity

March 19, 2012

Duty luncheon date yesterday with my old publisher, The Rt Hon Archie Space-Oddity. He’s in a home for the Irreparably Ga-Ga somewhere just outside Rustington. Poor old bugger, his mind’s more shrivelled than a scrotum in the North Sea. Now, as you know, I’m a modest chap, but I found it galling having to reintroduce myself every third mouthful of soup – which was being spooned into him by a hefty Croatian nurse with an astonishing moustache (she was a dead ringer for Stalin, poor woman). Archie then got it into his addled head that I was one of old Bugger Beaulieu’s bits of trade. ‘Never had a queer bone in me,’ I told him. At which he took out his dentures & made a disgraceful suggestion.

I wondered if this was the dribble talking, or if Archie’s always been sensitif?

Nonetheless, seeing Archie in this right old state made me contemplate my own future, I can tell you. My mind is still razor-sharp, touch wood, but could I, in my incontinent dotage, embrace the nancier side of life, despite my life-long hetero-normalcy? I want my obituaries to talk about my best-selling books, my wartime exploits, my friendship with the Queen Mother, God bless Her… … not that I was found hanging around the public lavatory in Marylebone  station, flies akimbo, immorally accosting commuters at stool.

Anyway, it was sad to see Archie in such a pitiful state. Confused, drooling, be-nappied, nothing to live for, his past a befuddled fog… but at least he still has his Daily Mail column.

My adventures sans trousers (continued)

March 3, 2012

Further to my ponderings re my possible popping-up in a nudist film back in the day, I’ve had an anonymous message re an alleged sighting. According to the nameless claimant – gender unknown – I am quite prominent in said film & I have nothing to be ashamed of.
In fact, this person claims that I played an important part in their adolescent amatory fantasies. I am consulting my lawyer. I’m curious to watch it for old time’s sake. It’ll be fascinating to see how little I’ve changed in the intervening years. Greyer of pube, mayhap? Harder of toenail? Nipples less horizontal? But still firm where I need to be.

PS: Been contacted by the British Film Institute. If my nudist film is found they want to ‘digitally restore’ it & show it in an Acclaimed Authors in the Nude’ season.


Nude With Pencil

March 3, 2012

I wish to categorically deny that I have ever starred in a pornographic film.

I am however a proud nudist and always have been. I may – and it’s never been proved – have had a small part in a nudist film in the 1950s. By ‘small part’ I am referring to my status in the billing. If I had been in such a film. Which I may have been. Or not.

Look… It was a lovely summer & I was spending a lot of time at ‘Sans Pantaloons’ a nudist colony just outside Rustington. I would write my latest novel ‘Hell Sailor’ during the night, then join some lovely ladies with unfettered knockers for a round of badminton.

One lunch the Pimms had been flowing rather freely. We’d been joined that day by a – with hindsight – frankly seedy chap with a film camera. He claimed he was making a serious documentary about nudism & how it would benefit mankind if we all doffed clobber & frolicked au naturel. I was young, naive, idealistic, & rather liked the idea of ubiquitous naked lassies. Well, except for hideous ones of course.

So, full to the brim of Pimms – all right, pissed out of my head – I agreed to partaking in some scenes for his meisterwerk. Trouserless!

There my yarn rather stumbles to a halt. Foolishly I continued to glug back the booze & the rest of the ‘shoot’ is absent from the brain. So what happened? Did I partake? What was my contribution? More badminton? Al fresco Calisthenics? Beachball? Or worse…?

And who was that sordid auteur & his wretched Bolex?  Michael Winner? No, he’s too much of a gent to exploit a pissed novelist in the altogether. And what became of the wretched footage? For years I have watched every nudist film I could get my hands on to see if my red-cheeked shame was on display. I’ve even imported nudist films from abroad eg Sweden, Denmark, Finland to see if the filthy sods had got their hands on my youthful folly,

And, yes, I am still a proud nudist. Although I’m not as proud as I used to be. After all, the summers aren’t as warm as they used to be. These days I find I prefer to get starkers with my fellow chaps. Young women of today can be so cruel. And there is something deeply spiritual about swimming nude with one’s fellow men, our unrestrained testes bobbing with the current. Towelling each other down afterwards, the wet sheen on our masculine skins reflecting the afternoon sun. Yes, that makes me very proud.