By Auberon Waugh, Private Eye, 20th April 1975
Tougher penalties for sexual offences are urged by the Police Superintendents’ Association in a report to the Law Commission today. They propose a maximum fine of £400 for flashing, against the present maximum of £100. This depressed me rather, because although I have never been tempted to expose myself, I can see that as I get older it might have attractions as a way of passing the time. The new rate will mean that only the very rich can afford this pleasure, and it could easily be reduced to a form of status symbol or financial boasting.
A Welcome Gift
From A Christmas Cracker, edited by John Julius Norwich.
Licensed Victuallers’ Home for the Aged,
19 December 1974
I want to thank you for your lovely gift of a table radio. It is wonderful that an absolute stranger as yourself to remember people like us.
I am 82 years of age, and has been in the home for 16 years. They treat us very well but the loneliness is sometimes very hard to bear. My room mate Mrs Ernstadt who is a very nice person, but she is very selfish. She has a table radio, but she will not let me use it, she turns it off when I come into the room, now I have one of my own.
My son and daughter in law are very nice and they come and visit me once a month. I appreciate it, but I know they come out of a sense of duty & obligation. This is why your gift is all the more welcome, because it was given, not from a sense of duty, but more a feeling of compassion for a fellow human-being.
Today Mrs Ernstadt’s radio went out of order & she asked me whether she could listen to mine. I told her to go and fuck herself.
Wilfred Thesiger once told me “I have no sense of humour”. The very opposite of the much-repeated – but not always to be believed – ‘GSOH’ in Lonely Hearts advertisements. When I visited Thesiger at a retirement home on the outskirts of London, I therefore felt I was taking a bit of a risk in reading him this story, especially in view of its setting. But when I finished, he rocked with laughter.
Henry James asks the way
(From A Backward Glance by Edith Wharton (1934))
While I [Edith Wharton] was hesitating and peering out into the darkness, James spied an ancient doddering man who had stopped in the rain to gaze at us. ‘Wait a moment, my dear—I’ll ask him where we are’; and leaning out he signalled to the spectator.
‘My good man, if you’ll be good enough to come here, please; a little nearer—so,’ and as the old man came up: ‘My friend, to put it to you in two words, this lady and I have just arrived here from Slough; that is to say, to be more strictly accurate, we have recently passed through Slough on our way here, having actually motored to Windsor from Rye, which was our point of departure; and the darkness having overtaken us, we should be much obliged if you would tell us where we now are in relation, say, to the High Street, which, as you of course know, leads to the Castle, after leaving on the left hand the turn down to the railway station.’
I was not surprised to have this extraordinary appeal met by silence, and a dazed expression on the old wrinkled face at the window; nor to have James go on: ‘In short’ (his invariable prelude to a fresh series of explanatory ramifications), ‘in short, my good man, what I want to put to you in a word is this: supposing we have already (as I have reason to think we have) driven past the turn down to the railway station (which in that case, by the way, would probably not have been on our left hand, but on our right) where are we now in relation to…’
‘Oh, please,’ I interrupted, feeling myself utterly unable to sit through another parenthesis, ‘do ask him where the King’s Road is.’
‘Ah—? The King’s Road? Just so! Quite right! Can you, as a matter of fact, my good man, tell us where, in relation to our present position, the King’s Road exactly is?’
‘Ye’re in it’, said the aged face at the window.