Jeffrey Bernard is, um, well…

If I had been really on the ball, I suppose I could have posted this week’s offerings yesterday.

As it happens, I was hardly slacking. More preoccupied with getting copy away to a bi-monthly which I give excuses to stay in print, rather than moving solely online.

I was late, as the annoyed editor then informed me. Grumpy sod who is the publishing industry equivalent of one of those rude drinking club proprietors of Soho legend. For someone who, I understand, is of Quaker stock his charmlessness and ingratitude never ceases to amaze.

Actually, it doesn’t. Now I think of it, I have never met a charming Quaker. Principled up to their eyebrows, socially committed and always first in the queue to object to arms sales, for example, but all the charm of a Rottweiler with piles. Odd that.

But also yesterday afternoon, thanks to spotting http://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/aug/11/modern-life-homogenised-not-much-fun-says-john-hurt , I was finally able to at least hear a version of a play I would have loved to have seen in its classic version, with Peter O’Toole playing Jeff.

The play is largely comprised of gems from classic Bernard articles, so anyone who has read these already knows the ‘script’. Still, reading these is one thing, hearing them delivered by actors of O’Toole or Hurt’s pedigree is absolutely something else.

Knowing it was also filmed in Bernard’s lifetime (and with him visible in the audience), I have been looking for a DVD version for ever, but it has long been out of circulation, and those who had one either refused to part with it or were asking three figure sums. Suddenly ( as evidenced by the new radio version) there seems to be renewed interest, and yesterday I also discovered the classic O’Toole performance is available again.

As for the interview itself….

I am a little surprised and worried to find myself agreeing with a 75 year old (albeit a rather remarkable and individualistic one). But as John Hurt both knew and has now played both of my life models, this is hardly surprising.

The essence of all that I miss from my life before compulsory office drudgery, and my total disinterest in what passes for modern night-life, is encapsulated in just this excerpt from the interview.

‘I had endless conversations with Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Jeff [Bernard] and others …………… People go out today with the intention of getting smashed. We never had that intention, although it might happen. We hated binge drinkers. They were boring and if you slipped into it, you’d be told to pull yourself together. We wanted to seek, to find, to be interested, heighten awareness, talk.’

Precisely.

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