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Writings of Albert Morris
Article 119 - On a columnar healing mission with my ego

APART from resuming nuclear testing, there was only one thing to do - and I did it; I consulted my ego. I had read a press report that increasing numbers of people, believing they had no redeeming features or seeking to repair the ravages of ageing, were undergoing plastic surgery and I wanted to see if my ego, because of a reader’s malevolent missive, was showing signs of incipient confidence loss and lowering of opinionative impact and needed fast-tracked, morale enlargement.

My ego, readers should know, is a refined and delicate emanation that goes with me as Marks goes with Spencer, Dracula with Frankenstein and Jekyll with Hyde. Elegant but tough, it seems to hover above my head, attached by a kind of umbilical chord. Sometimes, it resembles a toy balloon, occasionally, it is shaped like a Brothers Montgolfier hot air one, anon, it looks provocatively footballish and now it has the form of a punch-bag that has taken a low blow but has, I rejoice to reveal, no trace of any stuffing knocked out of it.

It has a deep respect for me - no hollow bonhomie of first- name calling, but always the formal "Mr Morris". Nevertheless, we are old pals, so I asked for its reaction to the letter from one John Thorpe of New Luce, Wigtonshire, that, in criticising me and my last Saturday column, said that "the poor old fellow" should be put "out to grass before he does us all another mischief". He also described the column as "a rant" and claimed, risibly, that I lusted after a Michael Howard premiership.

My ego was right on the ball. "Can I call him an insult-slinging rapscallion?" it asked. "You cannot," I said firmly. "He is a reader of this paper and must be assumed to be mature, tolerant, even humorously indulgent, and beyond all forms of below-the-belt behaviour."

SURELY, I can call his letter ‘gaseous guff’, my ego pleaded. "On no account," I retorted. "This is a respectable, family column, spotless in thought, word and deed and not in the business of base retaliation, even when richly deserved."

"Then I can only suggest," it said, "that the intellectual strength of your column temporarily warped the mind of Thorpe and, in making the ‘grass’ reference, it lost the plot entirely." Well, my ego can think that and it is not fitting for me to comment on any possible mental lapses, however temporary, but I had to point out that I had already suffered because of the column. My Tory friends are tut-tutting, my left-wing chums are flapping, some Liberal Democrat ladies looked at me the other day as if I were an unwelcome garden offering the cat had brought in, and a couple of SNP pals, that I saw in a bar, looked as if they had drained the bitter cup.

I told my ego: "I can take all that and more in the interests of frank and fearless journalism - my column was only three weeks old when I was threatened with horsewhipping. I have been called an ‘elderly amnesiac’ - that was 20 years ago - and even described bitingly as a ‘literary louse’ a ‘columnar creep’ and ‘a Rorschach blot on the paginal landscape’, but I will not stand idly by when a crude and mocking reference to my age is made."

My ego bounced in with the shrewd comment: "I consider that this Luce popgun’s curmudgeonly ageism itself suggests the arid croakings of a peevish pensioner with no respect for his elders."

MR THORPE’S use of "rant" also rankled. "That column," I explained patiently, "was a well-balanced, plague-on-all-political-houses polemic, linked to problems of sleeplessness but with references to the Tories’ pie-in-the-sky dreams. It was marinated in maturity, steeped in wisdom, weighed by me and not found wanting and ..." Here, my ego chipped in, "produced in Gibbonesque sentences from a Miltonic mind". Truly; my old pal is never at a loss for a healing phrase to soothe the savaged breast.

"While I do not wish," I continued, "to be unkind to a man who seeks to flatter me by implying that I have a national, possibly global, destructive potential that I never knew I possessed, I must emphasise that if I hear of him reading this column, under any pretext whatsoever, I shall be seriously displeased. Abstaining from my space, he will miss forthcoming pieces on Das Kapital as a musical, the place of my toothbrush in an expanding universe and a host of other good things."

As I ended the conversation, my ego said: "Mr Morris, I consider you are a punch-packing paragraph producer without peer in the known universe."

Suddenly, I had the facelift of a smile. My idea of a bucket of laughs may be beyond the Thorpe pale, but a man who is admired by his ego can’t be all bad.

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