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Writings of Albert Morris
Article 124 - In the pink as a serial lame duck


I HAVE had a moment of weakness that did not go as far as making me feel sorry for the government’s embarrassment and rage over parliamentary opposition to the Terrorism Bill, but did produce a fellow-feeling for those responsible for the botched legislation, who may be reeling and writhing in red-faced remorse.

In my incident-prone life, people assume I am flushed with success when my rosy cheeks probably indicate that I have just been in some humiliating situation. That could include going in the wrong direction up a one-way, Lisbon street and encountering a phalanx of hooting, fist-waving cars bearing down on me like wolves upon the fold, and making me reverse rapidly onto a main road filled with equally maddened motorists, and turning up at a London party, that I mistakenly thought was a formal affair with medals, and finding guests sporting, in fancy dress theme, variations on the garb of old Gaul at the time of Pliny the elder.

I am convinced that embarrassments come to me that start out to happen to other people. One arrived when lunching at my club recently and about to embark on a feast of reason and flow of soul. Suddenly, a member accidentally dropped a jug of water onto the table, the contents of which cascaded directly onto my lap and down my prestige, gentleman’s suiting.

If fish, as suggested by a Rupert Brooke poem, see a purpose in liquidity, it was lost on me. The incident cast a dampener on the proceedings and a waiter confirmed it, "You’re wet sir," he said as I gathered up my soaked loins and left for a taxi rank and home, leaving a moist line, like a snail trail, to mark my passage.

"Good lord; you’re wet," observed the taxi-driver, obviously trained to look for liquefaction among customers. At home, my wife asked incisively, "Why are you wet?", and a neighbour queried, "Has it been raining?" To them, I spilled the beans, adding that it took more than a splash to extinguish the spirit of one who regards himself metaphorically as a small, usually dry pea blown about in the rusty whistle of fate.

THAT incident was a mere drop in my embarrassment ocean. Many things have been dropped on me from various heights. A serving lackey accidentally tilted part of the contents of a spaghetti Bolognaise plate onto my Burton’s best, evening dress jacket in Edinburgh’s then NB Hotel. I was told by staff, applying emergency wipes, that the overspill was "good for the texture of the cloth", but that reassurance didn’t wash with me.

On the QE2, a steward, clearing our café table, upended a cup of coffee onto my newly-purchased, expensive, gale-resistant trousers - the stain is with them yet - and, at a restaurant in Tahiti, a serving minion carelessly uncorked a champagne bottle which spurted Pommery 89 down my shirt front, and gave the garment, despite cleaning, a lingering bouquet, delicately redolent of premier cru publicity promotions.

I have had red-faced days that gave me sleepless nights ranging from the blank classroom embarrassment experienced on being suddenly called on to locate a minor prophet hidden somewhere in the tangled hinterland of the Old Testament, to the incident when, having to make a speech at a dinner, I had to hire an evening suit for the purpose; mine was being cleaned to rid it of collected waiter droppings. It had natty drainpipe trousers, a long jacket, suitable for a tasteful simian and what seemed a handkerchief with a smartly serrated edge showing at the top pocket.

During my speech, I reached for the supposed handkerchief, which resisted my increasingly desperate tugs. Suddenly, there was a rending sound and the article - a wretched sliver of cloth attached to a cardboard base - was revealed in all its tawdry tastelessness. My astonished face, doubtless resembling a ripe nectarine, set the tables in a roar and my gas at a peep.

Oscar Wilde claimed there was a good deal to be said for blushing, "if one can do it at the proper time", but for me and many people I know, there is almost a red-faced routine in the calendar year with deaf-aids peeping plaintively at orchestral concerts, forgetting people’s names you have just been introduced to at parties and are required to introduce them to others, and trying in vain to open the car door until a voice says: "You’re trying to get into my car."

Recounting such humiliating experiences to a friend at lunch the other day, a spiritual cold douche engulfed me. I found, when about to pay my bill, that I had forgotten my wallet and had to get my companion to cough up a loan.

As people once wrote in postcards: "Hoping this finds you in the pink as it leaves me at present."


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