Wednesday, 27 June 2012

I was a contemporary of Edward Mortimer in Oxford, when we were both students, he at the university and me at a place called St Clare's reading for an external London degree in Russian. Edward popped up on today's BBCR4 Media Show being interviewed about his review of BBC news coverage of the 'Arab spring'. We were both in New York one late summer in the1960s, pursuing our own devices, when I bumped into him in a large department store asking in his exquisitely articulated donnish way 'if by any chance you have a postage stamp?' The assistant stared at him, her jaw frozen in the act of chewing her gum, in fear, mixed with respect. He looked human. He even spoke a sort of English but 'not as we know it, Jim'. Edward was the cleverest man any of us had ever known, not excluding Chris Patten with whom Edward starred that summer in a travelling production of Aristophanes The Frogs, set for some reason lost in time in Victorian dress. Patten played Queen Victoria and when I am really broke I will send him the picture with a suggested donation to a bank account in Switzerland held in a nominee name. (That's a joke, Chris). Edward sailed effortlessly into All Souls and, after a puzzling stint at the Financial Times, coasted home to the UN where he has held the world together ever since.

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