February 01, 2013
Oh well, the horrors of unemployment and leisure! Perhaps I should apply for benefits.
But back to Clive James. He once told me that if I weren’t as lazy as I am, I coulda been a contender on television. He based this on a program he had me appear in about Greek soap operas. A Greek ship owner rings another and asks him if he could borrow his chopper because one of his children had misplaced his while out shopping. This was close to thirty years ago, and Greek soap operas were rather unsophisticated, so they made up things. Little did they know that one day reality would imitate soap operas. Back at a Geneva studio where I was about to be filmed, the engineers assured me that Clive back in London could only see me from the waist up as I babbled on about Greek TV. But although a polymath and a poet, Clive James is no fool. He knew that I would try and cheat and had spread crib sheets all around me so I could quote them at will. He bluffed me by asking me to get rid of them, and like a fool I fell for his bluff. He nevertheless coached me well and I did an OK job. End of my brilliant television career. I have always admired James for his knowledge and for the fact he likes the fair sex almost as much as I do. He also doesn’t take himself as seriously as do many who know far less than he does.
Speaking of polymaths, I learned more about Dante’s Divine Comedy, Boccaccio’s Decameron, and finally Petrarch’s sonnets by reading the short history of the Renaissance by my old buddy Paul Johnson, a book he knocked off for the Modern Library Chronicles 13 years ago. Paul writes clearly in prose one can understand. I had read two books on Dante before that, both by academics, and hadn’t learned a thing. One short history by Paul and I’m almost an expert.