The Columnist

Simon Kelner
The Independent                                                                              Apr 20 04

Dear Simon,
            This is what my parents’ generation used to call a thank-you letter. “Have you written your thank you letters yet?” they used to say, usually about February. “No,” I would say. “Now nobody will give you anything next Christmas, and serve you right.” “But I didn’t get anything I want anyway!” I would protest. “So maybe if I don’t write any thank you letters, I won’t be lumbered with books of poetry and water pistols that don’t work!” “Hmm, you’ve got a point there,” they said. “Furthermore, do grown-ups write thank-you letters?” I said, pursuing my advantage. “No, you’ve got another point there,” they said.
            A lot of my childhood was spent like this. No wonder nobody was talking to me by the time I was twelve.
            This time, however, I think it is worth writing to say thanks for the splendid dinner last week. It was an awesome sight to see twenty-odd egos clashing in the same room – I don’t think I have ever seen so many columnists and executives in one place before and it was interesting to note that they fall very clearly into four categories:-
            1. Those who are very concerned about Iraq…
            2. Those who are concerned about circulation…
            3. Those who are very concerned about whether they can get a taxi back to Crouch End after midnight…
            4. Those who are grimly aware that at some unspecified moment the editor will call on them to sing a song.
            Nothing like a bit of fear to add ginger to a dinner party. I am glad I didn’t know people were going to sing. I was not ready for that. I have no song. But the next time I will be ready. I am going to dig out my record of old Frank Crumit songs and memorise the words to one of the finest songs ever penned, The Prune Song. Do you know it? It starts:-
            “No matter how young a prune may be,
            It’s always full of wrinkles.
            We get wrinkles on our face
            - Prunes get them every place!”
Of course you have to hear it to get the full magic.
            Anyway, it was a great occasion, and a rum old do, and I was very glad to be there, and I am very glad to be writing for The Independent, which I look forward to doing every day, and it’s time to bring this letter to an end and let you get back to your meeting. About Iraq. Probably. Or the circulation. Not Crouch End, I’ll wager.



Book Review
by Simon Kelner

Barry Took
  Jan Morris
Simon Kelner
  Ken Crawford
  Caroline Highcock
  Charles Douglas-Home
  Ralph Freeman
  Peter Jamieson
  Jazz for Juniors
  Bearded Lady
  Letter to Agent
  Joanna Lumley
  Lady Margaret Oswick
  Katharine Whitehorn
  Melvyn Bragg
  Margaret Forster
  Richard Ingrams
  Gavyn Davies