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Alasdair Riley
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Letter to Alasdair Riley
October 27, 1976

Dear Alasdair,

Well. Let me see, just how do you write a “Londoner’s Diary” par? How about this?

When he flew into London today, bronzed happy Miles Kington looked spruce and fit despite his incredible 49-towns-in-3-days tour of West Dorset. “Actually,” he confessed, “there aren’t 49 towns in West Dorset, only three, but I kept commuting between them. I was publicising the forthcoming book by Frank Muir, ‘ One Man and his Ego’, and I must have signed at least half a dozen copies in Crewkerne alone. I suppose I should have been publishing my own forthcoming book, but somehow it seemed to me the Muir book had more chance of success.” He was immediately whisked away in a waiting car to answer a few questions at Hounslow Police Station.

Or even this.

Miles Kington, in addition to playing the bass in Instant Sunshine, writing funny stories for Punch and reviewing jazz for The Times, which proves he will do anything for money, has just launched into a field of French translation. Without a parachute.

Oh come on. Here we go for the last time.

Miles Kington writes humour for Punch and jazz reviews for The Times but his first book, out on Nov 4, isn’t strictly by him at all. It is a selection of seventy pieces by French Humorist Alphonse Allais, translated by Kington. Allais died over 70 years ago but has never appeared in English before, which may explain why most people haven’t heard of him. Actually, says Kington, most people don’t even seem to believe in him. When he did a radio talk on Allais three years ago, his friends assumed he’d made the whole thing up. His publishers required constant reassurance that Allais really existed. And the other day, when the Telegraph Magazine commissioned to write a piece on Allais, they rang back later and asked him to cross his heart and hope to die and promise he wasn’t making Allais up.

Well, is he making him up? “Certainly not,” says Kington. “It’s bad enough trying to write my own stuff let alone having to write someone else’s as well. Though I did have a nasty moment last year when I visited Allais’s birthplace to coincide with the 70th anniversary of his death and found no traces of the man at all. My God, I thought, perhaps I did make him up. Then to my great relief I met an aged man – 94 now - who had actually known Allais in his youth; the only man left alive who can remember him. Of course, you’ve only got my word for that…”

And now the question the whole world is asking: is there really such a person as Miles Kington? Certainly, said dashing, debonair, drunken Alasdair Riley today. I saw him as recently as last Friday, lying in a gutter in Fleet Street – at least I saw someone wearing Kington’s hat lying in a gutter in Fleet Street. I never knew him personally but I know several people personally who have borrowed his hat, or one like it. Also, Miles Kington writes most of my stuff in “Londoner’s Diary” and that seems to clinch the matter. Unless of course it’s Alphonse Allais who writes it all. The whole thing is very mysterious. Waiter, another bottle of your excellent Beaujolais.


Alphonse Allais
p.p. Miles Kington

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