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Melvyn Bragg 2






Andrew Goodfellow
Prion Books
January 8th 2001

Dear Andrew.

I can actually remember Basil writing “Accustomed as I am”. He left Punch (and left his office to me – at last I had a room of my own!) and drifted away from full-time comic writing into the speech ‘n’ talk circuit. But whenever he had a good material he couldn’t resist writing about it, so eventually he couldn’t help writing a book about the speaking game. I remember reading it and thinking the good bits were terrific.

I was especially taken by one episode, when he describes a disastrous trip to Wigan, or somewhere Lancastrian, which involved his train splitting in half at Crewe and him being in the wrong half, having a drink in the buffet, and coming back to find all his stuff gone… then arriving just in time at the venue and speaking in an L-shaped hall and most people couldn’t see him so didn’t listen… and then staying the night with some people who weren’t expecting him, from whom he had to borrow pyjamas as all his stuff was on the train still…

The point of all this is that when I he next came to the office, I asked him it that awful story really had happened. He looked at me fastidiously and said: “Miles, as a humorous writer you really ought to know that you NEVER ask anyone that question. However, as it is you, I will tell you the truth. Yes, it all really happened. Not, however, all in that precise order, not all on the same day, and not a lot of it to me…”

I still think that is the best summing up of one kind of comic writing I ever heard.

None of this answers your question. Basil died and so did his wife, and the only offspring I can remember is a son called Toby who had moved to California, and whom I never met. Would the Punch library be the best place to ask? Presumably they get enquiries about estates and things, don’t they? Alan Coren always knew Basil better than I did – he might be a good source.

yours Miles Kington