The Columnist
  Hilary Bradt
  Mme Golaszewski
  Roger Laughton
  Gillian Hush
  Stuart Harley
Isabel Maynard
  Gill Coleridge 2
  Alan Hart
  Harold Evans
  Andre Previn
  Michael Langan
  Alasdair Riley
  Marilyn Lloyd
  Paul Brett
  Gerald Long
  Joanna Lumley(2)
  Terry Jones
  Gill Coleridge
  Jonathen Miller
  Ronald Biggs






Isabel Maynard
June 21, 1986

Dear Isabel,

This is ridiculous. I shall actually be in Bath before this letter gets to you. On the other hand, I shall be gone again by the time it arrives. On the third hand, I can’t think of anything to say.

Yes, it’s true. World –famous Miles Kington ran his fingers through his last remaining few hairs, and whispered to himself:

”So it has finally come to this. I am written out at last.” He whispered it so faintly that he could not, in fact, make out a word he was saying. “My God,” he shouted, “so it has come to this at last! I cannot even makes myself heard!" That’s better, he thought. At least I could hear most of that.

He looked again at the sheet of paper in front of him. Dear Isabel, it said. What a great beginning, he thought. I used to be able to write beginnings. His favourite beginning was “Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Four shots ripped into his groin and he was off on the most exciting adventure of his life.” Unfortunately, it had been written by someone else. Another beginning he liked a lot was “in the beginning was the word, and the word was God.” He had never been able to work out what that meant and had not, in fact, ever got further than that, though he had heard that the book contained lots of good stories, some of them true.

Dear Isabel. The world-famous megastar (but only in Bath) thought of all the Isabels he has known. There was Loony Isabel, the demented opera singer he had befriended in the Gobi Desert (and who ran off with his bottle of brandy). There was Miss Isabel Carstairs, the cool librarian from Edinburgh, who had written to point out that his copy of War and Peace was now fifteen years over-due and he owed £680.35 in fines. There was also Isabel, the wife of the peat farmer for whom he had worked for six long years to earn the money to pay off the library fines. By the sixth year they had still not dug any peat. “How long does it take peat to mature?” he asked the farmer one day. The farmer thought about it. “About 45,000 years, I’d say,” he said. He left the next day. He couldn’t wait 45,000 years – the library fines would be enormous by then.

The Bath-famous author cheered up slightly. He could see the bottom of the page coming. Hooray, he thought. (More exciting rubbish to come!)

He’d once known a penguin called Isabel. He’d been on a package holiday to the Falkland Islands and made friends with a BBC man making a film about penguins. The BBC man who was called Roger had introduced him one day to the main penguin. “This is Isobel,” he said. “With an ‘o’,” he added. Kington nodded at the penguin who, to his surprise, waddled over and shook him warmly by the flipper. There were 5,000 more penguins on the beach, looking like off-duty waiters or retired dance band musicians.

“How do you tell Isobel from the others?" he asked.

“I don’t” said Roger. “They’re all identical as far as I’m concerned. But then they’re all called Isobel as well. With an ‘o’.”

5,000 o’s. It was a lot.

“How do you explain this unusual fact?" said Kington, notepad at the ready.

“Nothing unusual about it,” said Roger."  For instance, I know 5,000 other people at the BBC and they’re all called Roger. With an ‘o’ ” he added.

Kington thought about this for a moment.

‘Doesn’t that create problems?”

“Of course it does. That’s why I’ve come out to the Falklands.”

Yes, Kington had led a pretty exciting life. And now here he was, totally written out.

Dear Isabel, said the sheet of paper. With an ‘a’. Kington suddenly lost his temper and tore it up, then placed another sheet in his typewriter and carefully typed the words.

Dear Isabel,

When you get this letter, I shall be far away. I have decided to go to Australia and start a new life. Yours, a world-weary author.

Seventy-two hours later the plane touched down in Melbourne and Miles Kington stepped out. It had been a ghastly flight. He had sat next to a kangaroo called Roger who had drunk far too many lagers and then tried to put the air stewardess in his pouch. But here he was at last in Australia, land of opportunity and opera singers. And nobody recognised him. It was wonderful.

“Excuse me,” said a voice, "but don’t I know you from Bath, England?”

Kington got straight back on the aircraft and didn’t stop till he was sitting again in his little room, in London, England. There was a sheet of typewritten paper in his typewriter. It said “Dear Isabel”. He groaned. It was going to be one of those days, he could tell.


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