Saturday, February 09, 2013
I was staying recently in a rather smart hotel in Melbourne. As I went to bed I was aware of music coming from the room next door. I knocked quite gently on the wall to indicate that it was unacceptably loud.
I must nonetheless have dropped off to sleep. At 2 am I was wide awake and the music from the next door seemed even louder. I walked out into the corridor to get the room number. I then telephoned the next-door room. A sleepy Australian voice replied and I told him in no uncertain terms that his music was disgracefully loud. Another ten minutes and the noise was no better. I rang again, even more angry this time. Still no improvement.
I telephoned the hotel security. The noise seemed to get even worse. I banged more angrily upon the wall.
Eventually the hotel security men arrived. “Come in,” I said. “Just listen to the level of this music. It really is impossible to sleep.” The two extremely polite hotel officials entered my room, walked to the side of the bed and turned a knob. There was silence. All the time it had been my own radio with its loudspeaker by the wall which had been the cause of the trouble.
In the morning I slunk quietly out of the hotel, hoping not to meet a bleary-eyed Australian complaining of a night’s sleep ruined by calls of some demented Englishman.
One of the first dinner parties I went to when I left school was given at Arlington House by the fabulously rich Lady Michelham.
About thirty people sat down at a huge table covered in orchids and set with gold plates. I had never even seen gold plates before, let alone eaten off them!
The first course was a slice of cantaloup melon and I picked up a gold spoon, but at the first touch the melon leapt off the plate and disappeared under the table.
I sat crimson with embarrassment while it was retrieved by a disdainful footman with powdered hair, and another piece placed in front of me!
I was shopping in Walton Street. I went into a very glamorous shop and started looking through the clothes. The assistant called, “Can I help you?” I replied, “May I please look?” to which she shouted, “Madam, we are a dry cleaners, you know!”
My next-door neighbour’s cat was held firmly in the jaws of my bulldog. I couldn’t open his jaws and rang the vet. He couldn’t come, so I drove like mad to his surgery, and got a speeding ticket that earned me an endorsement plus a fine of £80.
The vet gave the dog an injection and he went to sleep, his jaws relaxed and we freed the cat who was dead. I then went back to my next door neighbour and apologized for the bulldog’s behaviour. My neighbour laughed and said the cat had died of a heart attack and he had buried it in his back garden. The bulldog had dug it up.
On one occasion, when preaching at a service for several hundred young people and their parents, I felt it was a good opportunity to draw their attention to a new window which had been placed in the church the previous week. My great mistake was to try and involve the children in the sermon! I asked the question: “What is different about church today compared with last Sunday?”
I tried again.
“Now children, stand up on mummy’s knees and take a good look round church, and when you see what is different compared to last Sunday please put up your hands.”
Suddenly a little hand in the back row shot into the air and a voice called out for all to hear.
“Please sir, there aren’t as many out as there were last Sunday!”
The Archbishop of Armagh
Just after Eurovision I did my first European tour (each night a different city and country). We arrived in Venice (I thought) and I decided to kill time before the show by going to see the gondolas. I went to the hotel receptionist and asked him to direct me to them. He looked very puzzled and asked me to repeat the question. When I did repeat it he looked even more puzzled. I was extremely tired and felt it was rather silly to hire a receptionist who couldn’t speak English.
In desperation I said, “Just direct me to the nearest canal.” After thinking for a moment he said he thought there was one canal up in the mountains.
It dawned on me that something was very wrong. “Where am I?” I asked.
Well, I was in Vienna!
I was signing books in London once, and after a two-hour session I went upstairs for a drink with the manager. There was a huge bunch of flowers in cellophane on the table.
“Oh, how lovely,” I screamed. “Thank you very much.”
“They’re for my wife,” said the manager hastily, and snatched them away.
Once when reading the news on ITN in around 1956-57, I had to refer to the Liverpool Chamber of Shipping. Unfortunately I put two “t”s where the two “p”s should have been. Luckily, hardly anyone noticed.
Several years ago I was waiting in the queue to be checked by Customs at Calais. Standing behind me was a small group –of four or five- of nuns. I took a small step forward and down fell my knickers with a swoosh. In a split second those nuns had formed an encircling screen around me and, protected by their long black skirts, I was able to step out of my knickers and shove them in my handbag. Because of those nuns it was not nearly so embarrassing a moment as it might have been.
From The NSPCC Book of Famous Faux Pas, edited by Fiona Snelso