CHALLENGED to define something he couldn't quite pin down, my father would always counter with his conversational blockbuster: "How long is a piece of string?"
I offer it to you now as I have failed to define for myself "Garden Party". It could be an athletic get-to-gether in Farmer John's second best meadow, a burst of crinolines and strawberries on the school lawn, a couple of thousand people getting through the gates of Buckingham Palace rather than over the garden wall and so on and so on. I've just come from a Garden Party a million miles from any one of those definitions.
Thames Television, having secured the kind permission of the Masters of the Bench of the Inner Temple, assembled a more than motley crew at the gardens of the Inner Temple, together with various tents, chairs, tables, table-cloths, beaded bubbles winking at the brim, beef, ham, game pie and a military brass band. The purpose, as if purpose' were needed, was "to mark its forthcoming programmes".
Not surprisingly, at one stage, the brass band was infiltrated and one became aware of Eric Morecambe sawing the air with a trombone, Ernie Wise summoning the heavens with a trumpet and Benny Hill benignly attacking a clarinet. Pressed into service myself, the ejected bandsman could hardly conceal his contempt when he realised that not only was I unable to play the instrument, I was incapable of holding it correctly.
I don't suppose you even need a garden to have a party when Morecambe and Wise are around. A remarkable pair. they seem to be surrounded by fun as a lamp is by light. Wickedness as well, of course. They are like lightning. Insensitive smart-alecs don't even know they've been hit until they try nodding their heads.
HUSBANDS who unexpectedly are sent to buy a pound of sausages or a pint of milk or a pound of meat can be seen reeling back from the store muttering "Has the world gone mad?"
You'll forgive me, I'm sure, if 1 tell you that I reeled back from the newspaper that told me the most successful British football team of all, Liverpool, cost over three million pounds to run last year and — surprise, surprise showed a loss. What hope has the gallant Derek Dougan got trying to snatch the fabled Wolves from disappearing down the throat of bankruptcy?
Maybe he'll do it. He's a man of many qualities. I must search around my shelves for a book he wrote many years ago and which must have taken a deal of courage at the time. Belfast-born Derek called it "The Sash My Father Never Wore".
DROWSING through one of the test matches on television, I recalled World Cup footballers limbering up on the touchline before being called in to replace some aching colleague. How different on the cricket pitch. A batsman is out and do we see his replacement limbering up anywhere? No, we don't. On, more times than most, walks a stiff-legged player, stalking forward like an unfit gunfighter about to risk his life on the speed of his hand.
What are they doing back there in the pavilion? Playing poker, hunched over the television set, asleep on a bunk, sliding bottles along the bar?
THINKING Aloud the other week, my distinguished colleague a few pages away, ruffled my feathers when he exclaimed "How bored poor God must sometimes be!"
I agree that we don't listen to God half enough and that we babble on boringly asking for this that and the other. But I refuse to believe that anyone who loves us as much as he does could possibly be, for even one
second . . bored. Even in purely human terms, you've only got to look at a demanding baby and its mother. Angry, maybe, but never the other thing.
TELEVISION Actor of the year Robert Hardy gave us Gordon of Khartoum recently. I don't have to tell you how talented he is but it's tough being an actor. I caught one of the trailers as he came bouncing down the steps and, with all the authority that is especially his, he sold us Gordon of Khartoum and as The Times said, loving "that Arabic name, masticating it and exuding it with theatrical relish." Alas just a few days before in Ireland, I had seen him stride across my television set with that self-same authority and tell Irish farmers that he had discovered the world's best cure for . . . Flukeworm.