Nothing entertains me more than to hear our former PM, Edward Heath, being roundly abused, but I didn’t expect to have that pleasure at a meeting of the Tourist Board. The occasion was the presentation to Hunter Davies of the Bernard Gooch award in honour of his services to tourism. The great man (Hunter Davies that is, no-one seemed to know who Bernard Gooch was) began his speech of thanks by telling us about his stint at the Sunday Times, some 40 years ago, when he was asked to come up with some ideas for a weekly column to fill the last page of their Magazine. His first idea was for a series of profiles of eminent people, and this is where Edward Heath came in, because he proved to be so “useless, unhelpful and snobbish” that the column was dropped. Eventually Hunter Davies hit upon the idea of “A Life In A Day”, which was an immediate success and has been going ever since- in fact no other column has been going as long.
Seeing Hunter Davies in the flesh for the first time made me wonder whether it is possible to inherit a favourite columnist. This thought came to mind because when I was sorting through my mother’s effects I came across a box of cuttings of articles by her favourite writers- among whom were Alan Coren, Quentin Crewe and, of course, Hunter Davies. There were cuttings going back through the years, including several from a series called “Father’s Day”, which Hunter Davies used to write for Punch. And now, several decades later, when my copy of Cumbria Life arrives I always turn first to his contribution which is, appropriately, in the “Day In A Life” slot just opposite the final page. In his short talk to us he was every bit as entertaining as he always is in print and I feel more than a little sad that my mother isn’t here to hear about it.
My apologies for the awful photo- I left my camera behind and this is the best I could manage with my mobile phone.