Ten years ago I spotted Professor Eysenck crossing Denmark Hill. I stopped and asked him what contribution he thought the Behaviourist B F skinner might make to the fact that I had recognised him from a photograph the size of a postage stamp. Eysenck smiled and said: ‘Not much.’ We should have left it there, but the good man felt that civility demanded more words. We agreed that I knew he worked at the Maudsley Hospital; perhaps ‘Associationism’ had something to offer. We chatted about Associationism.
I don’t think Associationism would help to explain how I recognised Mr Bill Kalloway, who hailed my cab at a bus stop in Holland Park Avenue. I had not seen or heard of him for thirty years. We once played Cowboys and Indians together.
This week I picked up Lord Boyd-Carpenter from the Carlton Towers and drove him to Eaton Terrace. I had forgotten his name and only remembered it hours later. We were not embarrassed, however. He did not recognise me at all. But had I cooperated with Clarke Kent of the Daily Telegraph – Clarke does not want me to use his real name; odd, I thought, as he wants to use mine – his Lordship might have struggled to place my face. Clarke wants to make me a star. He wants me to be photographed for the Peterborough column of the Telegraph.
Clarke is the second Peterborough journalist to threaten my autistic world. I am aware that the Telegraph is fighting a circulation war for the hearts and minds of the lower middle class. Cab drivers, until this recession at least, had many of the target qualities of Essex Man. But should the Telegraph be spending good money taking photographs when I could adequately photograph myself for next to nothing? Far from being rhetorical, this question seems to me to strike at the heart of any cost benefit analysis of the celebrity-creation industry.
I have no doubt that Peterborough could create more celebrities if candidates were encouraged to take their own photographs. I myself prefer a Rolleiflex for portraits but my Minolta 5000 (upgraded with an AP/SP chip) is quite up to the mark for the purposes of a Telegraph mug shot. Moreover, by the time this article reaches the newsagents, I could be the owner of a Canon EOS 650 – a camera described by at least one trade journal as ‘superb’. I did not buy it. It was left in the back of my cab. I handed it in to a police station. To date it has not been claimed, despite my telephoning the hotel from which I picked up its owner. (‘Virtue is sometimes rewarded’, Auberon Waugh, Will This Do?, Century £15.99, p 147.)
When Clarke gave up trying to persuade me, I went to work and was immediately reminded that my cab wears the Computer Cab ‘Cabcharge’ logo. Suddenly my desire for privacy seemed mean. Surely the ‘Cabcharge’ advertisement is deserving of awards itself. If I could be photographed boasting the Computer Cab logos, I would win the heart and mind of Geoffrey Kaley, the massively intelligent managing director of Computer Cab.
I am having second thoughts, then. As I write, however, I am also being attacked, at random moments, by an appalling toothache. Spasms convulse me. I throw myself into the kitchen when attacked and drink, for no obvious reason, pints of water.
‘The least pain in our little finger gives us more concern and uneasiness than the destruction of millions of our fellow beings.’ Hazlitt was right. For the moment I have lost all interest in modelling. If symptoms persist, I will attempt to answer the seminal question posed by Joseph Heller in Catch 22: ‘Good God, how much reverence can you have for a Supreme Being who finds it necessary to include such phenomena as phlegm and tooth decay in His divine system of Creation?’