Ten years ago Alan Watkins hailed my cab in Fleet Street. ‘It’s Alan Watkins,’ I exclaimed with great fervour. ‘I’ve been waiting to meet you all my life!’ Or something like that. During the course of our journey, I quoted a line he’d used repeatedly in a television interview following Mrs Thatcher’s election to the leadership of the Conservative Party (‘She has an incurably commonplace mind’), quoted a line from his Brief Lives, quoted Richard Ingrams on his drinking habits and complained of his too frequent use of the phrase ‘to be sure’ in his Observer column. Watkins had never before been recognised by a cab driver. I think he was fibrillating with excitement.
The other day I picked up Bernard Levin outside Harrods. ‘Hello, Bernard,’ I said with unintended but insolent familiarity. ‘The last time I saw you, you were wearing an olive-green overcoat.’ This was not a clever thing to say, but I thought it would do as a start. I was not encouraged to continue. We drove in silence to Marylebone. In Wimpole Street I asked him if he used a word processor and he answered this question civilly enough. He does use one. He doesn’t agree with Watneys that word processors necessarily produce overwriting.