The advance publicity for  Christopher Howse’s new book about Soho seems to be concentrating so far on affectionate recollections about Jeffrey Bernard, a self-destructive drunk made into an icon by Peter O’Toole’s astounding portrayal in Keith Waterhouse’s Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell, a by-line used by the Spectator when Bernard was too drunk or sick to send in his ‘Low Life’ column in the magazine. I can add some memories to that all of my own.


In response to a huge row that erupted when Roald Dahl wrote a highly contentious review of a book which contained an attack on the Israeli occupation of Gaza, Bernard entered the fray in ‘Low Life’ by proposing that, as a retaliation for the sentencing of ‘a parched man’ to six hundred strokes by those ‘awful Arabs’ (referring to a recent event in Saudi Arabia), six hundred strokes should be inflicted on an Arab in London. He nominated me for this punishment as the boss of Quartet Books and possibly ‘the ugliest man he had ever met’.

It was beyond comprehension that the Spectator should have published such offensive material, but the Mail on Sunday ferreted out a reason to explain ‘why the genial Jeffrey is lashing out at Naim in the Spectator’. David Skan, the writer of the short piece, speculated that it was ‘probably not unconnected with an encounter between Attallah’s Quartet book firm and Bernard, who was commissioned to write a book about racing. Deadlines were missed and the book never appeared. Attallah made Bernard repay the advance.’

Bernard continued with his abuse. In describing another flat-racing season, Jeffrey Bernard wrote that ‘watching a mediocre steeplechaser negotiating twelve fences on a damp and cold winter’s afternoon is about as inspiring as watching the Ayatollah Attallah chatting up a beauty at a publisher’s cocktail party. You can admire them both for their gall.’

Despite this, he was still invited, and often attended, our publishing parties and even appeared in one of Quartet’s more outrageous books, Naked London, published in September 1987. Private Eye in ‘Grovel’ fired off its own salvo of shots a few months before the book appeared: ‘I am told that an unseemly disagreement has arisen between the seedy Palestinian parfumier and publisher Naim Ayatollah and the world’s most famous cottager Adrian Woodhouse . . . Woodhouse apparently accepted gelt from Naim to write the text for a book of soft-porn photographs featuring London’s glitterati in their naked glory . . . But as . . . no words have sprung forth from Woodhouse’s pen, [the] camel herder has resorted to employing the glue-sniffing dope smuggler Taki Theodoracopulos to write the text instead.’

In April ‘Grovel’ was expounding on the story, announcing the further difficulties he heard the ‘seedy Palestinian publisher’ was having with ‘his absurd book’. Meanwhile ‘the book is proving to be a disaster’. Unfortunately several so-called celebrities have decided to withdraw their pictures at the last minute, including Margaux Hemingway, Samantha Baring and even Oliver Gilmour – Katya Grenfell’s husband. In desperation, therefore, Katya has had to persuade cadaverous wino Jeff Bernard to lend her his body. Thankfully, his vitals were ‘draped’ with a racing-form book.’ [NB. The book sold out!]

Jeffrey was admittedly a talented character but a nasty piece of work whose humour to me was unpalatable to say the least. Give me Private Eye at any time.


Is Donald Trump hovering between the prospect of a great success in his foreign policy of terrorising his adversaries, or is he on the verge of overdoing it to the point of his own destruction? The omens, as I see them, are not very promising for his survival if he carries on antagonising every Tom, Dick and Harry without respite, whether in his own country or globally.


His luck will eventually cease to shelter him unless, of course, he turns out to be a demon of a politician who believes in his own invincibility and defies the lessons of history by undermining the weaknesses of his enemies and their ability to respond in kind.

Analysing it in different terms, his league of powerful friends is rapidly diminishing and they are likely to have had enough of his machinations, his constant absurd tweets and his petty verbosity which demeans his standing as president of the most powerful nation on earth. They say it’s never too late to change, but in his case, given his popularity at least in the US, he is unlikely to see the light before the darkness sets in.

I hope for world peace he will begin to realise that diplomacy is far more powerful than the gun or the threat of nuclear weapons, and instead adopt a policy of reconciliation where it is badly needed especially now in the Middle East, a region where his influence with Israel could make peace more tenable.


A small item in the Sunday Telegraph drew my attention this week and which I found rather surprising. India is to deploy its first all-female elite swat team trained in explosives, urban warfare and deadly martial arts, to protect its prime minister. The counter terrorist unit is made up of 36 commandos who have completed 15 months of exhaustive training by experts from around the world in weapons, counter-terrorist measures and KRAV MAGA, the deadly martial art pioneered by Israeli special-forces.

After being inducted by Delhi police, they are now expected to play a major role in the security detail for Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, as he makes his Independence Day address from the Red Fort on Wednesday.

Presiding over the induction ceremony last Friday, Rajnath Singh, India’s Home Minister, said he was happy to see women promoted to the rank of elite squads. Amulya Patnaik, the Delhi Police Commissioner, said the women had been rated better than their male counterparts by their trainers. ‘These women are second to none when it comes to handling terror strikes amid hostage crises in urban areas,’ he added.


The idea for the unit came after a large number of female cadets graduated from Delhi’s police academy last year, with dozens showing interest in commando training, It is hoped that working undercover, they can conduct surveillance undetected owing to the low number of Indian female officers – fewer than 10 per cent in Delhi – and because the size and build of male officers can often give them away. Mr Singh said: ‘Delhi police should be a role model for other police. The practices adopted by Delhi police should be the best practices of police.’

Bravo India! What a novel and bright idea. Women in that role could prove the equal if not better than their male counterparts. Long live feminist ingenuity!


Traffic jams, apart from the air pollution they cause, are also costing commuters more than 55 hours of sleep a year, according to a new report. Workers are having to leave home an average of 13 minutes early every day to allow for traffic jams on Britain’s roads. This means they miss out on an hour and five minutes extra sleep a week or just over 55 hours in bed annually. Despite building this ‘traffic jam allowance’ into their daily routine, 40% of road commuters have been late for work over the past six months due to traffic jams, while 18% have been late for a family event. 4% said they have been late for job interviews, thanks to gridlock on the roads, all according to research commissioned by public transport provider the Go Ahead group. Official figures show that traffic congestion is getting worse with delays on A roads up by more than 10% since 2014.


Last year the Centre for Economic and Business Research estimated that congestion would cost the British economy more than 300 billion pounds by 2013. Martin Dean, of the Go Ahead group, said: ‘This study shows the true impact traffic jams have on people’s lives. Public transport can be a part of the solution to that problem – a fully loaded double decker bus can take as many as 75 private cars off the road, easing congestion and improving air quality. Yet unfortunately we’re seeing many local authorities cutting back on funding for local buses as they face a budget squeeze.’

Traffic jams on Britain’s roads are a serious problem. We need to tackle this issue as soon as possible before it gets worse. If not, it will have the effect of paralyzing the nation and cause all sorts of mayhem everywhere and at what cost to the Nation?


It seems that men don’t fib about having lots of lovers, they are just forgetful. So when asked how many women they have slept with, they notoriously pick a high number. But aspiring Casanovas who report twice as many sexual partners as women are not in fact just exaggerating. A study has found men probably do not realise when the number they give is too high. It is simply that they are more likely to estimate the number of women they have bedded, while women tend to have remembered each partner.

The National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles carried out in Britain every decade shows men report an average of 14 sexual partners over the lifetime while women say they have slept with just 7. Researchers looked at more than 15,000 responses in the survey, with men indicating they were more likely to say they guessed or estimated the number, or remembered some partners and estimated the rest.

Women, however, answered much more often that they just knew the number or remembered each partner. The study, led by the University of Glasgow, found that men guess and women count their partners, with females more embarrassed by one-night stands and casual sex, which may lead them to reduce their numbers. Women felt worse about one-night stands with only 9.3% saying they were not wrong at all, compared to 17.5% of men.

Dr Kirstin Mitchell, who led the research from the Institute of Health and Well-Being, said: ‘Most of the difference between men and women count up their partners, is a greater tendency to report a very high number of partners, and differences between men and women in attitudes towards casual sex.’

The Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles survey of people aged between 16 to 74 showed the gap in men’s and women’s numbers of sexual partners may be down to their attitudes.

The study, in the Journal of Sex Research, found counting and attitudes towards sex explained two-thirds of the gender gap in numbers of conquests. Responding to the research, Denise Knowles, counsellor and sex therapist at the relationship charity RELATE said: ‘Men may feel under pressure to impress their friends and therefore guestimate their number as being higher. Women are often mis-judged if they have a higher than average number of sexual partners, which can lead to feelings of guilt and shame. These findings show a real need for robust relationships and sex education in schools.’

However, I don’t believe for a minute that men easily forget the number of sexual partners they’ve ever had. They simply want to brag about numbers in order to impress whoever is listening about their sexual capabilities and the number of women they have claimed to have bedded. They deliberately want to give the impression that they are cocks on the rampage in order to compete with other men and prove their virility to satisfy their own ego.


For those who believe that singles with their sights on the most gorgeous member of the opposite sex have little chance of dating their target, researchers have some good news. They have found that contrary to common belief, dating out of your league is not just a day dream. A study of on-line dating has found most people aim high, picking a partner roughly 25% more desirable than themselves. But, as unrealistic as that may seem, 21% of people who did this received a reply that could lead to a relationship – a success of about 1 in 5.


Messages taken from dating websites in four major US cities in January 2014 were analyzed by the University of Michigan. Researchers led by sociologist Dr Elizabeth Bruch concluded: ‘Our results suggest that contrary to popular belief, attracting the attention of someone out of one’s league is entirely possible. The chances of receiving a reply from a highly desirable partner may be low, but they remain well below zero, although one will have to work harder and perhaps also wait longer to make progress.’

To identify the most desirable in the dating pool, researchers worked out who received the most messages. The most popular was a 30 year-old woman in New York, who got 1,504 in a month. Women messaged men 23% more desirable than themselves. Men picked women 26% more desirable, despite being more than twice as likely to get a reply from a less desirable woman.

Dating websites say more than half of couples will meet online by 2031 with services such as Tinder and Match.com having become increasingly popular in Britain. However, online daters should not aim too high, as hardly anyone in the study contacted people far beneath them in desirability. But Dr Bruch said: ‘Our scores reflect the overall desirability rankings and there may be sub-markets in which people who would not necessarily score as high by our measures could still have an awesome and fulfilling dating life.’

The journal Science Advances published the study.

In my view this study reflects one thing in particular, that beauty and its concept are invariably in the eye of the beholder, or putting it rather poetically, every bottle will eventually find its cork.





The more one reads about scientific theories the more it sounds difficult to believe that Viagra is thought to restore sight to the blind. Apparently tests show the anti-impotence drug may stop further loss of vision for patients being robbed of their sight – and could even repair damage that’s already been done.

A two-year trial, led by scientists at Columbia University in New York, suggests the little blue pills could stop age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, in its tracks. This condition is the UK’s leading cause of blindness, with about 600,000 Brits already thought to have suffered some loss of vision as a result of it. Around 90% of cases involve dry AMD, a form of the disease which comes on slowly over several years. The rest involve wet AMD, which can cause blindness in as little as 3 months.

Dry AMD usually develops after the age of 50 and is caused by the growth of new blood vessels over the macula, the small oval-shaped area at the back of the eye that helps us pick out visual details clearly. These blood vessels leak fluid causing scar tissue to form and destroy vision in the centre of the eye – making it difficult to recognise faces, read or watch television.

Recent research has found the condition is partly caused by reduced blood flow to the choroid, a vital layer of tissue that sits in front of the retina – and some small earlier studies have suggested Viagra can improve blood flow to this tissue. In the Columbia study, five elderly patients with AMD were given two Viagra pills a day for 2 years. The results, published in the Journal Ophthalmologica, showed the drug improved vision for one participant and completely halted deterioration in the others.

Some drugs can already slow progression of AMD and increase vision in some cases, but the medicines have to be injected into the back of the eye every month. The researchers said: ‘Viagra offers significant potential for visionary retentions and recovery. It is notable that patients remain usually stable and there was a significant improvement in vison with one participant.’
Professor Sobha Sivabrasad from the Royal College of Ophthalmologists said: ‘The Viagra findings were encouraging although the study was small. We now need bigger studies to replicate these findings before Viagra can be used as a treatment,’ she cautioned.

Previous studies have suggested Viagra could treat a string of ailments from heart attacks and lung disease to dementia. The drug became available over the counter in Britain for the first time in March.

It would be great if eventually Viagra were to cure some of these terrible diseases, especially to the comfort and benefit of the blind.