Competition - Win a bottle of champagne

No 3585 Set by Leonora Casement

We asked for a chatty letter to a friend about a close, if temporary, acquaintanceship with a personage who is well known, but whose identity remains unknown to the letter-writer.

Report by Ms de Meaner

As we didn't specify that the famous people had to be real, I allowed some fictional characters past the starting gate. For that reason, for the benefit of those who remain mystified even at the end of the letter, the identity of the letter-writer's subject matter is printed upside down at the bottom of the page*. Hon menshes to D A Prince (Richard Branson: "I told him all about my job in Hanley, and he said he liked people who travelled"), G M Davis (Robin Cook) and T Griffiths (Michael Foot). £15 to the winners; the bottle goes to Ian Birchall.

Hi Kaz. Know how I've always tipped the grin at holidaying in Tuscany? Ob-vi-ous or what? Well - yeeehar! Didn't I just have a time in Florence! I met this incredible guy - OK, so he's more than a tad older than me, but soooo suave and sophisticated - good suit, handmade shoes, art and fine wines and stuff, quiet voice, hair greying at the temples, incredible blue eyes - all his own teeth, natch. Does he know how to treat a woman! He's got this temporary curatorship at some crumbly palazzo, tres snob. God! Was I on my best low-key behaviour! You want to know how many lectures on Dante and the Medicis I sat through? He's quite eco-freako - only eats organic. Good cook, too - his speciality's offal. You ever eat crostini di fegatini or il cervello in padella? Scrummy! What else? Oh, yeah. He used to be a plastic surgeon - retired early after getting what Auntie May had - and Mrs Thatcher - carpal tunnel syndrome. Most people still call him Doctor, but to me he's Hal for short - and I'm Mischa. We're keeping in touch. Lucky me! He quite took me out of myself. Luv Michele

Anne Du Croz

Thursday before last on the Tube I got talking to this Italian guy. He spoke beautiful English, but what he said was weird. He started off asking if I'd voted. I told him that the election was two years ago. He wouldn't have it, kept repeating "your elections, today". Everybody in the carriage was mystified.

Then he started rambling. Told me that "Santa had the sack". I thought, "Cheeky monkey, treating me like a little kid."

Eventually I worked out he was a cinema manager; he kept talking about all these commissionaires who worked for him. A lot of them had their fingers in the till and got sacked and then somehow got their jobs back. Sounded a fiddle to me.

He was ever so cross with someone called Edith. Kept repeating "cress on" - on her salad sandwiches, I suppose. Maybe cress is a delicacy out there.

He asked me my name, then pointed at himself and said: "Proddy! Proddy!" I nearly slapped him round the face. Then I realised he was telling me his religion. He must think we assume all Italians are Catholics.

I feel worried about going into a common currency with people like that.

Ian Birchall

I had a right one last week over in Barcelona with the Man U game. My lot were all in the departure terminal celebrating, except for this little guy with white Armani over his replica kit. "Excuse me," I said, "this is the European Cup final party. I think you want the . . ." "Don't tell me what I want, scuzzball. You promised me major rumble; you promised me black body-bag riots; I paid for theatre-nuclear violence and I paid top valuta to get it. Christ, look at this lot of frizz and ear-ring. They couldn't organise a gang-rape in a nunnery." I was going to ask him what he thought of the Sheringham goal, but at only five foot four he might have missed it. "Fantastic two minutes, wasn't it?" "You stupid arserug," he said. "When the second went in it wrecked any chance that these halfwit stormtroopers would blitz Barca." Fortunately the plane was called, and the last I saw of him was his back, the Armani slung over his shoulders. Funny thing was he had the number 7 shirt on, but instead of "BECKHAM", his said "AMIS". Didn't Dennis Amis play for Rotherham in the mid-seventies?

Nick MacKinnon

Dearest. I had the most amusing encounter on the Tube with a fat fellow whom I'd bumped into (!) only the week before on the bus. He greeted me with rather nervous smiles and began talking 19 to the dozen (numbers not necessarily in the right order, I'm afraid) on how to improve the service. "Dear fellow," I told him, "simply bring back the steward service. One used to get a frightfully good cup of tea on the Central Line." I obviously touched some nerve, and I believe he took me absolutely seriously, because before you could say "Bank" he put me through absolute catechisms about sandwiches and fancies being offered, to which of course I responded enthusiastically (a chap with him wrote it all down!). But what was funny was that I'd had exactly the same exchange with him on the bus! "You are a dear," I said and gave him a tip. Doubtless we'll have samovars on the Underground before long! (He seemed v important.) I told him he was like that blind mythical king who was always famished and popped up mysteriously, never to be seen again - Prester John. He clenched his chin and got off straight away!!

Will Bellenger

No 3588 Set by Leonora Casement

So Janet Street-Porter wants "things" treated "seriously and wittily at the same time" in future. We want a piece from the Independent on Sunday written accordingly. Max 200 words and in by 22 July.


This article first appeared in the 12 July 1999 issue of the New Statesman, Were chimps the first socialists?