Because of the wrong type of snow, I’ve had a week of cancellations. Ruth Deech, the bioethicist and cross-bench peer, invited Mary and me to a concert at the Drapers’ Hall last Wednesday (cancelled). David Morgan, former chairman of the MCC, invited me to a St David’s Day dinner at Lord’s last Thursday (cancelled – he couldn’t get a train out of Cardiff). I was due to speak at Hinchingbrooke School in Huntingdon last Friday (cancelled). Admiral Nelson walked to school (seven miles) through the snow, which is perhaps why no European ever beat him. What would he have made of Brexit?
However, Norman Fowler’s 80th birthday party, held at the Garrick on 2 March, did go ahead. But he admitted his birthday was in February and he’d put the party off in the hope of better weather.
I overheard at Norman Fowler’s party that a new list of peers will be announced next week. Will they include Malcolm Rifkind, Jack Straw and Peter Lilley, who could pass on their vast political experience in debates and committees in the Upper House? Should they fail to make the list, perhaps we should compare them with those who do, in this censorious age.
Scotland’s well-deserved victory over England in the rugby at Edinburgh was marred by an ill-mannered crowd who booed whenever England took a penalty. We can all learn from the Irish on how to behave when a visiting team plays against them. The crowd remain silent during a penalty and don’t require flashing neon messages telling them to respect the kicker, as can be seen at Twickenham. Ireland are not only the best team in the Six Nations championship, but they are also the best mannered.
Went back home to Weston-super-Mare last Saturday to open the new Jill Dando News Centre for aspiring journalists. I was greeted by an enthusiastic group of girls and boys who want to follow in Jill’s footsteps. Such is the centre’s success that they are already considering opening another branch in the county. I also spoke that evening at the town’s first literary festival, in the newly renovated museum. On the train back to London, I couldn’t help wondering what Jill would have made of the BBC’s current pay row, because for sure she wouldn’t have hesitated to voice her opinion – as she did in defence of her close friend, Cliff Richard.
I have decided to sell my political cartoons and give the proceeds to charities. Sadly, Chris Beetles, the distinguished dealer and my collaborator, couldn’t find a good home for the collection. I wanted to leave them to the nation, but understandably, none of the five galleries Dr Beetles approached could guarantee to display 240 pieces on their walls. The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford did offer to store them in boxes that would be called for by any visiting scholar or enthusiast, but I didn’t find that very appealing. I wonder how many of our national galleries have even more treasures stored below ground than are on display to the public?
Pushkin to shove
Three cheers for the Pushkin Press. They have done it again. A decade ago they introduced me to the works of Stefan Zweig, and in particular his masterpiece, Beware of Pity. Their latest publication, No Place to Lay One’s Head by Françoise Frenkel, had me screaming after the first chapter: let this be a thousand pages. Sadly it’s only 321. Don’t miss this remarkable gem. It’s up there with Stoner by John Williams and Reunion by Fred Uhlman. I apologise to the editor of the New Statesman for handing in my copy a day late. I blame Ms Frenkel.
After two years and 14 drafts, I’ve handed in my latest book, Heads You Win, to my publisher. It’s the first stand-alone novel I’ve done for a decade, and it will be published in the autumn. Meanwhile Tell Tale, a dozen short stories, comes out in paperback next month, with an added new story, “Confession”, which I only came up with over Christmas and which was not in the original hardback.
Track and field
I’m off to St Hilda’s College, Oxford, to address the Achilles Club, comprised of former and current members of the Oxford and Cambridge athletics teams. It’s ironic timing as Sir Roger Bannister, who died on 3 March, was probably the most distinguished of the club’s alumni. When he was president, 19 of the Oxford team and 13 of the Cambridge team were also in the British squad, none today.
In my day, just a dozen years later, only one female athlete graced the track – Sue Dennler, who now has a trophy named after her for the women’s competition between Oxford and Cambridge. The old order changeth, yielding place to new; what next?
And finally, my thanks to the New Statesman for allowing me to voice my views in its pages. Could it be that we had a bad year when it comes to political predictions? I voted to remain in Europe, and was convinced we would win. I told anyone who would listen that Donald Trump couldn’t hope to be the Republican candidate, let alone president of the United States, and when Theresa May called a general election last year, I forecasted that the Conservatives would win by more than 100 seats. I am now predicting that Jeremy Corbyn will be the next prime minister, in the hope my record will remain intact.
The Political Cartoon Collection of Jeffrey Archer goes on display at Sotheby’s, London W1, on 10 March, and the sale is on 14 March. All proceeds to go to charity.
“Tell Tale” (Pan Books) is out on 19 April
This article appears in the 07 Mar 2018 issue of the New Statesman, The new cold war