brian london

7

“There was a literary lunch to which I was invited and at which I couldn’t think of anything to say - I was scared stiff, that’s why I didn’t [say much].”

[John, Anthology]


“As we were ushered through the lobby of the Dorchester, hordes of press and TV crews following us, I knew John wanted to turn and run, but we had to keep smiling. We couldn’t even see what was going on properly because neither of us was wearing our glasses.

“When we walked into the enormous dining room hundreds of people stood up and applauded. We fumbled our way to our places and found we were at opposite ends of the top table, denied even the reassurance of squeezing hands. I was sitting between the Earl of Arran and pop singer Marty Wilde, who was almost as nervous as I was. I was terrified, until the earl put me at ease with a string of witty stories and friendly chat. I even began to enjoy myself - until we reached the last course and dozens of TV and press cameras were pointed in our direction. “What’s going on?” I whispered to the earl.

“I believe your husband is about to give a speech,” he whispered back, and politely averted his eyes from the horror written on my face. I looked at John and my heart went out to him. He was ashen and totally unprepared. Never lost for words in private, a public speech was beyond him - let alone to a crowd of literary top dogs, and especially with a hangover.

“As John was introduced silence fell. The weight of expectation was enormous. John, more terrified than I’d ever seen him, got to his feet. He managed eight words, “Thank you very much, it’s been a pleasure,” then promptly sat down again. There was a stunned silence, followed by a few muted boos and a smattering of applause. The audience was disappointed, annoyed and indignant. Both John and I wished we were on another planet. John tried to make up for it by signing endless copies of the book afterward.”

[Cynthia, John]


John, Cynthia and Brian at a Foyle’s literary luncheon, hosted at the Dorchester Hotel, London on 23rd April 1964, for the recent publication of In His Own Write. Although it was held in his honour, John didn’t realise he would be expected to make a speech. Poor John.

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