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John Sutherland

4 June 1981
Tit for Tat 
by Verity Bargate.
Cape, 167 pp., £5.95, April 1981, 0 224 01908 2
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Watching Me, Watching You 
by Fay Weldon.
Hodder, 208 pp., £6.95, May 1981, 0 340 25600 1
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Maggie Muggins 
by Keith Waterhouse.
Joseph, 220 pp., £6.95, May 1981, 0 7181 2014 0
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Mr Lonely 
by Eric Morecambe.
Eyre Methuen, 189 pp., £5.95, March 1981, 0 413 48170 0
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... that no one, asked if they could play the violin, would reply: ‘I don’t know, I’ve never tried.’ Yet everyone assumes that they could write a novel if they only had the leisure to do it. EricMorecambe had the leisure to try his hand during convalescence from his recent heart attack. (He’s now sufficiently recovered to go back to his main line of business.) To judge by Mr Lonely, should ...
10 May 1990
The Dictionary of National Biography: 1981-1985 
edited by Lord Blake and C.S. Nicholls.
Oxford, 518 pp., £40, March 1990, 0 19 865210 0
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... On the dust-jacket of the latest supplement to the Dictionary of National Biography there are photographs of David Niven, Diana Dors, EricMorecambe, John Betjeman and William Walton. Dors has a leering ‘Come up and read me sometime’ expression on her face and Niven wears his yacht-club greeter’s smile. Morecambe seems to be laughing at one ...

Sunshine

David Goldie: Morecambe​ and Wise

15 April 1999
Morecambe​ and Wise 
by Graham McCann.
Fourth Estate, 416 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 1 85702 735 3
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... Nearly 29 million people watched Morecambe and Wise’s Christmas Special in 1977 – over six and a half million more than had watched the Queen’s Speech earlier in the day. Graham McCann proposes that this popular endorsement of Morecambe ...

Shoulder-Shrugging

Julian Critchley

11 December 1997
Dear Bill: Bill Deedes Reports 
by W.F. Deedes.
Macmillan, 396 pp., £20, October 1997, 0 333 71386 9
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... a light touch, and is invariably amusing. In their ‘Dear Bill’ letters in Private Eye, John Wells and Richard Ingrams cast Deedes as the foil to Denis Thatcher. He was Ernie Wise to Thatcher’s EricMorecambe. But the role of straight man came naturally to him. Dear Bill (the book, that is) should make a merry Christmas for thousands of its readers ...

Noam’s Ark

Walter Nash

25 October 1990
The Twitter Machine: Reflections on Language 
by Neil Smith.
Blackwell, 275 pp., £9.95, September 1989, 0 631 16926 1
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English in Use 
by Randolph Quirk and Gabriele Stein.
Longman, 262 pp., £17.95, September 1990, 0 582 06612 3
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... design or general implication, a central place in this volume. The authors are learned without a parade of learning, write attractively (the collaboration works so well that, as the late lamented EricMorecambe was wont to remark in a different context, ‘you can’t see the join’), and have made their book potentially useful to the self-instructing student and the self-mistrusting teacher by ...

Diary

John Upton: ‘Wicked. Sweet. Nice one’

25 July 2002
... like an angel in a painting by Piero della Francesca. The magistrates watch him benignly. ‘Is Ezekiel accompanied by anyone today?’ the chairman of the bench, an elderly man with a bald head and EricMorecambe spectacles, enquires. He is too polite to comment on Ezekiel’s mode of dress. ‘Sir, good afternoon, I represent Ezekiel today,’ I stand and incline my head towards the magistrates ...

Double Act

Adam Smyth: ‘A Humument’

11 October 2012
A Humument: A Treated Victorian Novel 
by Tom Phillips.
Thames and Hudson, 392 pp., £14.95, May 2012, 978 0 500 29043 9
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... of all, Vivian Stanshall in Sir Henry at Rawlinson End. In fact, A Humument is a novel of quotation: not only in the sense that all of its words were written first by Mallock (although not, as EricMorecambe said of the notes in his piano playing, necessarily in the right order); but also because Phillips pieces together Mallock’s words to produce other writers’ lines. So there is Donne and ...

Welcome Home

Sukhdev Sandhu: Memories of Michael X

4 February 1999
Windrush: The Irresistible Rise of Multiracial Britain 
by Mike Phillips and Trevor Phillips.
HarperCollins, 422 pp., £16.99, May 1998, 0 00 255909 9
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... slum landlord to close a door in their face. All this was a long way from the welcoming words of the tabloids, but animosity was not universal: an English woman travelling on the same London bus as Eric Huntley escorted him under her umbrella all the way to the Haroldstone Road house he was looking for. Vince Reid, on the other hand, recalls how people came up to him and rubbed his skin to see if ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: What I did in 2010

16 December 2010
... head in the gas oven. And there is a gas oven still, only it’s not the Belling or the Cannon it would have been in 1963 but now part of a free-standing unit in limed oak. It was this house where Eric Korn heard someone reading out the plaque as being to ‘William Butler Yeast’. ‘Presumably,’ Eric wanted to say, ‘him responsible for the Easter Rising.’ 17 February. Stopped by a man ...
2 April 1998
... Nijinsky the horse. The last of my four paintings comes from the art gallery at Aberdeen, which has a particularly good collection of modern British paintings, and from which I was hoping to choose Eric Ravilious’s Train Landscape. It’s a painting redolent of all the journeys by train I remember, particularly in my teens and during my National Service, when it was still possible to explore the ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: Fresh Revelations

20 October 1994
... became so infuriated he wound down his window and shouted: ‘Let me in, you old bugger, or I’ll tear your other arm off.’ Alfie has a better story. The same commissionaire was a big fan of Morecambe and Wise, to whom even he deferred. As they drove in one day he stopped their car and asked if there was any chance of a ticket to one of their shows. ‘No,’ said Eric. ‘We don’t want you ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: What I did in 2011

5 January 2012
... to Lancaster and the estuary of the Lune including Salt Ayre, a huge landfill site to the west of the city now grassed over. The name takes me back to childhood when going by train from Leeds to Morecambe on holiday you knew you were nearly there when the porter came along the platform shouting the mysterious invocation ‘Lancaster Green Ayre’.11 March. R.’s Aunty Stella rings from Edinburgh. She ...

The Girl in the Shiny Boots

Richard Wollheim: Adolescence

20 May 2004
... tightening screws with gigantic spanners. In 1943, when I was in the army, at an officer cadet training unit at Heysham, every Wednesday or Thursday night we would walk the two or three miles into Morecambe, and go to the dance in the Floral Hall. From about eight to midnight, several hundred men and women, nearly all in uniform, were packed in under a pink and gold dome, and wandered round in a haze ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: Notes on 1997

1 January 1998
... the procession tomorrow. In fact it’s the HQ of British Telecom, half a dozen technicians squatting under this orange canopy, their interest focused on computer screens. It’s the kind of subject Eric Ravilious would have picked out, or Ardizzone in the Western Desert. Walk back through Shepherd’s Market, now smart and gentrified, cafés on pavements and all that. Except it hasn’t altogether ...

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