On my way to the Couch

E.S. Turner

  • On my way to the Club by Ludovic Kennedy
    Collins, 429 pp, £15.00, January 1989, ISBN 0 00 217617 3

The title of this book comes from a television critic’s shrewd observation: ‘Whenever I see Mr Ludovic Kennedy in a television studio, he gives me the impression that he has been good enough to drop by to see if he can lend a hand while on the way to the club.’ A comparable judgment, also quoted in the book, appeared in the Times after Mr Kennedy had interviewed a nervous Cardinal Hume: ‘By his assurance, condescension, ease of posture and conversational initiative, Mr Kennedy might just as well have been a bishop testing a candidate for ordination.’ Clearly here is a man with all the confidence and aplomb in the world. As the recent chairman of Did you see? he smoothly concealed any distaste he may have felt for the more freakish performers on his viewing panel; and as the one-time pillar of Panorama he was not too pompous to play himself in Yes, Prime Minister and ask questions about the British sausage. His life has been pitched at an agreeable social and professional level. As a young man he danced four nights running at Holyrood Palace with Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret, something he says he had ‘entirely forgotten’ until he found in his papers a ‘Dear Ludo’ letter from Princess Elizabeth thanking him for his wedding present. (Old men forget, but this is forgetfulness indeed!) He is on amiable terms with landowners like ‘Johnnie Dalkeith’; he is an habitué of Brooks’s; he has known what it is to wear the aiguillette as a governor’s aide-de-camp (in Newfoundland, in an interval in his war service); he has had the pleasure of sitting in the Queen Mary’s cinema and seeing his own wedding (to the ballet dancer, Moira Shearer) featured in a newsreel as one of the ‘weddings of the year’ (the other being Elizabeth Taylor’s first). As a Liberal Parliamentary candidate he twice scored high polls at Rochdale and he tells us that if he had agreed to fight Edinburgh Central he had David Steel’s ‘generous’ promise that, if he lost, he would be recommended for the Lords. As a communicator he has met or interviewed everybody and travelled everywhere; and he has sufficient faith in television as a universal educator to say that, in this respect, ‘I believe my career has been well spent.’ He is not without enemies, of a sort; they have caused him to be blackballed in three clubs, two of them golf clubs – the sort of setback which irks Mr Kennedy more than it would some of us.

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[*] Hodge War Crimes series, 1948.