The Unwell Jeffrey Bernard, his Brother Oliver and Peter O’Toole

Jeffrey Bernard and Peter O’Toole doing what they liked best…

I better come clean right away: this entry has nothing to do with rowing. However, I feel that I left some strings hanging loose in an entry on 25 May, 2012, and now suddenly I am able to tie them up, so to say.

In the entry I mentioned journalist and writer Jeffrey Bernard (1932-1997), who wrote the ‘Low Life’ column in The Spectator. Bernard, a charming drunk and rough, was immortalized by his friend Keith Waterhouse in his amusing play Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell (which was the on-line apology that The Spectator used to put in the empty space where his column was supposed to be – but Bernard had been too drunk to write). The setting for the play is Bernard’s water hole, the pub The Coach and Horses in Soho, London, where he finds himself locked in overnight. Being unable to leave, he reflects on his life, and some of his former employers and friend and girlfriends ‘show up’ in the play. The original actor playing Bernard was his friend Peter O’Toole, who also played him a second time around at The Old Vic.

What I meant by wrapping up this story is that this play is now up again on Youtube (after it had previously been taken down). Get ready for slightly more than two hours of entertainment with O’Toole as Bernard at The Old Vic:

[Update 10 April 2019: Sorry, this video has been taken down again due to copyright issues. GRB]

As a side note, Jeffrey Bernard’s older brother, Oliver Bernard, a poet and translator, died on 1 June, 2013, 88 years old. Reading his obituary in the Daily Telegraph, he was also a somewhat eccentric character, the type which can only be produced on the British Islands and Ireland. As a matter of fact, I have read some of his poems, and re-reading them now, I actually found something rowing related. In Oliver Bernard’s “Moons and Tides, Walberswick” it says

[- – -]
But in the river’s dipping mouth
What herring fish for in the dark

[- – -]
The boat goes over rocked afloat
Oars mixing milk beneath the glass

[- – -]
Between in time this negative
Daylight moon and moonlight which
Drinks and I rowed under from
The Harbour Inn side feeling rich
With experience and joy
[- – -]

What do you know, I kind of managed to turn this entry around to be about rowing after all!

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