I hear on the grapevine that Ian MacEwan has won the Wodehouse prize for comic fiction. The prize is a pig. Just goes to show you. Write something pallid about sulking poetesses sitting around in dustmotes lit by the westering sun, get 30k. Write something funny, get a pig. Not even a pig. You get a pig named after you. It’s like saying to the Nobel winner, oh, here’s a cheque. We’re going to keep it ourselves, but we’re going to name it after you. Drives me mad. Mind you, I wouldn’t say no to the Booker or the Nobel or the fucking pig naming, though my chances are vanishingly low.
The only time one of the glittering prizes fell within my purview was after dear old John B died, and everyone knew it was between me and Ted for the Laureateship. I’d been encouraged to believe that neither working largely in concrete form, or my covert support for the RCPGB(ML) would necessarily prevent my appointment. Larkin had dropped by at Botolph Hall with Monica while on a final touring holiday of the Cotwolds, and insisted that it was mine if I wanted it. What nobody knew except me and Ted was that I’d lost it to him in a game of backgammon, funnily enough while we both staying with old Plum himself, in Le Touquet. 1957, it would have been. Mimsy got us out there somehow, me and her and Ted, and, having nothing else to gamble with, we gambled with our future. That’s when he won his clear run at The Laureateship. I stepped down in honour of that old gambling debt, and the rest is history; Ted in Westminster Abbey, Spume contemplating a pauper’s grave.
Now, Plum was funny. I’ll give him that. The people who’ve won the prize named in his honour, they’re not funny. They’re humourous. Different thing. I’ll tell you who else was funny, and that was old Malcolm Hardee. There was an old woman who lived in a shoe, she had so many children her cunt fell off, that was one of his. But did he win a prize? Did he win so much as a virtual pig? No, he did not. He drowned in ignominious circumstances, dragged down into the rat piss infested waters of Limehouse Basin by pockets bulging with change from a fruit machine. Bloody good luck to him, say I. I’d take it all with me, if I had anything to take other than a few hopeful betting slips, and a perilously over-heated slate at The Turk’s Head, Botolph St. Otto.