Two or three things I know about HB…

I didn’t meet HB until 1984 or 5 (I started at the LRB in November 1984, but at the beginning didn’t actually come into the office much as I was supposed to be checking whether copies actually reached bookshops)…

But I had heard of him since 1982. In my second year at Oxford I went out with CV (before she left to go to the Royal Academy). She had been brought up in Lansdowne Road, W11 and had had dealings with HB in the neighbourhood that made her 1) disparage him and 2) run away when she saw him. I never actually saw what he looked like then, but the name was seared into my consciousness. Luckily, CV and I didn’t go out much, and stayed in our house in Divinity Road eating beansprouts and watching films noir on the newly launched Channel 4.

HB! (His destiny as a writer was already there…) He went to New College, and this also added to his sense of danger. New College cloisters were where T punched me in the face in 1984, during the post-finals two weeks when I discovered alcohol. Since then, my nose has remained broken and I’ve lost the sense of smell (a mere harbinger of the catastrophe that was to follow. I had to double check the definition of harbinger. That’s the thing about HB. Very high standards…)

So, by the time I met HB in London, two years later, I was prepared…


In summer 1987, I went to the garden party at Ladbroke Grove. I had been earlier to one at Lansdowne Road (1983), so I knew the score: you gained admittance via one of the houses (number 45) and went into the communal garden. And you were off…
I went in 1987 and 1988. After that, maybe you were off in Athens, or maybe it was 1989 and I was just preoccupied with the carnage that City Limits had become…
Anyway, I’d never met your family before. (Your younger sister convinced me to give her a wide berth. And did again 31 years later…)
I had a quick look in the living room before going down (to the basement) and out (through the French windows…).
And I saw your father, unmistakable (and that portrait of him that looks like you…).
He was talking to Anthony Howard, who I knew was then deputy ed of The Observer.

Curiously enough, Philip Howard – no relation – was also there…


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I had a stroke on July 26th, 2013. I was a screenwriter. Don’t do that anymore. But have found another way to write.

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