The professor gets plastered
for Colin Duckworth’s 75th birthday, in recognition of an errand of mercy undertaken for a fellow, reported from the perspective of the helpee
some time ago, I remember—
or more recent than that, I don’t know—
I had staggered off down to the Garrick
for young Gielgud’s memorial show.
There were all sorts of thespian fellows
though I couldn’t make out what they said
(I wonder why Larry was absent—
we had to have John Mills instead).
I always thought Mills over-rated,
I never quite got it somehow,
though I had a soft spot for young Hayley
(I suppose she’s a pensioner now).
Well the speeches and tributes droned onwards—
three times I found I was caught short—
one just seemed to run into another,
but at least there was plenty of port.
When I stood up to leave it was tricky
well it’s true, I was pretty well skinned,
and the traffic in London is frightful
when you’re several sheets to the wind.
I stepped out, more in hope than in judgment—
I could swear that that lamppost had moved—
when I felt a strong hand on my shoulder
and I found that my balance improved.
Well I thought I was being accosted—
I was all set for making a fuss
when I just heard him muttering “Garrick”
so I knew he must be one of us.
He asked me which way I was going,
I said “Hammersmith”, because I was
and he said (out of truth or from pity)
“so am I – let me help you across”.
I could swear that he wasn’t quite English,
there was some, oh, colonial whiff,
and he’d rather more hair than was decent
and it almost brushed into a quiff
but he led me down into the subway
where we boarded the underground Line
and I sat with this fresh-faced Samaritan
who looked about…what, fifty-nine?
We got off at Hammersmith Broadway
and he led me upstairs, carefully
where we hailed a red bus with the number
that would take me to where I should be.
Of course I fell quickly unconscious
and missed the right stop, as you do,
and it wasn’t till sometime next morning
I got back to my lodgings in Kew
but the whole thing has left an impression
from my dim memories of that night—
I’m not sure about Michael Portillo*
but young people today…they’re all right.
And it’s true, I was once a professor,
though I can’t quite remember of what,
so I know about lifetimes of service
looking after a drunk, useless lot
and if anything’s left that’s called justice—
if humanity’s not quite passť
that young chap from the Garrick who saved me—
they’ll make him a Professor one day.
*insert name here appropriate to context.