This week, my friends, I have nothing to offer but questions. Questions to which there are no doubt answers, but not ones that are likely to be vouchsafed to the general public, although in the fullness of time others may learn the truth.
Meanwhile, alas, the problems which I am about to set before you will remain as the riddle of the Sphinx or the winner of next Wednesday’s 2.30 at Kempton Park, hid from our eyes.
The problem concerns, as do so many other matters these days, the redoubtable Mrs Kimberly Quinn, noted partly as the publisher of The Spectator but with much keener assiduity and interest as a society hostess whose hospitality extended far beyond pouring cups of Earl Grey and letting fall from her lips memorable bons mots.
Mrs Quinn, as all know to their astonishment and wonder, is, or perhaps it might be wiser to say, was, a woman of quite exceptionally liberal virtue, a woman on whose bedroom door the hinges were seldom still. It seems that with the publication of each new Sunday tabloid another name is added to the roll call of her conquests and the reader’s mind becomes quite dizzy in the attempt to keep up. But the questions I have concern just one
According to the Daily Mail, the man in question was “a leading British television journalist who visited South Street to ‘fix a broken lavatory seat’,” but left having accomplished more.
It is from that single startling piece of information that questions spring forth like jets from a fountain. Indeed so potent is this source of conjecture and so bewildering and complex the matters raised, that one scarcely knows where to begin.
It is a matter of common knowledge that plumbers are expensive and unreliable. Is Mrs Quinn more jealous of her money than her reputation? Who knows? But one can understand that she might have looked around for an alternative to a professional plumber.
Did she perhaps in one of her conversations with politicians, PR executives, media magnates and leading TV journalists let it be known that she was in possession of a deficient lavatory seat? And did one of these, with the gallantry that is not entirely fled from the soul of modern man, offer to do the job?
If so, what led him to believe he was capable of accomplishing such a task? Was he perhaps a lavatory repair hobbyist? Or had he been a plumber before turning to TV journalism? There is much in the quality of modern television reporting to suggest that such a transfer of skills is quite common. Indeed, many is the reporter whose hand gestures before the camera indicate a familiarity with spanner and stopcock.
Were we to speculate on the identity of the journalist in question we would tread upon the realm of libel, but there is no harm in ruling out certain individuals. I may be doing him a disservice but Jeremy Paxman, though undoubtedly a gentleman, does not strike one as the kind who would quickly volunteer to repair a broken lavatory seat, no matter how well-connected the buttocks that were wont to rest thereon. Andrew Marr appears an amenable sort of chap, but on the evidence of his appearance on the box, not perhaps sufficiently physically coordinated to handle such a tough DIY assignment.
The Dimblebys are far too grand and conscious of their dynastic inheritance to have anything to do with lavatory repairs or, one imagines, lavatories per se.
David Frost might in his youth have turned his hand to sub rosa water closet work – he was, after all, a pioneering satirist – but these days one could not be sure that the old boy, having once knelt to the task, could easily get up again.
Andrew Neil, on the other hand, still retains a certain youthful spark. Only last week one read with interest that, many moons ago, he and a youthful Christine Hamilton coupled in one of life’s sidings before chugging off on their separate tracks to stardom. But fixing a broken loo seat as a prelude to intimacy with its owner would not, I think, be to Neil’s liking.
So, like the Man In the Iron Mask, the identity of Mrs Quinn’s alleged benefactor – one for whom the expression “one good turn deserves another” will hold a special meaning – must remain known only to a few.
Throughout I have assumed that the alleged repair was a) necessary and b) accomplished, but of course neither can be taken for granted. Might it be that in the circles in which Mrs Quinn moves with such comely grace, the term “my lavatory seat is broken” is code for “come up and see me some time”? In which case the leading British TV journalist could have arrived at a South Street equipped with no more than nature required for his visit, which in the normal way of such visits does not include a spanners or wrenches.
So there we have it: a mystery wrapped in a riddle inside an enigma. No matter, one of life’s lessons is that there are some things to which we shall never know the answers, and many which we would be better off not knowing at all. The events concerning Mrs Quinn’s lavatory seat fall into both categories.