The love rat MP, the tabby cat, and The Man

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by Kenneth Roy

I once interviewed a man. He was a man and I interviewed him. I shall, for the sake of convenience, refer to him henceforth as The Man.

Even in that relatively inoffensive opening paragraph, there is a less than complete regard for the facts. It lies in the claim that I once interviewed him.

There are two potential difficulties here.

(a) How can I be sure that the fact of my interview with The Man – or any man – or any woman for that matter, since I have interviewed quite a few women too – I once interviewed Winnie Ewing – she said she was frightfully busy and could only spare me 45 minutes – Margo MacDonald was more accommodating – we had a long lunch in her favourite Italian restaurant – top of Buchanan Street – near Donald Dewar’s statue – not that Donald was there in those days – Donald was still very much alive then – and he didn’t wear a traffic cone on his head – I can vouch for that – how can I be sure that the fact of my interview with The Man, and all the other interviews I have ever done, are not covered by The Man’s super-injunction?

How can I be sure that I am allowed to publish any of this information, including the absence of a traffic cone on Donald’s head, under the terms of a super-injunction whose existence is supposed not to be public knowledge and which was awarded by a secret court presided over by a judge whose name is unknown sitting in a place unknown? And if, as one supposes is possible, the injunction was granted in a separate jurisdiction called England, why should we pay any attention to it up here?
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Grown men, luxuriating in their own self-importance, have forgotten many things, but in my experience few have forgotten their father.
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There was a second potential difficulty, wasn’t there? Oh, yes.

 

(b) It wasn’t much of an interview.

Indeed to claim, as I claimed in the opening paragraph, that ‘I once interviewed him’ (a man) is itself so gravely injurious to the facts that this statement should be added to the formidable scope of the super-injunction whose existence we are not at liberty to publish.

Correction: I attempted to interview a man. I shall refer to him henceforth as The Man. It was in a place near Edinburgh. I shall say no more of the venue. Tessa Ransford was in the audience. I remember this because I remember her expression as the attempted interview proceeded. Is it safe to mention Tessa Ransford? Is that allowed? Or might her attendance on that memorable evening also be covered by the super-injunction? I must take the risk, and hope that I have not landed Tessa in it by mentioning her expression of – well, I must be frank – if I am allowed to be frank and, quite frankly, I’m not even sure of that any more – her expression of complete incredulity.

Even the old dad trick failed me that night. In case you are unfamiliar with the old dad trick, I will tell you while there is still time. Any day now, there will be a secret hearing of my application for a super-injunction to prevent the old dad trick being splashed all over the papers. For the time being, I may disclose that, in a sticky interview situation, in cases where the subject’s mouth arrives tightly zipped, I apply the tactic of asking the subject about his old dad. This I call the old dad trick.

‘Tell me about your father’, I ask with deceptive casualness.

This often works a treat. Grown men, luxuriating in their own self-importance, have forgotten many things, but in my experience few have forgotten their father. The last thing they expect is to be asked to describe him. Their relationship with their father was probably not altogether happy. And now here is this person from the newspapers reminding them of a person always at the back of their mind, of whom they may not care to be reminded. The shock often forces a reply. Some subjects become quite emotional. For this reason, the old dad trick – sometimes known as the old dead dad trick – is always worth keeping up one’s sleeve, along with a spare super-injunction and a tear-stained hankie.

On this occasion, the one involving Tessa Ransford, The Man, confronted by the old dad trick, froze on his bar stool. I could get nothing out of him. It is only now, years later, that I have been freed from an enormous burden of guilt about this embarrassing floperoo. I had always assumed that I was simply off-form: that if I had come better prepared with smarter questions, I would have persuaded The Man to utter a few words about something, anything, apart from his work as a ******. But I have come to realise in the last few days that the failure of the old dad trick was not my fault: that The Man simply wishes his life to remain private.
Not that he was ever a ******. The Man is quite justified to have his identity as a ****** erased from the public record since what he was – even I knew this – was a ********* **********. A chartered accountant – oops, I let that one slip – is not to be confused with a ******.

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Only people with a lot of money in the **** can afford the cost of obtaining a super-injunction.
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About John Hemming, the hero of the week, I am able to tell you a great deal more. He is the Liberal Democrat backbench MP whose use of parliamentary privilege enabled The Man’s super-injunction to become publicly known. Mr Hemming is probably the only person who has ever nominated himself for the News of the World’s annual ‘Love Rat of the Year’ competition. His wife (Mrs Hemming) recently appeared in court to face a charge of ‘theft of a tabby cat to the value of £20’. It is alleged that the cat in question, Beauty, was stolen from Mr Hemming’s mistress, Emily, the mother of one of his children. The forthcoming trial promises to be a judicial highlight of the season.

Since Mr Hemming leads so colourful a life compared with the life of a dull Edinburgh ******, you may be wondering – I have been wondering a bit myself – why it is the dull Edinburgh ****** who gets the super-injunction and not Mr Hemming.

The answer is twofold. Mr Hemming is endearingly open about his life. Also, it seems that only people with a lot of money in the **** can afford the cost of obtaining a super-injunction.
Broke as I am after too many years of working for small charities, and with very little in the ****, I have decided to provide for my old age by writing a best-selling novel after lunch.

I have the title already. It is to be called ‘Super-injunctions for Cats’.

 

This article was reproduced with the kind permission of Kenneth Roy.
Read Kenneth Roy in the Scottish Review.