Friday, June 03, 2011

A self-made man

I’ve only recently discovered that the writer Fergus Gwynplaine MacIntyre died last year, in circumstances that were spectacular and at the same time deeply sad. I met him once, and very briefly at that. It was 2003, and we were both finalists in an essay competition run by The Spectator. He shuffled in, stout, bewhiskered and perspiring, his garb including a long, leather coat, heavy biker boots and huge gauntlets. He refused the abundant bubbly in favour of a glass of milk. This was the period when Boris Johnson was in charge of the magazine, and the nominal host of the soiree, but poor Bozza suddenly seemed terribly normal and pedestrian. One of the marketing people leaned over to me. “I know you’re a finalist,” he muttered, “so I hope you’ll understand that I hope this chap wins.”

I spoke to MacIntyre for a while, but unfortunately I can recall very little of the conversation, beyond the fact that he claimed to spend his time moving between New York, mid-Wales and Docklands. It matters little because, as much of the post mortem coverage asserts, his life was a tissue of inconsistent self-invention, involving a traumatic Glaswegian childhood, a stint on an Australian sheep station, torture at the hands of Idi Amin’s goons, work as a ghost writer for Jerzy Kosinski and, best of all, webbed fingers (the reason for the gloves). The name was fake, but he admitted as such; nobody, however,  was agreed on what it had replaced.

The results of the competition were announced: neither of us had won. MacIntyre farted loudly, claimed to be suffering from a headache, and made his exit.

A dark-haired woman moved towards me. “Who was that extraordinary man?” she asked, before introducing herself as the magazine’s publisher. It was much later that I realised this was the legendary Kimberly Fortier Quinn, subsequently revealed to be the lover of Cabinet minister David Blunkett (around the same time that the extra-curricular activities of Johnson and columnist Rod Liddle came to light).

If I ever get invited to such a shindig again, I must remember to concoct a life or two for myself.

1 comment:

Charles Frith said...

I used to live on Doughty Street in the early 90's.