No, I didn’t read much of him over the years. Much of his output being in The Guardian which I didn’t really read until it all went online. By which time he was winding down.
Yet there is one piece of his that I do recall. From Punch.
About a rugby tour: and I cannot remember whether it was the Lions or England. Probably England.
Talking about how New Zealand women were wide of beam, free with their favours, until they settle down into cardigans and raise sheep (or some such, the exact details are difficult to recall at this distance). Then the killer line, and once a generation they send their sons down onto the pitch to slaughter the English.
I’ve really not remembered it all that well. The details of it that is.
It’s a bit like that other maestro of the same magazine, Alan Coren. The general tone of the piece stays over the years. As with the memory of “Jeebus, but that was a fine piece!” (say, Coren’s description of how Aaron and Moses came to write the Pentateuch). But the finer details slip away for it was indeed those that made them such fine pieces. The tricks and twists and turns, the way that general subject was treated, the mastery of the prose if you like.
Like most of mediocre talent I’m deeply, deeply, jealous of those who really have it. And also extraordinarily glad that they do for their output provides such pleasure. The complaint of “But why can’t I do that?” fades before the realisation that I’m so glad that someone, even if not me, can.
That I can’t remember the details of sports column of 30 years ago is a failing of mine. That I remember the glory of that column of 30 years ago is a testimony to the skill of the late Mr. Keating.