Saturday, 9 March 2013

Stanley, I Pressume....

Last evening the Tunbridge Wells Conservative Association held its Annual Dinner, where our guest of honour was Stanley Johnson.  I had previously enjoyed Stanley's company at the Tonbridge & Malling Annual Dinner in 2011, so I knew what to expect !
The jacket of Stanley Johnson's latest book
Travels of a Conservationist
Stanley is great value, and as soon as you meet him you have no doubt that all the acorns fell close to the tree. However, please don't refer to him as 'father of Boris' for his is also father of Rachel (journalist), Jo (Member of Parliament for Orpington) and Leo (an entrepreneur). There are two further children from his second marriage, and he is equally proud of them all.
As I introduced him to the guests he was charm itself. But the Johnson twinkle and eye for mischief was never far away. We finally reached the table where one of our  most formidable ladies was drinking gin with a friend. "I've only come because you like animals and I am a great supporter of the RSCPA", she said.  "Yes", replied Stanley, "the RSPCA gave me an award for the work I have done for animal welfare....
"...the founder of the RSPCA was called Richard Martin and the award is named the "Dick Award" in his honour.  I'm not sure why they called it that...
....perhaps he had a large penis."
As he wheeled off to the next table I chanced a glance over my shoulder. One of the ladies, who is so formal and correct that she writes a stiff letter should I circulate a leaflet with a misplaced apostrophe, was all a fluster and fanning herself with her napkin. Had anyone else said 'large penis' in her presence I suspect she would have chopped it off.
The great joy of Stanley is the breadth and depth of his life. Politics has played its part, but it isn't what defines him. He is therefore able to speak about politics as in inside observer rather than a fully paid-up member of the Westminster Village.
He spoke of his selection and subsequent election as Member of the European Parliament for Hampshire East and the Isle of Wight iun 1979.  The final selection meeting came after his divorce from the first Mrs Johnson. When the Chairman asked if, should he should be elected, Mrs Johnson would join him living in Hampshire, he replied...
"Mrs Johnson may well come and live in Hampshire, but I can assure you it won't be in the same house as me." 
And upon his subsequent election...
"I arrived at the count at Portsmouth Guildhall very late and smelling of smoke, as my car had burst into flames on the M27. As I walked in my Agent came toward me, beaming. "I am pleased to inform you Stanley that your piles are much larger than Nancy Sears' piles, and they are growing larger by the hour."
We then had a brief resume of this attempted Parliamentary comeback as MP for Teignbridge at the 2005 General Election, which he subsequently failed to gain from the Liberal Democrats.  He was having lunch in a local pub with David Cameron (see below) when a Guardian journalist phoned to inform him that the constituency name was spelt incorrectly in his election address!
"Well, it serves me right, a candidate should always proof read his election leaflets rather than leaving it to others. I left my proof reading to my agent, which was a bit silly, considering she was 80 years old and blind in both eyes."
With David Cameron in Teignbridge during the 2005 General Election

Finally, we were off politics and onto his work as an environmentalist, including a slide show taken during his recent travels.  Stanley has just emailed me the following small selection of photographs from his presentation.  One of these is a disturbing image of man's cruelty, which was quite a shock to his audience. I imagine this is exactly how he intended it, and was far more effective for being so.
"In typical Westerner style I employed eight guides to carry my kit up Kilimanjaro.
When I saw this photograph I could only count seven. Where the hell is the eighth one,
I asked, before I realised he was probably taking the photograph."

"By the time we had reached the summit, I had one guide left.
The others had all cried off with homesickness and vertigo."

"Coming down was a lot easier than going up."

"The European Union's insistence of 20% biodiesel is leading to mass planting of palm oil plantations resulting in the destruction of the rain forests and with it the natural habitat of the orangutan."

"I am pleased to say that this particular gorilla was benign"

"Here was a poor zebra enjoying a drink, and bam
- along comes a crocodile who fancied a spot of lunch."

Finally, as a reminder of man's continuing inhumanity, Stanley showed this gruesome photograph of the banned 'sport' of horse fighting, still practised and followed in much of Philippines, Indonesia,
South Korea and China.

I am enormously grateful to Stanley Johnson for giving up a Friday evening to speak to members of the Tunbridge Wells Conservative Association. He is a delight to deal with; no snooty secretaries or PAs. If you dial his number his answers the phone personally. When I sent him an email to ask if he would come, it took him two days to reply. "So sorry, I am half way up a volcano and couldn't get a signal." 
Stanley's latest book WHERE THE WILD THINGS WERE is available from Amazon via the following link:  

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