Flimsy is the spur to fame ever after;Opinion

17th September 1999 at 01:00
ALAN Clark died last week. As did one of my old teachers: Arnold "Nobby" Clark, science teacher - not an unusual nickname for one of his generation.

Old Nobby was buried earlier this week and inevitably I found myself wondering how he might look back on his life. We may feel we know a lot about Alan Clark MP. What do we know about Old Nobby?

Played football in his youth (so we are told) and thought, briefly of turning professional for Sunderland. Kept a slipper in the cupboard for recalcitrants (so we were told) and cycled to work, long after teachers could afford cars.

Old Nobby only touched greatness once whereas Alan touched a great deal (so we are told). In 1965 the man who was to become my science master met Prince Philip when a couple of royals visited our school. A framed, shiny black and white photo of the visit hung in our school hall all my days. Two men sharing a joke, a joke that is lost for all time.

Wherever Nobby and Alan are today I doubt if either thinks of himself in the way that the rest of us do. The immortal part of Nobby Clark has probably forgotten bicycles, football and slippers. He's probably even forgotten what he and Prince Philip found so funny. And yet that photo is what he amounts to in my mind.

That photo and a slipper that I never saw unleashed in anger. But has Alan Clark fared any better? I doubt that the ethereal Alan is dwelling on his notoriety as a fondler of female flesh. Why should he? If history tells us anything it is that people are remembered for inconsequentialities. Napoleon stuck his hand in his coat. Nelson wanted to be kissed.

My father's best friend was a professional actor, but what I recall is that he once took Sean Connery's children swimming. As for me: isn't it true I was once invited to contribute material for Not the Nine O'clock News but declined, on the basis that I thought the series would never get off the ground?

Whether we seek fame or couldn't care less, the quality of our remembrance ultimately lies as footnotes to a forgotten history:

Clark, N (kept slipper in cupboard).

Clark, A (wrote sexy diaries).

Mourby, A (turned down Rowan Atkinson).

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