Michael and Geraldine at the Royal Opera House Michael and Geraldine attend the ballet at the Royal Opera House (Dwayne Senior)
I am not a balletomane. It's all too posh for a poor boy from Willesden. Geraldine, having trained as a dancer and performed with great success for many years, absolutely loves ballet. She understands each and every move. She's an expert. So I agreed to go to the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden to see Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. "You'll like it," Geraldine assured me. "It's got tap dancing."
I did like it. I’m not saying I’ll be a regular at the Royal Opera House, but it was a fun evening. At least, the ballet and spectacular opera house auditorium were. Before the show Geraldine suggested the Café des Amis in an alley facing the Royal Ballet School at the side of the opera house. She used to go there with her dancer friends because it was reasonably priced and convenient. That evening her friend who dined with us was Lindy from Chichester, who’d been at the Elmhurst ballet school with Geraldine.
The Café des Amis offers ghastly discordant music, not the sort of lovely orchestral stuff you hear in the opera house. It’s a horrid room with the inevitable spotlights set in a low ceiling. It was also very cold. They’d gone mad with the air-conditioning.
I ordered broccoli soup and tomato and basil salad. “What is basil?” I asked Geraldine. “It’s that lovely herb they put with tomato and mozzarella,” was the reply. At least one of us knows about food. Makes up for my total ignorance. They produced a lettuce salad by mistake, took it away and then delivered the tomato and basil. The soup was watery and tasteless. I left most of it. I ate only two bits of tomato. You could say I was not enjoying a big meal.
Geraldine liked her liver; I thought it was a bit squidgy. Lindy said her liver was overdone. They didn’t seem to do bread. No one had bread.
I wanted to order my dessert. Our waitress walked by, her eyes fixed on the exit sign. She did a full circuit of the room, eyes looking straight ahead, no interest in the customers. Eventually I ordered an apple tarte tatin. Nothing appeared for a long time. Then a chocolate dessert was put in front of me. The waitress took it away when I pointed out I hadn’t ordered it and gave it to another table.
I declared the tarte tatin quite good and passed most of it to Lindy, who said, “Delicious, not quite good.” She comes from Chichester. Nice place, but not the home of gastronomy.
I’d arranged to meet a photographer in the lobby at 7pm. No sign of him. He arrived at 7.17pm to say he’d been waiting outside for my car to draw up. I have a new car, which was parked outside anyway.
"We'll do the photo in the interval,” I said, sweeping into the auditorium. The minute I saw it I said to Geraldine: “This is a million times better than the lobby. Nip out, darling, and tell them we’ll do the photo here in the intermission.”
There was a bit of brouhaha about whether photos could be taken inside; it passed and the splendid picture you see was thus achieved. So it turned out lucky the photographer wasn’t originally where he was meant to be. All’s well that ends well. Except for the broccoli soup, of course.
Oh lucky day. Your prayers have been answered. Thousands of you, well, hundreds, well, three or four have written saying: “We want a Hymie joke book.” Ask and ye shall receive. Michael Winner’s Hymie Joke Book is in production. Not only does it include Hymie jokes you may have seen here, but it also has many, many others. Some sent in by readers but too risqué for a family newspaper.
It will have Hymie’s views on restaurants, hotels and those who own them, as well as on society, people, events, everything. The Hymie Awards will be handed out by major celebrities in October. The book will be published in September by the Robson Press. Available from the Sunday Times Bookshop and other incredible places.
Hymie expresses greatest disdain for “that fellow Vinner. He thinks he’s funny. He’s just an overweening tzutzik. You remember, Becky, when your brother Sollie thought he was a comedian and started doing stand-up whenever he was asked for dinner? We said, ‘Oy vey vot a disaster.’ Vell, compared to Vinner, Sollie was a master comedian. Vinner’s ego motivates his entire life. In fact he’s just a schlemiel.” That’s really hurtful after all I’ve done for Hymie. Proof that no good turn goes unpunished.
From Nicholas Isenborghs of Antwerp in Belgium: Hymie is pulled over by the police for driving at 25mph on the M25. “Why are you driving so slowly?” asks the policeman. Hymie replies, “Vell, it says M25. I thought that was the speed limit.” The policeman says, “The road number is nothing to do with the speed limit.” Then he notices Hymie’s parents, Sarah and Isaac, shaking in the back seat, looking terrified. “What’s wrong with your passengers?” asks the policeman. “Don’t worry officer, they’re fine,” replied Hymie. “They’re always a bit squeamish when we come off the A217."
Even as the nation’s favourite punchbag you must be offended by the derogatory remarks penned by so many people. I decided to set the record straight by saying something really nice about you. Trouble is, after months of research, I can’t think of anything.
Jerome Carroll, Cyprus
I was surprised that a restaurant of the calibre of the Wolseley didn’t bring you a black napkin when you wore a dark jacket. At the Fairmont hotel in Scottsdale, Arizona, the staff bring black or white napkins depending on what guests are wearing.
Moira Allan, Aberdeenshire
It's not often we see you holding on to Geraldine with both hands. But in last week’s photo outside Novikov it seemed you were afraid the Russians might spirit her away. She was looking particularly lovely and, for a change, you weren’t looking too bad yourself.
Jenni Woolf, Chesterfield
What a lovely family photo last week. Sadly your two sons have inherited your appalling dress sense.
Ian Chapman, Marciac, France
When served a poor meal, I often say: "I'll be telling Michael Winner." This produces grovelling managers, complimentary drinks and once a free meal. However, after an awful Sunday lunch at a hotel in Harpenden, the waitress replied: "See if I care."
Stephen Davis, Hertfordshire