wordsout by godfrey rust
Homage au Professor  < 6 of 8 >

The professor gets plastered

for Colin Duckworth’s 75th birthday, in recognition of an errand of mercy undertaken for a fellow, reported from the perspective of the helpee

It was some time ago, I remember—
or more recent than that, I don’t know—
I had staggered off down to the Garrick
for young Gielgud’s memorial show.

There were all sorts of thespian fellows
though I couldn’t make out what they said
(I wonder why Larry was absent—
we had to have John Mills instead).

I always thought Mills over-rated,
I never quite got it somehow,
though I had a soft spot for young Hayley
(I suppose she’s a pensioner now).

Well the speeches and tributes droned onwards—
three times I found I was caught short—
one just seemed to run into another,
but at least there was plenty of port.

When I stood up to leave it was tricky
well it’s true, I was pretty well skinned,
and the traffic in London is frightful
when you’re several sheets to the wind.

I stepped out, more in hope than in judgment—
I could swear that that lamppost had moved—
when I felt a strong hand on my shoulder
and I found that my balance improved.

Well I thought I was being accosted—
I was all set for making a fuss
when I just heard him muttering “Garrick”
so I knew he must be one of us.

He asked me which way I was going,
I said “Hammersmith”, because I was
and he said (out of truth or from pity)
“so am I – let me help you across”.

I could swear that he wasn’t quite English,
there was some, oh, colonial whiff,
and he’d rather more hair than was decent
and it almost brushed into a quiff

but he led me down into the subway
where we boarded the underground Line
and I sat with this fresh-faced Samaritan
who looked about…what, fifty-nine?

We got off at Hammersmith Broadway
and he led me upstairs, carefully
where we hailed a red bus with the number
that would take me to where I should be.

Of course I fell quickly unconscious
and missed the right stop, as you do,
and it wasn’t till sometime next morning
I got back to my lodgings in Kew

but the whole thing has left an impression
from my dim memories of that night—
I’m not sure about Michael Portillo*
but young people today…they’re all right.

And it’s true, I was once a professor,
though I can’t quite remember of what,
so I know about lifetimes of service
looking after a drunk, useless lot

and if anything’s left that’s called justice—
if humanity’s not quite passť
that young chap from the Garrick who saved me—
they’ll make him a Professor one day.

*insert name here appropriate to context.