Remember how this The Day I Met… business all began? The incident involving the little girl, her hat, the bestselling writer and his eye for a pretty lady? Well… As the weeks and months passed, and summer danced into autumn, I knew that some day I would have to face him once again…
My nemesis… Frederick “The Jackal” Forsyth. (Cue dramatic music.)
But despite sharing a barman and many of the same haunts, our paths never crossed. Perhaps he’d been tipped off and was very wisely keeping a low profile.
Until he became too confident, too complacent – and then I had him. After dropping such a clanger with the hats – the poor woman he dragged into it is now fleeing the village, the country and in fact the continent such is her distress – Mr F decided to try a more oleaginous approach.
To be specific, he chose to give a short talk on his good fortune at finding himself living in such a lovely community with such good people. (He is. We are. Pause for preening. Right-o. Off we go again.) Even to the extent of asserting that the only thing that will get him to change his address in the future is death. (Hmm… Be careful what you wish for matey.)
If you think we’re all so shallow as to be charmed by such obvious flattery, well… You’re right. We are. We were. It went down very well.
But what about the hat vendetta? Er… Em… Looks down. Shuffles feet. I got distracted finding out whether he quit or was sacked from the BBC. It turns out his departure was a little more dramatic than mine.
He’d been rowing with the BBC powers-that-be over the corporation’s line on the Nigerian Civil War/Biafran War of Independence. He felt they were too pro-Nigeria. It came to a head. He handed in his letter of resignation on a Friday, knowing it would not be opened till Monday. Flew to Lisbon. Hitched an airlift to west Africa, and then sneaked back into Biafra sitting on a crate of mortar shells. Ultimately the war did not go Biafra’s way and Mr F fled the region with a price on his head – 5,000 Naira, enough to make any Nigerian soldier very happy. Funnily enough he hasn’t been back since. (I suppose I could tip the Nigerians off about where he’s now living, but they wouldn’t nurse a grudge that long, would they?)
Biafra is one of those buzzwords from my childhood. “Eat up that last pea on your plate, there are children in Biafra starving.” And then there were the pennies for Black babies – overseas aid or missions, I was too young to know the difference, but it was linked in my mind with Biafra. Even if it was a bit before my time.
According to Mr F, even after defeat, the Biafran leader Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu (pictured under the Half A Yellow Sun flag, above) was convinced they could have won it – if only they’d waited a few more months before rising up. A few more months to actually train their volunteers into infantry and acquire some armoured cars. They never expected the Nigerians to put up a fight (and visa versa). They never expected the terrible famine.
By now his fancy talk of African history and whatiffery had diverted me from all thoughts of headgear-related vengeance. That’s how cunning he is. He knows which buttons to press.
Only one last desperate throw of the die was open to me. To prise from him the precious secret of the theme of his next sure-to-be-best-selling novel and then reveal it to the world.
So here it is. You heard it here first.
Somalia. Pirates. The recent boat seizures, kidnapping and killings by Somali pirates have kept them in the UK news and rising up the political agenda. The other week the British prime minster announced that British-registered merchant ships would be permitted, nay, encouraged to carry firearms for self-defence. So expect a roistering rollicking airport blockbuster dealing with Somali pirates and the rooting out of same.
One more exclusive titbit… Mr F always insists on seeing for himself the places in which he sets the action of his novels. In classic Wild Geese style, he sometimes travels undercover as an ornithologist. (It explains the binoculars.)
But surely, I hear you say, surely Somalia is too dangerous even for Mr F? Well, not if he had an escort. You’ll have noticed that Kenya sent troops into Somalia the other day? The news reported that they were in pursuit of Al Shabaab militants. Nobody in my village was fooled by that classic piece of misinformation for a moment. The truth is that the Kenyan army was escorting Freddie on one of his “bird watching” trips.
If he gets back in one piece you can expect to see The Pirate topping the bestseller list for Christmas 2012.
We’ve now come full circle in the The Day I Met… Competition. Still time for anyone else to enter. You’ll win a book if you do. Rules are simple. Write briefly about your encounter with a celebrity – if it’s funny or calamitous all the better. Meanwhile previous encounters are available here. They’re nothing to do with me. Other very talented funny people wrote them. Go on. Have a look. Some of them are priceless.
- The Day I Met… Jim Jarmusch
- The Day I Met… The Queen
- The Day I Met… James Nesbitt
- The Day I Met… met Her!
- The Day I Met… the Colonel
- The Day I Met… Indira Gandhi
- The Day I Met… Billy Bragg
- The Day I Met… Gerry Adams
- The Day I Met… Telly (Kojak) Savalas
- The Day I Met… Frederick (Day of the Jackal) Forsyth
If I don’t get any more entries by next Wednesday (ahem, Killian, I’m talking to you), I’ll knock it on the head.