Of a peer-to-be and a guru's car, of economists and wives of kings
People say that celebrity is a matter of luck, but I think it is pure judgment.Take the case of me. In the 1960s I lived next door to Jeffrey Archer (as he then was) in a cobbled Paddington mews. His wife Mary even looked after our cat, General Motors, when we went away on weekends. I have never revealed this interesting fact before.
However, a few weeks ago I did confess to once having been given a car by Rem Koolhaas! If only I had kept the car, readers wrote - if only I had kept the car! Even if it was an ancient Ford station wagon (as far as I can remember), of what seemed to me then to be of enormous size, albeit with large rust holes in its fenders that had been inexpertly covered with black tape. I hear you gasping with disbelief, could this really have been the personal transport of the guru Rem Koolhaas? Yes, I swear it was, until it was briefly mine and thereafter went to the crusher unmourned.
Anyway, after those two episodes, I prudently kept a low profile on the celebrity front, waiting my chance while living a life of such privacy as is only possible in the English countryside.
And then, bang! It happened again.This time the celebrity was a man called Steven Nickell. He wasn't a celebrity at the time, and of course he did not give me a car, but he did sell me a house, an act of greater importance, in retrospect, than seemed possible at the time.
We need to go back to the property slide of the early 1990s to explain this conundrum. At that time Steven Nickell was a professor of economics at Oxford University living in a small village north of the city and so desperate to sell his house and six acres of land that he dropped the price by a whacking great one eighth of the asking price for a quick sale. Of course, all this was 12 years ago and of no consequence, or at least it would have been of no consequence had professor Nickell not subsequently been appointed to the Bank of England's monetary policy committee, in charge of setting interest rates and, most importantly, had he not entered the celebrity stakes himself by giving an exclusive interview to The Times last month on the subject of swingeing mortgage interest rate increases and the unlikelihood of their return in the near future.
Now a quick leap back to 1987 for my last celebrity encounter - the Queen.
Well, not the Queen of England, I have to confess, but a real reigning monarch nonetheless, Queen Noor of Jordan, eldest daughter of the president of Pan American Airways and a graduate of the school of architecture and urban planning at Princeton University.
My encounter with this impressive figure took the form of an interview for the Guardian which took place in London, in King Hussein's house near Kensington Palace.
It lasted only 45 minutes, little of which had elapsed before I understood that Lisa Najeeb Halaby was not simply an American college girl who had studied architecture and married a king. At that time she was an ambassador from the Arab world to a homeland that is not noted for its sympathy with Arab causes.
'There is not much funny about Queen Noor', I mused when considering the flippant tone of this column so far, but my wife came to my rescue. 'Noor is a funny name, she suggested, what does it mean?' It means 'Light', and Noor Al Hussein means 'Light of Hussein', I said.
For many years this was the sum of my celebrity knowledge.