Please do forgive the shameful delay in offering a response to your correspondence of April 2nd. I should like to say that there had been some pressing and unavoidable engagement that had kept me from sending word to you sooner, but, as it is, the last fortnight has been one of almost unalloyed leisure - reading, smoking, snoozing and experimenting with new recipes. I trust you take it as testimony to the high esteem in which I continue to hold you that I can be honest about this. I had thought about contriving some fable, but discussing the matter with Iain Laws last Thursday he advised me against it, citing the recriminations you directed towards Mordecai Szamuely when you discovered that he hadn't actually been a Blue Coat at all.
In the same spirit of candour, I feel I must inform you that I write this aboard a small passenger ferry en route to the Isle of Mann. The purpose of the trip must, alas, remain mysterious - at least for now. Let's just say that there may be one or two surprises at next month's BAFBA meet. Talking of which, I think we need to come up with some kind of "arrangement" in relation to the reemergence of J.P. Wildeboare. You must excuse my bluster, but I'm afraid I cannot feel quite the same surge of enthusiasm when I consider inviting him so fulsomely back into the fold. You and other members may feel that it's perfectly acceptable to resubmit oneself (after twelve years of shady obscurity) no questions asked - but I happen to believe in a little thing called the BAFBA regulations. Indeed, if anyone should feel sensitive to this it's JP himself, who, if memory serves me correctly, has no qualms about hiding behind legal jargon - particularly when backed into a corner.
I must say I'm surprised to hear that he's so keen to reestablish personal contact with me, though he's always been eccentric (surely I'm not alone in remembering his jingoistic posturing at the Cheadle Dog Rally in 1986?) The last time I saw him was during a recess from the tribunal at the Somerset Assizes Court in July 1998. Before we parted, he vigorously attempted to coerce me into a declaration of secrecy, though, as far as I was concerned, nothing that could be construed as even remotely clandestine had passed between us. I had resolved to write-off the said dues between us, so it will be interesting to see if he volunteers anything.
I am told we are nearing port, so shall have to cut this short. Before I do though, I must just share this with you. I came across it while looking through my father's papers the other day. It's from The Goncourt Journal, dated 18 July 1868, and seems to me to expound almost exactly the same sentiment as that which you expressed during our visit to Longleat last October:
There is a fundamental antagonism between tobacco and women. One diminishes the other. This is so true that sooner or later men in love with women stop smoking because they feel or imagine that tobacco has a deadening effect on sexual desire and the sexual act. The fact is that love is gross and material compared with the spirituality of a pipe.