Sunday, 19 April 2009

Sir Clement Raphael Freud (1924-2009)

I was sad to hear last Thursday of the death of Sir Clement Freud, who had been found dead at his desk, in his home, the previous evening. Clement Freud was not only one of life's most flamboyant characters but also a man of great wit. He was the grandson of the famous psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud. Born in Berlin of Jewish parents, the family fled to Britain from Nazi Germany. He was described as a broadcaster, writer, politician and chef, but most people knew him as the man who appeared in advertisements for dog food, with a bloodhound called Henry, who resembled Freud in appearance. To me he was a brilliantly funny broadcaster who never failed to make me laugh. Below are three of my favourite Freud stories.
Freud loved his horse racing and he related the tale of a punter whilst travelling to a race meeting found himself driving down a narrow country road. Taking a bend too fast, the car left the road, mounted the verge and ploughed through a hedge, landing upside down in a field. The man found himself hanging upside down in his seat belt, peering through a small gap in an otherwise shattered windscreen. He could just make out a rustic wooden sign post. Pointing left it said 'Quilleys Farm' and pointing right it said 'Balls Farm'. He ended the story by saying "by a stroke of good fortune he was pulled out of the car by the Quilley's."
Freud hated smoking and whilst travelling in a train carriage, a woman nearby lights up a cigarette, when Freud confronts her, she says: "Oh, it's only ten feet from the smoking section." Freud then springs to his feet and replies "Madam, we're only five feet from the lavatory, is it alright if I piss on the floor?"
Once when asked, if following his death, he was laid in an open coffin with people filing past, what would he like them to say, he replied "I would like just one of them to say, I think I saw him move."
His most poignant, and prophetic, piece of wit came in the final days of his life.Charles Wilson, Editor of the Times from 1980-1985, received an invitation to a supper for 15 people, planned for the next Friday, to mark Freud's 85th birthday. It read: "This is to remind you of the time, date and location - although it may be wise to keep an eye on the obituary column."
It will be very difficult indeed to replace such wonderful wit and humour.