Sir Winston Churchill
Orator and Bricklayer
The lovely and talented, not to mention cuddly, Winston Churchill was rather fond of a small glass of sherry with a dry biscuit for his elevenses. He was even more fond of a whisky or three. And a little white wine and soda to wet his whistle before dinner. A glass or six of claret, just four of port, a couple of brandies and maybe an Armagnac on a good day. Then he’d begin the serious drinking.
Not to put too fine a point on it, he liked his food and drink (and a good cigar), and tended not to stint himself in that direction. He could frequently be observed conducting affairs of state in a weaving sort of way. In between building brick walls.
Among his opposition in the house was a certain Bessie Braddock. She hailed from the north, and was… plain. A sort of stylised Madeleine Albright. Well, okay, a real tractor driver. And, while she wasn’t a teetotaller, she did not really approve of people who devoted themselves to the pleasures of the grape.
One evening, busying herself along the corridors of the house, she happened upon Winston who displayed signs of being the worse for wear. “Winston, you’re drunk!” she exclaimed.
“Certainly I’m drunk,” quoth the great man. “But in the morning I’ll be sober. And you – you’ll still be bloody ugly!”
Nice one, Winnie.
Another of his female antagonists was Lady Astor. One of their most renowned battles was at dinner at Blenheim Castle. The two were in the midst of an unholy row and Lady Astor was losing the logical argument. In the end she was reduced to simply; “If you were my husband, I’d poison your coffee.”
Churchill looked at her long and hard, then took the cigar from between his teeth. “And if you were my wife, I’d drink it.”
Another brush with his majesty’s opposition.
Winston was in one of the many well-appointed lavvies of the house, relieving himself of some of his excess liquid one day, when Aneurin Bevan entered. Winston immediately huddled into the corner of the urinal, presenting his back to the socialist chappie.
“Come along there, Winston boyo,” he chuckled. “We’ve all got the same thing, look you.”
But Winston knew better. “I know you,” he growled through his cigar. “You socialists. Soon as you see something big and successful you want to nationalise it.”
Collapse of the Labour party.
Quote from the great man re the labour party; “They are not fit to manage a whelk-stall”.
At a state ball one evening, Churchill observed a very handsome young man dancing with a – well, a lady of uncertain years. A plain-looking sort of person. Oh hell, she was as ugly as Bessie Braddock. Anyway, Churchill was surprised; “What’s he dancing with that old frump for, he’s a very good-looking boy?”
His companion, who was wise in the ways of these things explained that the brylcreemed youth was rather light on his feet and didn’t really care all that much for the company of ladies and was dancing for the sake of appearances.
“Hmmm,” Churchill did one of his famous sideways looks. “Well, I suppose buggers can’t be choosers.”
Perhaps the best Churchillian put-down occurred one evening when he was attending a more than usually dreary dinner. Churchill was being harangued by a young lady with a very strident voice about the state of the poor. Our hero had had a few sips of shandy, and, whilst not exactly as relaxed as a newt, found her voice, manner and views (she had probably never met a ‘poor’ person) decided he’d had enough.
“My dear,” he leaned closer, “Your concern for the poor does you great credit. But are you really dedicated to the cause? For instance, if I were to offer you one million pounds to donate to any charity you chose, would you make love with me?”
She had no choice but to answer in the affirmative. Churchill’s voice got rather louder; “Well would you sleep with me for a fiver?”
“Sir Winston! Just what do you think I am?”
The famous voice rose to full bellow; “Young lady, we’ve already established exactly what you are – now we’re just haggling about the price.”
The young lady left in a flood of tears and a London taxi, and the rest of the dinner passed in glorious peace.
One day he was discussing the merits of the opposition party and its various luminaries with a group of Tories. Chief among the victims, was the Labour leader, Clem Attlee, though one speaker wasn’t totally condemnatory; “At least you’ve got to admit that he’s modest”.
“Yes, absolutely true,” agreed Churchill, “but then he does have so much to be modest about.”
Actually I’m not sure I believe the last one, or at least the phraseology of it. Churchill was a stickler for correct grammar. One day he observed a junior commit a small indiscretion. “That, young man, is the kind of thing up with which I will not put!” he roared.
This precise approach to English gave his long-time opponent, Bevan, the opportunity, one day, to quip, “The mediocrity of his thinking is concealed only by the majesty of his language”.
Not all his enemies were politicians. George Bernard Shaw, although he did not see eye to eye with the great man, sent him two tickets for the opening night of his play Saint Joan. Enclosed was a note which read ‘One ticket for yourself, and one for a friend. If you have one’. Churchill returned the tickets saying he would be busy on the evening in question, but would like tickets for the second night, ‘If there is one’.
During the second world war, Churchill found it necessary to take one of his generals to task. The military man was fond of treating his troops like chess pieces, remarking, “Putting the troops in the picture is the sort of familiarity that breeds contempt”.
“General,” growled Winnie. “Surely you realise that without a certain amount of familiarity it is impossible to breed anything at all.”
Churchill had a particularly unwarm spot in his heart for Stafford Cripps. This politician was the opposite of everything Winnie stood for and believed in. He was a man of great piety, a rigid teetotaller, and, it was rumoured, had never so much as smiled. Winston watched him lope dismally across a lobby one day, then shook his head sadly. “There, but for the grace of God, goes God.”
Of Ramsay MacDonald, when he was Prime Minister; “He has, more than any other man, the gift of compressing the largest amount of words into the smallest amount of thought.”
Before he descended to the depths of politics, Churchill was a civil servant. It was the custom of the time that all memos concerning policy were circulated for comment. One particularly stupid and time-wasting memo arrived one day, and Churchill, probably after a lunchtime glass or seven, inscribed the just comment ‘Round Objects’.
After a space of two or three days the memo came round again with an addition; ‘Who is this Round and to what exactly does he object?’
He was more direct in his reply to another example of bombasic correspondence:
“Dear Sir, I am in the smallest room of the house and your letter is before me. Very soon it will be behind me.”
Very late in his life, Churchill was asked if he had any fear of death. “I am ready to meet my maker,” he boomed. “But whether he is ready to meet me is another matter.”
After having a pee, one day, in the Palace of Westminster, Winston buttoned up, then head for the door.
A young prig observed in a very self-righteous tone of voice, “At Eton we were taught to wash our hands after using the lavatory.”
“Really?” the great man retorted. “At Harrow they taught us not to piss on our hands.”