Alexei Sayle: The question I wish I’d been asked (but never have)
Alexei Sayle talks about art college, bad driving and a fondness for Rees-Moggs. Well, one Rees-Mogg...
In the next few months I will be doing a series of book readings of my new memoir Thatcher Stole My Trousers up and down the country. Over the past fifteen years I must have done hundreds of these events and during the Q&As I reckon I have been asked over a thousand questions, but the one nobody’s ever put to me – and I wish they had – is: ‘Have you ever dandled Conservative MP Jacob Rees Mogg (described as “the Honorable member for the nineteenth century”) on your knee?’ I would answer: ‘Yes, I think I have, yes’.
The way it happened was this: when I was a student at Chelsea School of Art in the early 70s, feeling very lost and out of my depth, the only lecturer who was really nice to me was a woman called Anne Rees-Mogg who taught Film Studies. Anne involved herself to a greater degree than the rest of the staff with her students, particularly the boys whom she collected around her so that we formed an odd little troop, wandering around accompanied by the ticking sound of our clockwork cameras. She was happy to help her students and would drive us anywhere we wanted to go in her brown Ford Escort estate. The only problem was that she never changed out of third gear, so we travelled everywhere at thirty miles-an-hour in a cloud of smoke and disintegrating clutch.
Hers was the only home of a Chelsea staff member I was ever invited to. Anne’s brother was William Rees Mogg – the father of Jacob – and, though childless herself, I recall that she was obsessed with her nephew the infant Jacob; he even looks a lot like her. My memory is that Anne was looking after the young Jacob when I called in on her uninvited (I did a lot of that) one Saturday afternoon. She passed the baby to me, thinking it would be a treat for me to dandle him on my knee. I am also (intentionally) childless and did not really know what to make of the solemn child on my lap, but I professed great delight at his every move to please the doting Anne.
Anne died in 1984, the first friend that I lost, and I think of her every time I see Jacob on TV. It is odd to be reminded of someone that you loved by somebody whose politics you so dislike.
Thatcher Stole My Trousers is out in Hardback tomorrow, March 10th.