The Concise Oxford English Dictionary (Various Authors). An apology on the review by Gerald Smouding

Dear Editor,

I feel that I must offer an apology and an explanation on behalf of Mr Smoading, who is currently lying unconscious under a pile of gin bottles in my living room. Whilst formerly being one of the most esteemed literary critics of the so-called "Crouch End Group", the activities of Mr Smoading in recent years have been a matter of some concern and I fear his ham-fisted attempt to re-establish himself as a man of letters has left him in a worse situation than ever.

I first met Gerald at a particularly boozy party several years ago. Obviously a few decades older than everyone else there, his presence was a mystery, yet he was generous with the wine and was thus tolerated. In fact, I was rather impressed by this eccentric figure, 65 years old and clad in a bedraggled tweed jacket and crushed velvet leggings, a huge beard yellowed by rolling tobacco cascading down his inebriated face. I found myself corned by the old soak as he poured out his life story between taking huge gulps from the wine bottle, and it seems he has been a fixture in my life ever since.

As is so often the case of those blessed with early success, the fall from grace can be particularly brutal. A decade earlier Gerald had been feared, respected, loathed, admired, but never ignored. By his pen careers were made and lost. He claims that Michael Winner owes everything to him, whilst his unforgettable lambasting of 'Blue Peter' whilst employed as television critic for the Haringey Gazette sent shock waves throughout the BBC. Yet, Gerald failed to keep up with the mood of political correctness and feminism that arrived with the 80’s and a theatre review of "Cats" entitled "Lovely Leotards, shame about the Music" essentially made him a pariah.

From here the story is all too familiar; an increasing dependence on alcohol, embarrassing displays of public inebriation and the invitations from polite society dried up. Two decades passed in a blur until he became the creature that I found at the party, a washed-up old lush, yet with a charming wit about him that made him strangely endearing.

And so I encouraged him to return to the written word. He was initially aghast at the idea and was convinced that no publisher would take him on. Yet, this being the age of the internet, I assured him that this was of little concern. I directed him to the Naked Theatre and left him in my room with a computer and a crate of gin. He did not come out for three days, during which time we had to endure many loud shrieking profanities and an overwhelming stench of gin and tobacco. Eventually he emerged, announced rather shiftily that it had "been done, damn it", and ran out of the door.

As has transpired, Gerald had failed to live up to the task. Instead of wittily inventing an imaginary book, he had reverted to lazy (and, it seems, somewhat pompous) journalism, a misguided attempt to speak to the arts community that had rejected him. A faux-pas as grand as mistaking the dictionary for a piece of dADaist artwork is surely evidence of a mind ravaged by alcohol, a mind in far worse condition than I had initially feared.

Gerald sheepishly returned later that evening and collapsed without a word, dropping empty bottles all around him and passing out on the sofa. And that is where he currently remains. You were quite correct to point out the breaching of the rules, yet I dare not show him for fear it may push him over 'the edge'. All I can do is offer apologies and pray understanding for a sad, drunken old man. Perhaps I can coax him into another attempt, for, against all appearances I remain convinced that Gerald Smoading could once again be a name to be reckoned with.

Kind Regards,

Gavin Jay, Lt Col (Rtd)