Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Dad's Bet on Jimmy Mulville

Stephen Fry, The Fry Chronicles (London: Penguin Books, 2010), p. 403.

The Zanzibar swarmed with media people. Jimmy Mulville was often there. This sharp, witty, fast-brained Liverpudlian had been something of a legend in Cambridge, having left the year I arrived. He had gone up to read Latin and ancient Greek, and a less likely Cambridge classicist you could never hope to meet. The rumour was that his father, a docker from Walton, had come home one night when Jimmy was seventeen and said, 'You'd better do well in your A levels and that, son, because I've just been to the bookies and put down a bet on you getting all A grades and a scholarship to Cambridge. Got a good price too.'

'Christ, Dad!' Jimmy is reported to have said in shock. 'How much did you bet?'

'Everything,' came the reply. 'So get studying.'

They say that today's schoolchildren now suffer more exam pressure than my generation ever did, and generally I have no doubt that this is true, but I don't suppose many have had to endure pressure of the kind Jimmy did that year. He duly obliged with the straight As and the scholarship.

It is too good a story for me to check up and risk the disappointment of it being proved a distortion or exaggeration.