“I first met Bruce Robinson in the mid-Nineties – it was a vague decade for both of us, so I feel no need to hammer down the year. We were lunching with mutual friends, whose house in the vegetable underbelly of Birmingham is a curious Arts and Crafts repro of a Tudor mansion. So, picture the scene: side tables strewn with well-carved beef bones, a long dining table scattered with dirtied plates and smeary glasses, silvery winter-afternoon light falling from high, diamond-mullioned windows and oily ancestral gentry peering down from the wood-panelled walls.
“Bruce, as I recall it, sat at the head of the table. He had then – and still does – one of those rare faces that combine great beauty and fierce intelligence: hazel-green eyes, high cheekbones, pale olive skin, dark brown hair stranded in the stylish appendix of the late-Sixties (think Mick Jagger in that white dress at the Hyde Park concert for Brian Jones, but without the nauseatingly self-satisfied pout). Robinson is slight and languorous – and although he has given up several times over the years, in my mind’s eye his face is always wreathed in cigarette or cigar smoke. On that occasion – I’m fairly certain – fine wines had been consumed.
“I had a riff going at the time that I thought a pretty amusing and outré subversion of male braggadocio: ‘My penis,’ I would ease into the appropriate conversational sheath, ‘is so small that I am incapable of sexual penetration – all my children were conceived by artificial insemination.’ I’m not going to deny that I believed this satiric sally might possibly appeal to the man who I considered then – and still consider to be – one of the finest satiric artists this country has ever fostered, nor will I disallow that I wanted to impress him – I still want to impress him – but what I in fact succeeded in doing was setting Bruce up for a slam-dunk. Without any hesitation he replied in his curiously hybrid accent – gusting nasally out of the Isle of Thanet, but lilting with warm southern Californian breezes – ‘My penis is so large…’ a three-beat pause to seize the graphic imagination of everyone in the room ‘…that I fear my erections.'”