On Thursday afternoons James would debunk for Richard Bennett’s office at the Sunday Telegraph, at that time still in Fleet Street. Richard was Readers’ Letters editor and had selected two or three letters for James to illustrate. They were, of course, well used to working in tandem. Richard had been editor of Lilliput and James its Art Editor.
Next stop was El Vino’s, conveniently opposite. A regular set of El Vino alumni would now gather, Peter Paterson, Alan Watkins, Nick Garland, James, Richard and others. A lively conversation was oiled by a considerable number of El Vino’s best.
I was commissioned to gather James and Peter, who was at the time living with us. (Peter had rung up one Sunday morning to ask if he could stay the night. This turned into a year which was, at a much later date, repeated.) I was not, of course, allowed to join the group at El Vino’s, being one of the dreaded species called females. but I extracted James and Peter and drove them home where Peter produced another two bottles of red wine.
Those were lively evenings.
There was one final sad coda to the Sunday Telegraph drawings when Richard arrived in Muswell Hill the day before James died, and insisted that he drew his usual letter illustrations. Like the rest of us, Richard could not accept that James was terminally ill and would leave us. But I vividly remember him sitting up in bed and drawing…they were the last he ever did.