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Freud Ego

Freud Ego - Clement Freud You might remember Clement Freud as the bloke with the beard on the cover of the Paul McCartney and Wings' album Band On The Run; or as the slow-talking, former Liberal MP who often won Just A Minute on BBC Radio Four; or as the grandson of the father of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud, brother of the artist Lucian Freud and father of broadcaster Emma Freud. Ah, but there's so more to him than that. Like those 1970's TV commercials for Minced Morsels - which he was reluctant to do, and so asked for a fee equal to the salary of the Prime Minister! In the adverts he was sat next to a dog called Henry - or rather a bitch, because the dog got too... um, excited.Then there were his columns in the Telegraph magazine for which he tried various experiences (including being a jockey, a Formula Three racing driver, tackling the Cresta Run, and being hanged as an extra in Roman Polanski's Macbeth). He also presented various cookery shows on live television in the 1960's in which things would frequently go wrong and he would end up having to ad-lib to fill-in time (good practice for Just A Minute perhaps?) On one occasion he gave this explanation of how to clean a burnt saucepan: "soak it, scrub it with a solution of salt and vinegar and in the end throw it away and buy another pan." He even read the shipping forecast on Radio Four once.Freud Ego (geddit?) is one of the most amusing autobiographies I've read. He flits through the first fifty years of his life (from his birth in Germany on April 24th, 1924, to his victory in the Isle of Ely by-election in 1973) with the droll wit you would expect from such a great raconteur, restauranteur, and probably some other French words beginning with an R as well."I wonder," he says at the end of the prologue in which he describes what happened once when he was sent to the headmaster for a beating, "is this where one starts an autobiography - the circumstances of one's first grope...?"To say that there is a laugh-a-page would be an understatement; and there is no shortage of (slightly irreverant) name-dropping along the way either: " ...At the Spenders' I met W. H. Auden, whose poetry I hugely admired and could recite in great wodges, Auden urinated in the kitchen sink, in full view of us all, and had the most disgusting table manners I ever encountered..." "...invited to lunch with Somerset Maugham, who had the worst halitosis I have encountered. Picasso asked me to visit him at Vallauris..." He even went drinking with Dylan Thomas, although he doesn't say much about it (presumably because he doesn't remember much about it!)His even-more-famous psychoanalyst grandfather is relegated to a few childhood memories in Chapter Two, along with his not-quite-as-famous psychoanalyst Aunt Anna with whom he fell out after an unfortunate encounter with one of her patients (which I found absolutely hilarious).His early years were fairly typical for the time: school, bullying, beatings, Ovalteenies, scouts, and being a page-turner for Paderewski (the Polish pianist and Prime Minister); followed by a stint in the army where, after being court martialled for "misappropriating ducks", he ended up attending some of the Nuremberg trials while tracking down war criminals for the War Crimes Investigation Unit.After being demobbed he took over the running of his favourite Soho restaurant, in which he served up horsemeat as 'steak' because of rationing; and later opened the Royal Court Theatre (cabaret) Club where stars like David Frost, Jonathan Miller, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore made early appearances. Rolf Harris also performed there several times, and apparently it was Clement Freud who suggested the line: "Hold my platypus duck, Bill" for the song 'Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport'.He also pursued a successful career in journalism, and was a sort of upmarket pioneer of mystery shopping when, as Food editor of The Observer in the 60's, he wrote a series of columns called Mr Smith Goes To Lunch, which consisted of him visiting restaurants (and later auction houses and theatres) as 'Mr Smith'.Clement Freud led a fascinating and unpredictable life, and his account of it is laugh-out-loud funny. Sadly, he passed away in 2009, so we may never get to read his post-1973 memoirs.[This review is adapted from one I posted on ciao.co.uk in April 2004.]