Extremely seasoned motoring correspondent ROY LANCHESTER receives some sad news
An ordinary morning at Over The Limit With Roy Lanchester Towers was disrupted last week by the unusual sound of the telephone ringing. I picked up the receiver to hear the familiar North Of The Border tones of Alan McTavish, chairman of the Northern & Scottish Motoring Correspondents’ Association. ‘Oh Christ, it’s you,’ he muttered. ‘I was trying to call Roy Lansbury from The Runcorn Bugle’. And they say our Scottish friends don’t have a sense of humour!
McTavish spent some two or three minutes rather aggressively repeating rumours about me which are not true and cannot be proven now that the money has been returned, after which he got to the reason for his erroneous phone call, which was to tell Roy Lansbury from The Runcorn Bugle that legendary motor industry PR Johnny Bauvais has received some bad news. The news in this case being that he was about to die, a prediction that immediately turned out to be accurate.
I was so shocked by this I almost dropped my breakfast wine. I had known Bauvais for a long time, I believed that he still owed me £27, and I can say without fear of contradiction that he was a absolute gentleman. I mean that in the truest sense of the word, not just because he was one of those people who often wore a bow tie. Truly he was a car press officer of the old school and wherever he worked he brought dry humour, a relaxed attitude to panel damage and a relentlessly open bar tab.
I remember once being on a launch somewhere in the Far East when I became separated from the rest of the group and was forced to find my own entertainment for the evening. I later confronted Johnny about this and suggested that, since I was a guest of his employer, I should be reimbursed for my evening’s outlay. Quick as a flash, Johnny replied that he would be happy to, as long as I had a receipt. ‘Oh wait,’ he added, impishly. ‘Prostitutes don’t give out receipts!’ He later had to re-pay my £142 because actually this one did!
We don’t see the likes of Johnny Bauvais in the car industry these days, something I was reminded of when I attempted to borrow a press car in order to get to his funeral. It’s a sad reflection on the state on our industry that press officers at several major car companies will refuse to give someone a car on compassionate grounds and prefer instead to trot out tedious grievances relating to previous bookings such as ‘substantial bending of the roof’, ‘one of the wheels missing’, and ‘overwhelming smell of faeces’.
So it was that I found myself getting the train from Harrogate to the funeral location in Marlow via London. The journey was long but I had packed accordingly with a good book and an even better Burgundy, and these items easily saw me to a well deserved pit stop at The Parcel Yard pub within King’s Cross station. From there it was just a short hop to Paddington station’s The Mad Bishop & Bear for a swift lunchtime livener and then on to my destination, The Marlow Donkey just near Marlow station. From here it was just a brief walk to The Prince of Wales and then on to poor old Johnny’s funeral, via The George & Dragon.
The scene outside the church is one that would have warmed the great man’s heart, if only it hadn’t stopped working. Truly the great and the good of the motoring industry were out in force and, despite the solemnity of the occasion, the usual hilarious banter was much in evidence with joshing aplenty and typical cries of ‘Oh Christ, what’s he doing here?’, ‘For fuck’s sake Lanchester, how much have you had?’ and ‘Aren’t you that bloke who did a shit in a Nissan?’, swiftly moving on, following a slight commotion, to the old ‘Oh my God, you awful man, get out now!’
I like to think that dear old Johnny was looking down on all this and chuckling. We will not see his kind again and I find that almost sobering. What saddens me most is that I will never get to sit with him in the hotel bar on some far flung launch and say, ‘Hey Johnny, remember that time I was sick on your widow’!
Roy Lanchester is motoring correspondent for Your Stoats magazine and founder of the blog Over The Limit with Roy Lanchester. (blogmaker.com/freeblog/overthelimitwithroylanchester57)