Stephen Fry moved into a Georgian house in a Barnsbury garden square in April 1989 and I was an early visitor (although not ahead of Prince Charles who, Fry said, had arrived unexpectedly at the door, been offered tea and then asked apologetically, “Would you mind if the wife comes in too?”).
It was mid-morning when I joined Fry for breakfast and, at table, he’d already filled in most of that day’s bumper bank-holiday-sized Times cryptic crossword. His new front room had been made homely with a modern painting of Oscar Wilde, a coat-stand holding his motorcycle crash helmet, an electronic piano plus a hefty oak table decorated with a house warming gift from his parents. The gift was a brimming bowl of exotic fruits from Fortnum & Mason, which Fry toyed with as he spoke – a dragon fruit while discussing his kleptomania; a crambola while arguing the creative advantages of celibacy; a durian while expatiating on his theory that not everything is like it is for a reason.
“There’s a particularly powerful smell – is it paw-paw or guava?” he asked. My excuse for not having an answer was that he’d just opened his second packet of cigs that day.
I felt that his fruits were out of bounds, in terms of being eaten rather than aesthetically admired, so – after coffee, cereals and toast – I asked if I could have the final biscuit. “Oh, my dear man – do, do,” said Fry.
“What is the value, in comedy or otherwise, of your bent nose?” I asked.
“Sometimes,” explained Fry, “I tell people I can’t come to some event because I’m booked into a hospital to have my nose fixed.”
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