I was surprised by how much generally favourable attention Mohamad AI Fayed received following his death at 94. I had an amusing exchange with him in the late 1980s.
This followed a situation of my own making when I’d arrived in London on a Saturday evening without any clothing, other than what I was wearing.
So into Harrod’s on Sunday morning, then a couple of hours later, laden down with bags, I set off the alarm when leaving the building and before the milling throngs of incoming shoppers I was dive-tackled from behind by a security officer. It transpired that the old bloke who had served me had failed to cancel one item’s chit but my credit-card receipts matched the total.
That night at David Yallop’s home for dinner, Yallop urged me to sue Harrods for their negligence. I would have but the old fellow who’d served me so professionally would have copped it. It was Yallop, readers will recall, who’s Arthur Allan Thomas book was key into causing Muldoon to instigate an enquiry into the Thomas disgrace.
That said, it was embarrassing to be nabbed as a shoplifter before so many people.
Back home soon after that, I found a letter of profuse apology from AI Fayed. I replied, taking the mickey and after that it was all on as we both went off on tangents, in an enjoyable correspondence for some months.
Subsequent travels in the Arab world soon explained this as I discovered that Arab males share a common characteristic with the Brits, namely a love of taking the mickey. I’ve never met an exception.
It’s a characteristic both Aussies and New Zealand males have inherited from our British ancestors. Maori males also have it; think Billy T James, but whether it was part of their pre- European culture or adopted, we’ll probably never know.
Women dislike this practise which they see as unkind albeit the truth is they lack the imagination to indulge in it.