memoirs, art and fragments by Thomas Milner

Going begging


Mozart could knock out a new piece of music in a couple of minutes.

Once, when he was walking along the street, a beggar asked him for some money. Mozart was, as usual, a bit short of the readies at the time, so instead he quickly wrote a tune on a piece of manuscript paper. He told the beggar to take it to a music publisher, who would exchange it for cash.


Pablo Picasso was drinking with some friends at the Café Anglais in Cannes, in the south of France; when his turn came to pay for a round of drinks he simply squiggled a few lines and shapes on a paper napkin, signed it and gave to the waiter.


Oscar Wilde ended his life in Paris in disgrace and degradation but unrepentant.

He spent much time wandering the Boulevards alone, and spent what little money he had on alcohol.

A series of embarrassing encounters with English visitors when he to more or less beg for a drink resulted in deepening his depression; he paid in the only coin remaining to him – his sparkling epigrammatic wit.

Soon he was sufficiently confined to his hotel to remark, on one of his final trips outside,

My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One of us has got to go.


An enormous wealthy Saudi Oil Minister, a member the Royal Family, owned (inter alia) a palace in central London near Hyde Park.

One day he had to fly back to Riyadh for an emergency conference so he asked his PA to phone ahead to prepare his private jet at Heathrow and have a car and driver to ready in half an hour. Unfortunately the Prince’s regular chauffeur was off sick so the PA had to phone the agency to send another driver round immediately. The car selected was one Prince’s two Rolls Royces – the Silver Phantom.

As the Prince, in his flowing robes, eased himself out of back seat of the car, the temporary driver, who was holding the door open for him, said:

–          What shall I do with the Roller, guv?

–          Oh, you mean the car? Keep it, my dear fellow, keep it.

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