One late Autumn afternoon some twenty or thirty years ago, I was sitting in a wood pannelled room on the top floor of St Mary's Paddington, waiting for an appointment at which I was going to have my ears syringed and the wax removed. I think it was late Autumn because the sunshine was very bright: beams poured in and the dust floated. I was reading the Evening Standard. Across from my bench, on the other side of the room frosted glass partitions, above dark wooden panels, sectioned off the consulting rooms. I had knocked, a nurse had come, taken my name and asked me to wait.
I don't remember what was in the news. I was quite alone up there. After a while I was aware that someone had entered the room and was moving, albeit rather slowly, towards the consulting room door. It was a man frail, slight. i returned to my paper. The man knocked at the door. Presently a nurse came.
"I have an appointment with Dr So-and-so, at two o'clock". the nurse hopped off and came back a moment later.
"Can I take the name , please"
"Hume," he said.
I looked up.
"Right, just a moment please," said the nurse and disappeared again.
It wasn't 'Hume' at all. It was 'Home'. Alec Douglas Home. The nurse had absolutely no idea that she was dealing with a former Prime Minister, and the former Prime Minister did not seem in the least put out.
It is impossible to imagine such a thing in France, say, or America, or indeed anywhere else for that matter. You certainly cannot imagine Tony Blair turning up in Paddington for an ear wax in quite this way. But John Major? Just maybe...