It was sad, but not altogether surprising, to hear earlier this week of the death of TV chef and noted bon viveur Keith Floyd. A couple of years ago, I had a chance meeting with Keith in the surprising surroundings of the Olde Vic pub in Stockport. This was the finishing point of a CAMRA pub crawl, I had certainly enjoyed a few drinks over the course of the evening and so, by the looks of it, had Keith. His presence there was explained by the fact that the owner of the pub (who is not the same person as the licensee) was acting as his driver and general minder during a tour of his one-man show Floyd Uncorked: the life of a Bon Viveur, following Keith’s latest and, it would turn out, last drink-driving conviction. They had called in to the Olde Vic on the way between a show in Keswick and the minder’s home in Stoke.
Keith was 63 at the time, and it has to be said he didn’t look a well-preserved 63, with his trademark floppy forelock reduced to a few strands, but no doubt he could still scrub up well for a public appearance. Predictably, he expressed his concerns about the future of the pub trade following the smoking ban (which turned out to be entirely justified), and, perhaps more surprisingly, said that he felt the gastro-pub trend had gone too far and was now ruining the character of many pubs. I can well understand why he thought that, as he was always a strong believer in authenticity and a critic of pretension.
Sadly, on the Keith Allen TV programme which aired on Monday, the night of his death, he seemed a frail shadow of his former self, and aged well beyond his 65 years, although his mind was clearly still as sharp as ever. It can’t be said that in his last days he was a great advertisement for a bibulous lifestyle, but he lived life to the full – he was married and divorced four times – and given the chance to live his life again I doubt whether he would have it any other way. Apparently, although he had recently been diagnosed with bowel cancer, his most recent medical gave his liver a clean bill of health.
By another strange concidence, we are doing the same pub crawl tomorrow evening. Maybe it should be named the “Keith Floyd Memorial Crawl”.