July 10, 2009

So farewell, then, to probably the best Wimbledon fortnight ever, certainly the sunniest that I can remember. Andy Roddick now joins Gottfried von Cramm and Ken Rosewall as a three-times-losing finalist, coming within a whisker of winning the greatest trophy in tennis, but turning into a tragic hero instead. Still, unlike the elegant German baron and the great Aussie, Andy might still do it, although I wouldn’t bet on it. But not to worry, Andy old chap, you’ve got by far the prettiest wife of all the players, and you exhibited more fight and good sportsmanship than the rest of the field combined. Roddick should be made an honorary member of the All England Club for bringing some decency to the game. Not once did he or Federer sully the great final with Murray-like boorish histrionics and screams for support, nor did their wives emulate that ghastly Murray woman, who spends her time fist-pumping and shouting, her square mouth wide open as if in a dentist’s chair.

Yes, I might be bitchin’ but it’s summertime and the livin’ is easy. Sir Tom Stoppard turned 72 last week and I ran into him in front of the John Sandoe bookshop. He was about to tell me an interesting story about writers when we were interrupted by fans of his. Never mind. I wanted to talk about Arcadia (which is having a revival at the Duke of York’s) and the references to summer heat in the play, as I had written something about what heat does to young people in this space a month or so before. The reason I bring this up is that I once walked down Broadway with Alan Lerner, the lyricist, and not a single person exiting from the Great White Way’s theatres noticed him. Tennessee Williams was a non-person in El Morocco, as was Oscar Hammerstein, whose daughter Susan I took there with him. This wouldn’t happen in merry old England, or in the land of cheese, I’m sure. Playwrights are recognised and treated with the respect Americans give to billionaire developers.

Mind you, I didn’t see any playwrights in the royal box at SW19 last Sunday. I saw great champions of the past: Dr Hank Kissinger and his wife Nancy, and a certain buddy of mine—I shall not reveal his or her sex—who reported to me that Princess Michael of Kent also broke a record during the record-setting fifth and final set. The one she broke was her own, established last year during the final. She managed to eat 79 eclairs after having devoured close to 47 small ham-and-cheese sandwiches. In fact, one of the BBC technicians responsible for recording the speed in mph of the serves wanted to include Marie-Christine’s numbers, but was told in no uncertain terms to mind the serves and nothing else. Just as well. Food-devouring record-setting can divert the attention of the crowds, and this would have been unfair to the two gallant finalists.

And speaking of gallantry, I thought Tracy Worcester’s film on the plight of factory-farmed pigs was brilliant and brave and should be seen by every government official who has sold out to the EU and factory farming in Eastern European countries. She is, of course, up against it, as are small farms competing against the American giant Smithfield Foods. Not to mention what our innocent porcine friends are going through. Sows are kept in crates in Eastern bloc countries, which then undercut UK farmers, who are obliged to spend more on sows’ housing. But governments lie, and they refuse to listen to ordinary people’s concerns, and the last thing governments do is listen to some aristocrat concerned with animal welfare. Just look how evasive Cameron is about immigration, and he’s not even in power yet. Here’s what Thomas Jefferson, my favourite American president, had to say about government, back in the 18th century. ‘It is the group within society that claims for itself the exclusive right to rule everyone under a special set of laws that permit it to do to others what everyone else is rightly prohibited from doing, namely aggressing against person and property.’ Amen.

Otherwise, it’s been as grand a time as I’ve had in years. London’s mood has been as sunny as the weather, and the Gilmour and Speccie parties remained true to tradition—no rain. For years Ian and Caroline Gilmour’s garden parties, as well as our own, were known for their Greek weather. Sadly Ian and Caroline died within a short time of each other—how often that happens with loving couples—and the garden parties were no more. Last week there was a revival by the Gilmour children and the sun shone like never before. Most cocktail parties are halting places for transients in despair. Not this one. I ran into tens of old friends and old girlfriends, now with grown-up children but no grandchildren, thank God, and it was nostalgia time but without the least amount of sadness. Just recalling wild times, which suits me fine. Forced at last to face the fact that most of my dreams will not come true, I’d rather think of the times when I believed that they would. Now that’s what I call positive thinking.


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