July 19, 2014

Soong May-ling aka Madame Chiang Kai-shek

Soong May-ling aka Madame Chiang Kai-shek

I write this on July 14, France’s big day, and on the 25th anniversary of my father’s passing. He died at dawn, on the bicentennial of the uprising, as if he couldn’t bear French triumphalism over the foul event one more second. Actually he had a massive heart attack as he was preparing to go off on his boat. His butler found him and that was that. I think of him and certainly dream of him quite a lot, and I’m now three years younger than he was when he died. The past is constantly on my mind nowadays. Those Athenian arches, balconies, and painted facades that hid small gardens, the white stone buildings and colonnades that seemed so grand when I was a little boy, the jasmine scents of the royal gardens, the tunes the German soldiers sang as they marched in perfect step past our house on their way to the Acropolis each day. My wonderful German Fraulein once told me that I would break a few hearts when I got older. What she didn’t tell me was how often my heart would break when I got really old, like right now. Couple of weeks ago I had dinner with the prettiest girl in London, Georgie Wells. I introduced her around as the future Mrs. Taki. She played along. The fact that I’ve been happily married for more than 40 years is beside the point, and a very bourgeois point to boot. If Ms. Wells gives me the go-ahead, things can change overnight. In the meantime I’m up in Gstaad, watching some cows billing and cooing while I think of young women and a distant past.

“It seems there are still people who think Mao was a nice guy, give or take a 50 million or so dead. What the hell, the Chinese can afford it.”

Last week on board a gin palace two fellow guests were Alexander Rocos and his Chinese wife, Yuki Tan. Alex is a hell of a fellow, half Greek half English, and was a Newsweek photographer at age 14. He has done quite well, with homes in Athens, London, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Singapore, and he speaks fluent Chinese. But it’s his wife and mother of his two children I want to talk about. I had never met her and by the time she arrived on board I was in my cups. I paid her many compliments as one tends to do when drunk, and she laughed and laughed in that particularly Chinese way women of that persuasion tend to do when round-eyes flatter them. Yuki speaks very good English but with a Chinese accent. She also uses American idioms that I find endearing. The next day on our way to the cave where St. John lived and preached, I told her to cover up, as monks might mistake her for a boy and kidnap her. (She has a very sexy boyish figure.) “Shut your trap,” she answered, “you talk too much, and even talk underwater.” This was because I had made gurgling sounds while swimming under her and inspecting her. Hubby Alex made the situation worse because he falsely claimed she had cried out “Taki” in the middle of the night.

And speaking of the inscrutable Chinese, the FT should keep Nicky Haslam when David Tang returns with his brand-new liver. Between the two of them, the FT can cover all the bases, just like the four of us in the back do for the Spectator. Yuki tried to explain the secret world of the Politburo Standing Committee, but it was beyond me. Between 1840 and 1990 China was in turmoil. Now they have some kind of democratically elected leaders, seven of them, elected, that is, by a few voters just beneath them in the Communist party hierarchy. Oh yes, I almost forgot: I tried to get the ticket seller in the Patmos museum to charge Yuki four times over because she was a sexily dressed woman, a communist, and a Maoist to boot, but all I got was a dirty look from the underpaid flunky. It seems there are still people who think Mao was a nice guy, give or take a 50 million or so dead. What the hell, the Chinese can afford it. My favorite Chinese, of course, are the Soong family, the ones that dragged China into the 20th century. One daughter married Chiang Kai-shek, a warlord and military leader who lost China to Mao. The other married Sun Yat-sen, modern China’s George Washington. The third sister got hitched to a descendant of Confucius, while the only brother was a financial genius. Madame Chiang Kai-shek rolled in the hay with Wendell Willkie, who almost beat FDR in 1940 and with whom the dragon lady planned to rule the world if he had won in 1944.


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