July 25, 2007

On Board S/Y Bushido — My closest friend Yanni Zographos, who died eleven years ago, had a system for picking up women with young children in tow. As he would pass a mother pushing a pram he would announce to no one in particular, “Les jolie mamans font des jolies bebes!” Starting in the summer of 1956, my first free year after eleven years in captivity, I put his theory to the test. In the 51 ensuing years I can confirm neither Yanni or I ever managed to pick up a single woman with that line.  Still, we always remained upbeat and confident. Another favourite pick up line of Yanni’s was to yell “Taxi!” while riding in his Bentley decapotable back in the Fifties in Athens. Greece had about 2000 cars in total, people were poor and public transport terribly crowded and unreliable. Yanni and I would cruise up and down Zographos—an Athenian area named after his family—offering taxi rides to women, yet again I can confirm that in the 40 years leading up to his death neither he nor I ever manage to persuade a single member of the female sex to get into the bloody Bentley.

Hence you can understand my insecurity when arriving in a pick up paradise like St Tropez and finding hardly any women pushing prams, and with traffic jams so humongous people abandon their cars in order to walk to their destination. Mind you, after 51 years of being shot down, I’ve now discovered the pick up line to end all pick up lines. But first let me set the scene: I anchored the boat in front of Tahiti Plage and went to lunch at Club 55, where the rich, fat and mostly ugly people congregate. We were about ten of us—Nick Scott, Chantal Hanover, Tim Hoare, Richard Northcott, Bolle and Debbie Bismarck, Sir Bob Geldof and a couple of pretty young things. All sorts of loose and chesty broads were table-hopping trying to catch Saint Bob’s eye. That is when I had my brainstorm. “Hello AGAIN,” I would shout, and the line worked as if by magic. As everyone is more or less always stoned in St Tropez, the word again meant that we had already been properly introduced, and perhaps even been intimate.There were smiles of recognition, however faint, and then a mad rush to sit next to the pop icon. Even later on in the evening, the line stood the test of time. Bob Geldof was amazed. “He’s effing 70 effing years old, and his effing line effing works,” he announced.

It of course all ended in tears when the mother of my children arrived and decided I had been burning the candle at both ends. Every morning I’d get up no matter how wrecked the night before, and do tennis drills with the wonderful pro Nigel Armstrong, whom the Bismarcks employ to turn their four boys into future Federers . Their rented villa above Tahiti Plage has a tennis court and pool to cool off after the drills. Cross court forehands for five minutes, cross court backhands for another five. Then the same thing but down the line. After twenty minutes, ten minutes volleying and hitting overheads, and then a tie break up to 21. Playing hard in the midday sun gets rid of the booze as well as any other impurities one’s system has ingested in this Sodom and Gomorrah-like place. But I must admit it’s great fun. Living on the boat and being able to get off and exercise makes one’s day. The nights, needless to say, offer more opportunitites for sin than Havana did before Castro. Alas, the place is teeming with Russkies, Ayrabs and Pakistanis, all competing in the Cave des Rois to see who will outspend whom. Opening a magnum of Crystal now costs 50 thousand Euros, and these slobs have been known to pop them open and then spill them on the floor to the last drop. Worse, people cheer.

Thankfully, I have resisted going to that ghastly place, although the young Bismarcks have been accurately reporting the outrages nightly. The problem is one of my crew, Andrew, who is an Aussie. He told me his parents read the Guardian and they are champagne socialists, and would be appalled if they read the owner of the boat where their son works had taken part in such a shameful orgy.

Given the fact that England is under water, it does sound a bit rich complaining about the outrages of the super rich on the Riviera, but such are the joys of an otiose class obsessed with materialism and the root of all envy. Which brings me to Boris and the Tories. The latter are finished, history, curtains, through. If they lost two by-elections after Labour has been in power for ten years, they might as well thrown in the towel. Better yet, let Boris run the party. He’s the one who has the courage to attack Brown on the penal inheritance tax and force him to hold a referendum on the European Constitution. Cameron’s populist policies are a sham, and the by-election proved it. Those few Brits not employed by the state all want to have their voices heard, but Cameron is listening to the Circ-like sounds of the PR gurus. Cameron should either go to the Lords, Lourdes, or come down here and join the rabble. Gordon Brown is going to make mincemeat of him, so a Riviera stay is not such a bad alternative.


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