September 13, 2013

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To London for a brief visit to meet Spectator readers, as nice a reason as I can think for getting on an airplane, except for an assignation with Rebecca Hall, my latest obsession with the fairer sex. Our new digs in Old Queen Street remind me a bit of my school days, not that the Spectator’s building is ivy-covered red brick, but more of a mystical communication with the past. Who knows what goes on in one’s brain, especially when lots of booze and no sleep are the main ingredients left in that tired old sponge?

Many of us were raised with a certain image of dignity—starting with good manners—that is not easily found in the hot spots I frequent nowadays. No sooner had the party begun before I realized this was going to be old-fashioned and different. Interpersonal ease, the euphemism for today’s lack of manners, was as absent as rabbis in Saudi Arabia. How delightful it was to be approached by strangers who shyly introduced themselves and said nice things about one’s writings. In the modern world expressiveness is all, i.e., “Let me hang it all out so I can show you my inner self.” This crock was not in attendance last Friday at Old Queen Street (nor was my old queen buddy Nicky Haslam). They say you cannot have too much Schubert, whom I listened to about a trout on my way to the party, any more than you can have too much of a perfect afternoon in the Spectator’s garden meeting readers and getting totally drunk on booze provided by the beautiful and windswept looking deputy editor, the same one who left me standing in a church along with the Cardinal who would have officiated.

“I know it sounds hollow and juvenile and whatever the bores wish to call it, but it is a categorical imperative for me to have fun.”

Mind you, this was supposed to be a tea party, with cakes and sandwiches and crumpets and whatever else the English have in the afternoon. Tea is not my bag, so as the place was quickly filling up I allied myself with my lowlife colleague and loudly began demanding booze. The deputy editor obliged and that was the start of a binge that lasted throughout the afternoon, the evening, and only ended around ten AM the next day. (I have witnesses to prove it. One of them works at the Speccie.) I say this because some very nice lady readers were a bit shocked at seeing me drink whiskey straight. Booze makes for sublime suspended times as it kicks in, which only dim memories conjure up later. What I do remember well is how terribly nice everyone was, how elegant and old-fashioned in the good sense of the word they were: well-dressed, well-groomed, and kind.

I will not mention names because you all know who you are, but I will join the Terence Rattigan Society. I was very flattered to meet the father of a lady whose legs drive me crazy on the telly while she comments on tennis, and I certainly appreciate a reader who flew in from Kenya of all places. And the attractive lady with hooded eyes who reminded me we had met long ago:

Me: “Anything fun take place?”

She: “No.”

And the Iranian couple that agreed Iran is a terrible danger to the world because it so often invades other countries, the last time being Greece in 480 BC (lotsa laughs after that one). And there were so many others, including two gents who almost whispered that they agreed with me about Marine Le Pen. Bravo!


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