New York

In the 45 years I spent going to Annabel’s I never once heard anyone say, ‘Let’s go to Birley’s.’ It was Annabel’s or Harry’s, or Mark’s, but never Birley’s. Now I read that Richard Caring, the man who bought Mark Birley’s joints, is trying to stop Robin Birley, Mark’s only son, from using his own name for the new club he’s planning in Mayfair. Admittedly, I’m a friend of Robin, and have never met Caring, but surely one has the rights to one’s own name. Caring says that he’s bound to honour his agreement with Mark Birley and uphold the standards Mark set in his clubs. Well, this is as much of a joke as trying to stop Robin using his own name. I have not set foot in Annabel’s since it was sold, but friends tell me the place now resembles a bad Baghdad nightclub without the threat of IEDs. George’s, where I still go, is overcrowded and the clientele is, for lack of a better word, awful and very downmarket rich. Harry’s Bar, apparently, is still holding the line because of Luciano, the maître d’ who runs it, but any resemblance between the way things were under Birley and the present are based purely on the address of the premises.

Which makes the assertion that the Birley name might be misused even more of a joke. Caring knows how to sell clothes and how to fill seats in restaurants. He knows as much about upholding standards as I do about monogamy, which is fine. We can’t all be as discerning as Mark was — except that Robin Birley is. Caring fills his joints with such good-lookers as Philip Green; Robin will go down the Harry Worcester road. And another thing. When he was alive, it was Mark Birley Holdings Ltd that owned the trade mark. Not Birley’s, the name Robin plans to use. What Richard Caring is doing is nothing new, nor is it original. He learnt his manners in the rag trade and applies them now to nightclubs. He is trying to discourage people from joining Birley’s, a terrific venture, when it gets going next year.

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For any of you who might be interested, the brochures are out already and the services planned are amazing. The building itself will be out of this world — in Shepherd Market — and there will be rooms to let and 24-hour room service. Knowing Robin’s sense of perfection, it’s no wonder that Richard Caring is trying to stop him using his own name. Personally, I can’t wait, and I plan to join as soon as I get to London. Not to have to rub shoulders with low lifes will make a change after the last few years. The accent will be on youth, and by that I don’t mean hoodies or Gaddafi types.

Turning to other weighty matters, we all know that Irishmen turn Tory upon acquiring a horse, but one Irish–American old bag, Maureen Dowd, seems to have turned anti-Catholic the minute she became a horse’s ass. Which she always was. Dowd writes a column for the New York Times, a newspaper whose anti-Christian in general and anti-Catholic in particular agenda suits her meagre talents perfectly. Dowd’s columns always seem strained, always desperate to impress, about as natural as Gordon Brown’s smiles for the camera. (Most Times columnists, alas, are as interesting as old issues of Double Glazing magazine, but that’s another story altogether.) Dowd has called his Holiness the Pope ‘a sin-crazed Rottweiler’, secure in the fact that Catholics and Christians in general do not shoot old Irish hags up you know where when their religion is insulted. Dowd has also brought the holocaust into this, and quotes ardent Zionist clowns like Leon Wieseltier when they hurl abuse. One thing is for sure. We Christians have been taught to forgive, and this is the reason it is open season on Our Lord Jesus nowadays.

One vile person, an unfunny Jewish comedian by the name of Bill Maher, called Our Lord ‘that Jewish zombie’ on HBO television, and blamed all the world’s ills on religion. But none of the rabble I have mentioned will say a word about a religion that teaches to kill the infidel — Islam — because they know damn well what will happen. There will be a fatwa out on them quicker than they can say Mohammed, so they concentrate their vileness on a great man like Pope Benedict XVI.

No one’s been more vigorous in cleansing the Church of the effects of this sickening sin than this pope, but just because he won’t play ball with the media and the modernists, vile Rottweilers like Dowd and Maher, and Dawkins and Hitchens, are taking cheap shots against an institution that will not fight back. We all know that the ethical teachings of Jesus Christ are more important than his divinity. The Catholic Church has made many mistakes in the past, some horrific ones, in fact, but the good has always and always will outnumber them. The great contributions of the Church in the fields of medicine, education and charity throughout the world and over so many centuries often go unnoticed. The Church is now being crucified by the media and is turning the other cheek. But it will be around long after the New York Times is a distant and unpleasant memory.

This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated