The very end of 2014 laid an egg, and an expensive one at that. I missed David Tang’s bash in London because I thought it too much to fly over for a cocktail party, but my restraint cost me quite a lot. It would have been worth rowing across to see Tony Blair schmoozing my old proprietor Lord Black. Two more wrong choices followed: I skipped Jemima Goldsmith’s party as well as her brother Ben’s wedding for a shindig of my own —one that turned out to be a bust. None of my gels turned up, but a lot of strangers did, and, to add insult to hurt feelings, a waiter told me at 3.30 a.m. that it was time to wrap it up. The party invitation read from 10.30 until dawn. He must have been on a different time zone and I told him so. The record for informality is being broken as I write, but when a badly dressed man asks me who’s invited me to my own blast it’s time to reconsider the word informality. Next year, if there is one, I’m doing it at home for a select few.
Streaks are funny things. I’ve had some long winning ones while gambling and even longer losing ones. There was nothing more beautiful than Damon Runyon’s ‘tubercular light of dawn’ when one was up thousands at the chemmy table and Aspinall announced the last shoe. And nothing more depressing when down a fortune and taps sounded. I once discussed streaks with girls with the late Alan Clark, an expert of sorts. Why must it be feast or famine, I asked. ‘I’m on a winning streak right now, but all I can think is when will it end.’ Just enjoy it while it lasts, said the master. Easier said than done.
My New Year’s Eve party at home in Gstaad was a tame affair. Gone are the days of wild nubile young women crashing and staying the night in various states of dress or undress, as the case may be. The mother of my children and my daughter ganged up on me and we only had ‘proper’ people for dinner. If my son had chosen to attend instead of going to St Barts with his latest squeeze we might have met some horizontally employed ladies who might have come in handy once the proper folk had gone home. No such luck. Next year I’m putting my foot down.
Still, I’m looking forward to 2015 and to two major moves, neither a sure thing so I won’t go into detail. I am extremely superstitious and have seen things go awfully wrong the moment I announced victory — never more so than in 1965 when my partner and I had America’s top doubles team down two sets to none in the French Championships and Mister Big Shot announced to the few groupies watching that it was a done deal. (We lost 6–4 in the fifth.) It got worse in 1979 in Belgrade, during the European Karate Championships, when with 15 seconds to go I scored against the number one seed, the German Horst Hermann, I believe. The stupid Greek coach threw his arms up and declared victory. With one second to go the German equalised and went on to win in overtime.
But the worst was when I turned over an eight with my cards and stood up to celebrate, only for fat Fahd, later king of the Saudi towels, to turn over a nine. So you can understand my caution when it comes to announcing good news. I spend my days knocking on wood, crossing myself and moving position, an old Greek custom to ward off the evil eye.
In the meantime, some of the latest visitors to Gstaad have been judged low even by trailer-park standards. Some of them are fabricated persons, like one James Stunt, son-in-law of Bernie Ecclestone, who surely picked his name out of an unpublished Evelyn Waugh manuscript. Stunt is flashy, vulgar, owns some 75 cars and blocks whole London streets with them. I hope to keep the greaseball out of my favourite establishments, but it’s going to be an uphill battle. His brutish philistinism is the norm among new money, so what chance does the poor little Greek boy have of keeping the barbarians at the gates from storming the place. If I told you my plan, I’d be giving away my secrets prematurely. Lady Luck might get pissed off and that’s one lady you always need on your side.
And, speaking of luck, I wrote a piece for the Catholic Herald on being a devout Christian whose father was a Jesuit, and my name appeared on the cover between those of Marie Christine of Kent and Richard Ingrams, two of the more unchristian people I have come across. The former, who obviously suffers from an egregious inferiority complex, puts people down in the mistaken idea that by doing so she elevates herself. She’s nothing but an insecure climber. The latter has spent a life maliciously spreading lies about people who he knows will not sue. He’s still crying after his resignation as editor of the Oldie following clashes with the publisher. I come across as a saint. Compared with those two anyone is saintly. Even a poor little sinner like me.