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High life

The staff of The Spectator are straight out of a painting by Norman Rockwell

From the Hollywood handsome top banana to the siren-like maiden I’m now engaged to

11 July 2015

9:00 AM

11 July 2015

9:00 AM

Wow, what a week. London may be bad for one’s health, but it sure makes it fun on the way to where we’re all going. I’m determined not to mention Greece — too much has been written about my poor country, most of it quite nice — so I will stick to London in general and The Spectator in particular. It began with a nostalgic party for about 28 chez George and Lita Livanos, childhood friends, in their treasure-filled house in Mayfair. A drunken lunch in a St James’s club followed, five old buddies reminiscing about the days when hangovers didn’t register. Then it was on to The Spectator’s summer party, which was ruined for me by the warning that a letter to me from Speccie girls would appear in the magazine the next day, and by the fact that my colleague Hugo Rifkind shoved me under a shower in the gents that left me drenched and looking as though I was perspiring in an excessive Hellenic manner. (I had to go upstairs, where my editor Lucy slaves away, undress, and hang my shirt and jacket in front of a fan. After about ten minutes, a lady walked in and screamed. ‘You’re not supposed to be doing this,’ she cried. But I was only half naked, the top half, so she did protest rather a lot.)

Now what can one say about the best magazine in the English-speaking world that hasn’t been said already. I’ll tell you: it is a family that could have been painted by Norman Rockwell. It is an idealised depiction of a weekly’s microcosm: the Hollywood handsome top banana, the Andy Hardy-like deputy editor, the man-torturing commissioning (sigh) editor, and a lot of beautiful, Siren-like young maidens straight out of TheOdyssey. (I should have tied myself to the mast, but the new Bushido is still in dry dock.) There is one beauty among the beauties who makes my knees buckle. Lara looks 14 but is in her early twenties, and I suspect she was the driving force behind the letter against the poor little Greek boy. I am engaged to be married to Lara this autumn. The only fib I’ve told her is that I’m 96 years old. The wedding will take place in The Spectator’s chapel, and Fraser Nelson and Freddy Gray are my witnesses and best men. Yes, the commissioning (sigh) editor is invited as is the whole Speccie family. The Reverend Andrew Neil will conduct the brief ceremony, which will take place two days — and nights, yippee! — before the happy couple fly to Athens, where the Patriarch will bless us. If the airport is open, that is, and if there are any donkeys left to take us into the city. (After the party I went to Prince Pavlos’s summer bash, where I made no sense, and the less I speak about that the better.)

Which, like it or not, brings me back to Greece. The modern Greek tragicomedy was encapsulated by Janet Daley in last week’s Sunday’s Telegraph: ‘The Greek people must come to terms with the consequences of electing Russell Brand to head their government.’ Hear, hear! The disgusting phony Russell Brand as premier, and Bozo the Clown as finance minister says it all. The clown has resigned, but like everything these Trotskyites do, it is for show. Mind you, the Luxembourg lion Jean-Claude Juncker, more hyena than king of the jungle, is no better than the Cheapras bum. David Cameron was so right when he tried to block the hyena a couple of years ago. The idea of a Luxembourg bureaucrat who has never done anything except kiss ass upwards and kick downwards telling proud Greeks what to do is as unacceptable as me getting my facts wrong where Nobel Prize-winners are concerned.

Three loyal readers have written in, and, yes, Ireland did win four Nobels for literature — Yeats, Shaw, Beckett and Heaney — and I was a fool to write what I did. From faraway Finland came another Taki-drubbing, a letter exposing my ignorance that seven Swedes have won that particular prize. Oy vey. The only Swedes I’ve read are Hemingway, Tolstoy, Fitzgerald, Greene, Dostoevsky, Flaubert, Zola and Waugh. I’m buggered either way. But back to London and The Spectator.

The readers’ party was as good as it gets. Our readers are straight out of Norman Rockwell too. The garden party served only tea, thank God, so the liver had a rest and so did our precious guests. Amid the circus of egotism and self-absorption that is today’s culture, it was nice to meet proper and civilised British gentlemen and ladies, and if that sounds corny, too bad. Our readers reflect the magazine and vice versa. The only sour note came from me during the prize draw. As a joke I said that first prize was one night with Tsipras’s girlfriend, second prize two nights, and so on.

Much later, I met with my future in-laws, Lord and Lady Belhaven and Stenton. Their out-of-this-world daughter, Olenka Hamilton, is also my betrothed. We drank far into the night in the gardens of the Polish Club, until even the Poles had had enough and closed the place up. It was a hell of a week, and a hell of an evening as I also managed to give an interview to the man who has written the greatest judo book ever, The Pyjama Game. Now I’m back in Gstaad recovering and biding my time for my next outing. It will be in Athens and I will be afloat. Down with Juncker and Tsipras; vive le roi!

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