I am no admirer of Donald Trump — not because he is a doomsayer and professional patriot but because he is a fake and, worse, he owes me money. A few years back I was telephoned by a friend. ‘I have to give a dinner for Donald Trump,’ he said, dolorously. ‘He entertained me in Palm Beach and now he’s over here.’ The dinner was in a bijou Mayfair restaurant and we were a party of about eight. Let me say one thing for Trump: he isn’t stupid. We had never met, but he spotted me for an Englishwoman right away. The other guests were various members of the London ton, including an hereditary peer and the son of a duke (despite Mr Trump’s professed belief in the infallibility of the common people, he has unerring snobbisme and would rather meet a titled Englishman than George Washington, were he alive today.) Like many American Anglo-Saxons, he was crude, shallow and devoid of aesthetic feeling. He was wearing an ill-fitting jacket, the shoulders of which appeared to be padded. His hair was naturally red, not blond, and his complexion, like that of all redheads, defied the elements; everything — sun, wind, rain — had discoloured it. His hands were damp and his egg-like eyes looked me straight in the bosom.
Yet he was no Bombastes Furioso. He seemed timorous of speech and the burden of conversation fell on me. ‘I was in Washington recently,’ I said, in an attempt to interest him. ‘I saw Norma at the opera house.’ His reply bewildered me: ‘Norma who?’ Trump’s whole thought process seemed dislocated. I tried to get him on the subject of Ronald Reagan, but he had spotted Jerry Hall across the room and shouted ‘Hey, Jerry.’ He turned back to me: ‘Too liberal.’ ‘Who? Jerry Hall?’ ‘No, Reagan.’ ‘Is that bad?’ ‘I don’t know. Is Jerry going to join us?’ I had the impression that politics bored him. Also, that he was phonier than a nine-dollar bill. Beneath the braggadocio and 100 per cent Americanism was a socially insecure man who sought the company of foreign aristocrats, did not know what he really believed and felt the need to pad out his clothes.
I have a more serious caveat. The very rich seldom carry cash and I lent him £20 for a taxi. I have neither seen nor heard from him since. The FBI should be alerted and his opponents should grab him under the Corrupt Practices Act, which forbids political candidates from taking money from foreigners.
I have recently returned from Jamaica Inn, Ochos Rios, the most swellegant hotel in the Caribbean, where Noël Coward and Ian Fleming used to water-hole. The owner, Eric Morrow, showed me prints of Fleming in the bar with Coward performing his risqué version of Cole Porter’s ‘You’re the Top’. (‘You’re the breasts of Venus,/ You’re King Kong’s penis/ You’re self-abuse.’) It was here that James Bond’s ‘shaken not stirred’ martini was invented. They had been playing tennis and asked the barman for martinis the temperature of freon. ‘Don’t stir them,’ said Fleming. ‘Shake them up with ice.’ Fleming despised his Bond books, confiding to my father, the late politician Woodrow Wyatt, that they were ‘rubbish’. Unlike Bond, he didn’t like sex much either. He would tell his wife Ann that he couldn’t make love to her because it made his hair fall out.
Coward’s Jamaican home, Firefly, is almost derelict now. Weeds grow in the rooms and the walls are discoloured with damp. Coward’s piano is missing three keys. A dining table is laid out with cracked crockery, as it was when Princess Margaret came for lunch. Coward died here a disappointed man. It was strange that he was only knighted four years before his death, given his propaganda and intelligence work during the second world war. The Queen Mother spoke of it to me once: ‘I loved “The Master”. Winston liked him, too. It was Philip who was always against it. He has a thing about the more flamboyant sort of queer.’
While sojourning in the country I encountered one of our former prime ministers, accompanied by his security detail. The taxpayer covers this and I confess myself aghast — at how much these fellows eat. One resembled a dirigible while the other two broke sweat when reaching for their fourth pastry basket of the morning. Is it fit that our ex-PMs should be protected by such unfit men? At least if an assassin emerged all they would have to do is sit on him.
I have been trying on Wallis Simpson’s frocks, acquired by my friend William Banks-Blaney, founder of William Vintage. But I struggled to get into her jackets, since she had no chest. Once the Duchess told the epicene Cole Porter, ‘You almost look like a man.’ He rejoined, ‘So do you.’ With the benefit of sartorial hindsight, I can confirm that he was right.
Petronella Wyatt is a former deputy editor of The Spectator.