High life

How London nearly killed me

If I lived in London I’d have died long ago — and on my last visit I came close

29 October 2016

9:00 AM

29 October 2016

9:00 AM

I was not on the winning side of the debate, despite giving it the old college try. Thank god for my South African friend Simon Reader, who coached me just before I went on. Mind you, my side felt a bit like Maxime Weygand, the French general who, in June 1940, was happily smoking his pipe back in Syria when he got the call to take over the French army. The Germans had already taken Holland and Belgium and had breached la Ligne Maginot, Gamelin had thrown in the towel, and Paul Reynaud had called for a fresh face to stop the mighty Wehrmacht. ‘Gee, thanks a bunch,’ said Weygand, but took it like a real Frenchman and surrendered to the German army a couple of weeks later.

Two months ago, when I was kindly invited by The Spectator to defend the Donald, he was yet to do an Annie Oakley on his foot. But I’ve always loved lost causes, especially one who is up against a woman who, however inadvertently, will continue Obama’s strategy of destroying western hegemony. I was happy to see Conrad Black again, who by the way debated without notes and wiped the floor with everyone. The one that didn’t race my motor was a boring American man who heads Democrats (yawn) Abroad. He kept name-dropping locations he had visited during the campaign, as if any of us gave a damn where he’d been.

So what else is new? Daniel McCarthy wrote in these pages that Hillary will push for globalist economics, and that, with the support of Beltway insiders — read neocons and other architects of the Iraq disaster — she will be an interventionist and nation-builder. All I can say is heaven help us. My only hope is that Saint Theresa doesn’t do a Blair and follow that Clinton woman like a lemming.


What fun it was to be back in London for four days of partying that made me want to shout. One thing men no longer do in America is have fun lunches. They are too busy chasing the mighty buck. There are only ladies who lunch, and they are mostly over the hill, pulled to the extreme, and widows. Not in good old London. Bellamy’s, for example, is as good a place to lunch and spend the early afternoon in as any St James’s club. Gavin Rankin runs it like a club: the service is impeccable, the food excellent, and I didn’t see the kind of low-lifer from the Gulf one runs into nowadays in chic London establishments. I lunched there with my very old friend Timmy Hanbury, who had brought along Zuleika Dobson. Iona McLaren is the most attractive young woman in London, and she has the brains to match. She is the Telegraph’s books editor and boy, I wouldn’t mind turning into a tome as long as I ended up in her hands. She’s named after the Greek priestess Io who was loved by Zeus and changed into a heifer to protect herself from Hera’s jealousy. Io visited Prometheus and described her tribulations in Aeschylus’ play, and her story is also told by Ovid. From now on it will be told by Taki.

Perfect English rose looks aside, she seemed unaware of that uniquely English upper-class pas de deux of meanness of spirit and snobbism. Instead, this truly beautiful young woman exudes an approachable and immensely welcoming air. Lucky Timmy, unlucky Taki. Then there was a dinner by yet another Tim, Commodore Tim Hoare, followed by a Pugs club do chez la princesse de Hanovre to welcome two new Pugs members, making us 21 and closing the membership until one of us drops off. (I am apparently odds on to be the second member to leave the club feet first.)

I have said it before and will say it again: if I lived in London I’d have died long ago. This time it was close. As I was leaving my hotel not having gone to bed, the hall porter had the bad idea of ringing the mother of my children in Gstaad and informing her that I was not looking my best. It was 6 a.m. After a brief chat, I was given permission to go on. At the airport, although flying first class, I was questioned time and again by a cheeky chappie as to whether I was feeling well enough to fly. My answer is always the same. I am not flying the bloody plane but sleeping in it. And I suffer from a speech impediment that makes me sound funny at times. I was taken to my seat and the next thing I knew a kind stewardess was telling me we were back in the Bagel. (How I got through security I’ll never know.)

After a couple of days everything is back to normal. Karate starts today and judo follows tomorrow. Isis, in the meantime, has executed 284 human beings in cold blood as the so-called Iraqi army is closing in on Mosul. (The Kurds are doing the fighting along with some Iraqi militias.) While this cold-blooded murder is going on a UN official is seeking a war-crimes inquiry into the Aleppo bombing. UN officials are as useless as the tax-dodging gigolos of EU infamy. Give me Iona any day and then some.

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