The bells are ringing, the bells are ringing, ding dong, ding dong. The cows are down from up high, where they’ve been grazing since spring. I look at them from my window and they stare back. I love hearing cowbells day and night. Their sound accompanies me as I hit the makiwara.
I like it best when the cows cosy up and examine me up close. They have a complete absence of expression: no emotion, no curiosity, serene. The one that grazes just outside my window I call Emily, and she has even more tsuki no kokoro — ‘mind like the moon’ in karate parlance — than the rest. Which is the opposite of, say, Emily Maitlis, the BBC sexpot. Her pointy features and lean and hungry looks are hardly bovine, but her expressions remind me of those Arab souk sellers who try to convince their customers that the statuettes of Queen Nefertiti they’re peddling were discovered in her grave. My cow is the antithesis of the BBC one — guileless and totally at peace with her surroundings. Ding dong, ding dong.
Next week I shall be reporting to you from the Big Bagel, where a collective nervous breakdown has taken place. This is all owing to the Kavanaugh confirmation, I am told by the highest authority. But for now I will tell you about the best-ever party I went to last weekend in Munich, and the brilliant Oktoberfest blast given by Countess Maya von Schoenburg.
In these increasingly horrible, brutalist times, Maya’s party was like the proverbial oasis in the middle of the Kalahari. Parties started the downhill slide when so-called celebrities began to be invited to society get-togethers. First it was the Hilton sisters, then the Kardashians, now there are even lower people such as James Stunt and Philip Green. Maya stuck to the Almanach de Gotha, about 220 of the best, but the success of the blast was down to the children. Grown-up children, that is. There were Schoenburgs galore, and their adult children, Thurn und Taxis and children, Taki and children, my new countess daughter stupendously pregnant with her count and wearing her dirndl like a true Austrian.
Maya’s presence at her own party deserves not only praise but also the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves for bravery. Two weeks earlier she had had a major lung operation, the last of many interventions after a lifetime of heavy smoking. But there she was standing up amid the crowd, greeting us and laughing and directing us to our seats. Her son Mauritz Flick gave the most wonderful speech about what a great mother to four children she’s been, and how together they would face an anxious future. People openly wept.
There had been no tears the previous night. Munich is one of the most beautiful cities of Europe, and the Oktoberfest takes place on a hill next to the cast-iron statue of Bavaria before the magnificent Doric temple known as the Hall of Fame. More than five million litres of beer are consumed every year, but the rowdy crowds were friendly and peaceful, if a bit pukeful. Maya’s party at the festival was kept strictly separate by smiling fuzz, all tall and blond and Teutonic. Wunderbar!
There were Pugs galore, Hoares, Hutleys, Bismarcks, Sachs, Hanovers, the nicest Brit royal bar none, Freddie Windsor, and then the most beautiful young women I’ve laid eyes on, starting with Mafalda of Hesse, and various blonde daughters of the Gotha whose names my son would not give me. As I was looking for my table I noticed Bill and Hillary Clinton arrive, and then Maya’s sister Gloria Thurn und Taxis yelled out my name and indicated that I was at her table. On her right was the 42nd president, who took my hand and looked at me almost quizzically. His eyes were asking why, but there was a smile on his face. While he was president, I once sat next to his press representative George Stephanopoulos and he told me they would read me each week and marvel at the venom I would direct at 42. Hence the quizzical look and long-held handshake. I sat across from Gloria and Barry Diller, the Hollywood mogul married to Diane von Fürstenberg, who had flown the Clintons and Annette de la Renta out for the party. I had a brief chat with Bill, and he agreed with me that the Democrats had overcooked it when it came to Kavanaugh.
But the night belonged to the young Gotha-mites, who were all dressed in their Bavarian costumes and whose partying was a long way from the modern world of freaks and uglies. Next to me sat the most attractive woman of all, Marie-Clare Elliot, whose only blemish is that she’s in love with and loyal to her hubbie Ben, nephew of Camilla. I opened the conversation with a question: ‘How many children do you have?’ ‘Two.’ ‘With me you would have had eight by now.’ ‘Thank God I’m not married to you.’ Yet despite the rough beginning, Marie-Clare turned out to be the best company and friendliest girl of all, so now I suffer like never before. But the night and the party belonged to the one and only Maya, whom I thank for the best blast ever.