High life | 11 December 2010

Taki lives the High Life

Text settings

This is in praise of younger men. An outrage is about to take place at Preston Crown Court, where on 7 January 2011, a beautiful 27-year-old ballet teacher, Sarah Pirie, will be sentenced for ‘abducting a 15-year-old’, who was not named (unlucky chappie) for obvious reasons. In my not so humble opinion, this is dead wrong. And if the ballet teacher is sent to prison, it will be the cruellest decision since the Athenians sent poor old Socrates down for corrupting the young.

Mind you, the Brits have always been undersexed, underfinanced and, most of the time, under the table with drink, but this is ridiculous. Because is there a greater gift a 27-year-old beauty can bestow on a 15-year-old boy than sex? Not the other way round, mind you. A 27-year-old man should not have sex with a 15-year-old girl, although in our promiscuous times finding a 15-year-old innocent is like winning the lottery. No, a girl has to be of age, but certainly not a boy. The greatest rite of passage takes place between the sheets when an older woman takes a young man to bed.

Take my case, for example. It was September 1952 and I was returning to America with my parents on the SS Constitution, a great liner, sister ship to SS Independence. We boarded in Cannes with the next stop New York harbour. On board was a famous Norwegian female ship-owner known as Oilboat Olga. She and my father knew each other and we shared a table in the first-class dining-room. Oilboat Olga was travelling with her daughter, a 24-year-old blonde beauty who was obviously bored, and in her boredom took a shine to me. We ended up in the sack. I had turned 15 the previous month. Needless to say, I couldn’t believe my luck, so much so that I stayed in my cabin throughout the trip until my mother had had enough and mentioned the fact to Oilboat Olga, within reason, that is.

My father, in the meantime, was making a play for Olga, so the atmosphere became strained, to say the least. The captain of the good ship was called Bernt Jacobsen, of good Norwegian stock, so my mother, a saint if ever there was one, went to him dropping hints that her two men were acting in an undignified manner. The captain played dumb, according to old dad years later, and assured her that it was all innocent fun. (Knowing my father, he most likely had promised a port captain’s job to Jacobsen after his retirement.)

Now I ask you, dear readers, should Oilboat Olga’s beautiful daughter have been arrested upon arrival for corrupting me? I was not a virgin (no male returned a virgin from the Riviera back then, except, that is, for types like Cecil Beaton and Harold Nicolson) but she sure taught me a trick or two. That we overdid things cannot be denied. We only appeared for lunch and dinner and never once made it to the swimming pool or the various bars. A transatlantic record may even have been set — at 15 anything is possible.

When I got back to Blair Academy and told my schoolmates about it they all laughed in my face and said that these things take place only in the movies. Some movie! The funny thing is I never saw or heard from her again. But the trip will always stay in my mind as the greatest ever, the most dizzying crossing of any ocean, and that includes those crossed by Magellan, Columbus and even Vasco de Gama.

Sexual ferment is to a teenager what lying is to Tony Blair or Bill Clinton. Ever present and all-consuming. A normal 15-year-old is a walking boner, no ifs or buts about it. I’d see an ankle and the tennis game went down the tubes. My wrestling coach used to look at me while addressing the team before an important meet and say that I would need all my strength tomorrow, so stop thinking of girls and think about how to beat the opponent. As the opponents were boys, today I could sue him for encouraging homosexuality, but that wouldn’t get me anywhere in 2010. In fact, it could land me in the pokey.

As the great choreographer George Balanchine wrote to Jackie Kennedy, ‘Woman is the world, and man lives in it.’ Jackie wanted to know why he was so obsessed with ballerinas — old George landed them all, the beauties, in any case — and he answered her truthfully. For good measure, he also wrote to the widow that ‘men take care of material things, women take care of the soul’. You can say that again.

So back to the ballet teacher Sarah Pirie. I only know what I read in the tabloids, but I think it’s funny that the alleged victim, the teenager, was reluctant to testify. Again, you can say that again. Why testify against your benefactor? Five charges of unlawful sexual activity that took place between March and June last year have been dropped. Without knowing the details, I’ll bet the farm that March, April, May and June are the teenager’s favourite months. And a few cheap hotels in Manchester are palaces in his imagination.

I can still remember my cabin on the Constitution and 57 years have gone by. If there was such a thing as justice in the world, Russia and Qatar would not have been chosen, not to mention Sarah Pirie prosecuted. Every year in Britain, 37,000 violent thugs are escaping justice, and the system goes after her. So, older women of the world, unite. You have nothing to lose but a few good screws when they cart you off to jail.