High life | 14 February 2019

High life | 14 February 2019
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Who was it that said we always hurt those we love the most? I did just that last week, skiing out of control, making a sharp left turn and crashing into my wife Alexandra — a beautiful and terrific skier — who was standing still in front of a mogul. As I knocked her down, my skis ran over her face crushing her nose and causing two deep gashes on her forehead. I then rolled down the mountain unable to stop because of the ghastly plastic garments we now wear that accelerate our speed on the ground. Neither Alexandra nor I wear a helmet while skiing, something to reconsider if ever there is a next time.

We were four, and my son-in-law and daughter came to my wife’s aid as I had rolled down the slope about a quarter of a mile and was having trouble getting back up. Alexandra bled a lot but fortunately her nose was very bruised but not broken — she has a perfect nose, even if I say so myself. Now, one week later, she looks as though she has gone five rounds with Mike Tyson at his peak. The gashes are large, both eyes are deep purple and black, and she feels concussed. My children have kept the jokes to a minimum, and so have I. Needless to say, I feel horrified. There are so many unpleasant people who ski nowadays and I had to crash into the person I love the most. Forty-seven years is a long time to be Madame Taki, and although born a Serene Highness she’s always called herself Mrs T., something I take as an acknowledgment of my uxorious nature.

Although I have been a very bad boy most of my life, the one time she should not have turned a blind eye was last week. But there you have it: life is about what we can and cannot control, and on this occasion I was out of control because of age, bravado and the refusal to accept that things ain’t what they used to be. I have to slow down and grow up. Mind you, after we’d all skied down and stopped the bleeding, I thought of all the people I could have crashed into — why oh why doesn’t Philip Green ski? Then it was time for a helicopter to Bern and X-rays. Now everything’s hunky-dory except she don’t look so good no more. But it’s only a matter of time. So I am now an extra man, as Alexandra has cancelled her social engagements until further notice.

Ironically, I happened to be rereading Leo Tolstoy’s novella The Kreutzer Sonata the very day of the accident. Written in 1889, the action takes place on a train — Leo baby must have liked trains because they often play a large part in his fiction, especially when Anna Karenina throws herself under one — where a quiet but ‘sardonically observant’ passenger called Pozdnyshev recalls his life as a fornicator and his marriage to a woman based on mutual deception. He catches her cheating on him and murders her. He is given a light sentence because his crime is judged to be a ‘crime passionnel’. He now rides the trains seeking absolution. Sex is bad, says Leo, but for once I beg to differ with Count Tolstoy.

OK, so I didn’t ever catch Alexandra cheating on me, and would not have killed her if I had, but our marriage has lasted as long as it has because she’s a lady and a mother first, and a wife who understands that if one marries a bad boy, they stay bad all their life. Anyway, as I’ve always said, one can be a faithless hubby and a very good one, or a faithful one and lousy as hell.

My skiing accident was the bad news. The good news is that a Spectator reader, Peter Levelle, has invented a system — Booteze — that helps you glide your foot into a ski boot. It’s like putting on a slipper. He is now perfecting the design, but look out for it, you will never again have trouble getting into a ski boot. I want to thank him for his kindness and generosity and wish him all the best. I wonder what other publication has such readers.

Last but not least, Steve Kerridge, a Brit, has put together a glossy coffee-table book about Bruce Lee, the most comprehensive study of his life and art that I know of. The book is beautifully bound and is called A Mandarin Superstar, something Bruce Lee certainly was. It includes a rather nice picture of a much younger Taki, who trained with Bruce in Gstaad back in 1970 when the superstar was a guest of Roman Polanski. Steve Kerridge has done a great job and was very accurate in reporting the things I said to him. This is rare and the result is a wonderful book, pictorially and otherwise, of the life cut short of a great martial artist.

I thank both gentlemen, just as I did a Speccie-reading couple some ten years ago. When I falsely announced my engagement to Mary Wakefield, they sent me some very good wine and then refused to take it back when I admitted that I had seen Mary only once and from a distance. See the difference between writing for The Spectator and, say, Screw magazine? We have readers such as those I’ve just mentioned; Screw has Philip Green types.