Taki

High life | 20 June 2019

High life | 20 June 2019
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Bellamy’s and Oswald’s are the two best restaurants in London. They are owned by two friends of mine — both gents, both English — and the service and food are as good as it gets. And it don’t get better, as they say in Chicago. Last Friday I got off the plane and went straight to Bellamy’s, where the owner Gavin Rankin, Tim Hanbury, annually voted father- and husband-of-the-year since 1980, and Charles Glass, left-wing author and right-wing bon vivant, were waiting. Vodka, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, beer and brandies followed.

Living in Gstaad does for the mind what cocaine does for the libido. The last conversation I had back home was with a cow that had trundled over to inspect me. Friday night certainly made up for it. Timmy remarked that it had been 50 years since his class at Eton graduated and not a single one of them had ascended. I took exception. I was an usher at his wedding 40 years ago and reminded him that his best man, Bunter, had become a duke. ‘But that’s inherited,’ spluttered Timmy. ‘One inherits brains. Another inherits looks — courage even. So what’s wrong with inheriting a title or money?’ said the ancient Greek wise man. My argument shut everyone up.

Speaking of inheriting moolah, we were all touched by Charles Moore’s recent column about his father. I have a story of my own and told it to Caroline and Charles the next day at lunch. Soon after my own father’s death on 14 July 1989, I went to Charles’s for a drink, and met his father. The gossip columns had erroneously published that I’d inherited hundreds of millions. Mr Moore, a very English gentleman, asked me if I could tell my real friends from those hoping to gain something. ‘It’s all a sham,’ I told him, ‘invented by The Spectator for the purposes of its high life column: the rich Greek playboy son of a shipping tycoon. In fact, I haven’t got a bean and live off a hundred quid a week.’ Charles’s father seemed delighted to hear it, smiled at me and moved on.

Hangover or not, early Saturday morning I was driven out west (not the wild one but Oxfordshire). The occasion was Rosemary and Wafic Said’s 50th wedding anniversary, and the lunch should have been filmed as a lesson to new billionaires attempting to buy elegance. Tusmore Park, where the beautiful Palladian house stands, was in the Capability Brown mould: endless lawns, gardens and grazing sheep. A band played as we arrived and greeted our host and hostess.

Revived by some brilliant rosé wine, I looked around the stunning setting and saw Charles and Caroline Moore, Simon Heffer and his wife, who paid me an undeserved compliment, a couple of dukes (Marlborough and Devonshire), the beautiful Henrietta Spencer-Churchill, too many billionaires to list, my friends Brian and Mila Mulroney (the ex-prime minister of Canada and his wife), Robin Birley, Rupert Hambro, Henry Wyndham, the Radziwills, Lita Livanos, and my new best friend, sitting one away and in deep conversation with Princess Michael of Kent. He is Dr Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines since 28 March 2001. He has been continuously and democratically elected, and is a loyal Spectator reader to boot. We agreed on everything, especially that there’s nothing anti-Semitic about sympathy for the Palestinian cause, despite Bibi’s and American efforts to make it look that way.

Wafic spoke first and without a script. There was not one corny word or line, a rare exception when talking about love and marriage. Then came Rosemary, and ditto: none of the corniness that would drive you to the bottle. It was beautiful and heart-warming stuff. Mind you, Julius, the major-domo taking care of me (also a Spectator reader), poured the Latour ’98 as if the Wermacht were arriving, and soon I was being overfriendly with everyone. Prince Pierre d’Arenberg, an old friend, raised his glass but kept his distance. I know the drill.

My question is: how has a man who has created and given millions upon millions to the business school in Oxford, taken care of thousands upon thousands of Syrian refugees’ needs, supported countless causes — as Lord Powell said in the third and last speech — not been honoured by the state, while flunkeys and (libel laws prevent me from correctly describing him) low-lifers like that Philip Green man prance about with a handle. It’s a disgrace and someone should wake up and do something about it. Otherwise titles are a joke.

As the Latour settled, Alfie Boe and a great band knocked the socks off ‘La Vie en rose’, and I heard a youngster screech: ‘What a great new song that is.’ It got better and better, but then my driver took me back to London and a Saturday night alone and abandoned was my punishment. Next it was the annual Pugs club lunch, honouring as always our departed president for life —and death — Nick Scott.

What can I say to top it? Prince Pavlos of Greece flew over for it, George Livanos of Greece flew over for it, Arkie Busson of Hollywood flew over for it, Count Bismarck walked over for it, as did yours truly. Our commodore for life Tim Hoare was driven over for it, Roger Taylor of Bohemian Rhapsody drummed his way over, and the man who gave the greatest funeral oration about Nick since Mark Antony’s about Caesar, Bob Geldof, hitchhiked over from the south coast in order not to spend money on travel. A great week, but the old liver’s gone.