Birthdays at my age are for the birds, but always a good excuse for a party. Messages of good wishes began early on, with loyal Speccie reader Arnold Taylor ringing from South Africa, and Rosemary and Wafic Saïd texting from the English countryside. (They wished me a happy 39th. I accepted.) My great buddy Michael Mailer, staying with the Kennedys at the family compound in Hyannis Port, had hoped to fly over but the you-know-what prevented it, while Charlie Glass rang from London to announce the end of capitalism as well as yours truly. I asked Charlie to answer me truthfully, because it was my birthday, and he swore he would. ‘Do you have as many children out of wedlock as Boris, or more?’ I said. He hung up on me.
That evening Johnnie and Martine Cotton gifted me a ginkgo tree, one that I suspect will outlive me by rather a long way. Then the boozing started in earnest and I’m still under the weather. There’s not much to say about old age that hasn’t already been said, but there is this: wisdom does not come automatically with advanced years, neither does the urge to seduce women take a hike. To be happy when old, you need luck and good health. The rest is all bull. One tends to weigh up the few triumphs and numerous disasters, the ethical choices one has or has not made. One also appreciates the absurd happiness that comes from small pleasures, such as violent karate training, stolen kisses, family evenings and boozing with friends. Travel is no longer a must, especially when one has been almost everywhere and seen almost everything there is to see.
For some strange reason, America is always on my mind nowadays.