The enforced boredom of lockdown has been replaced by a feeling of loss. My nephew by marriage, Hansie Schoenburg, died aged 33 from a brain tumour, and then there was the death of my close friend Shahriar Bakhtiar, aged 72.
Hansie was tall, blond, a Yale grad, and extremely handsome. Recently married, he died surrounded by his family. He was very close to both my children. Shahriar was the Persian Boy who, as a slender, bright-eyed six-year-old with not a word of English, was dispatched from Persia to an English school known for its cold rooms and strict rules. The Persian Boy learned early to do without parents.
The bitter irony of their respective deaths was that while Hansie had been willing himself to live these past 15 years, Shahriar had had enough. Unlike many vulgar, newly rich Iranians who ran around London’s clubs back in the 1970s, Shahriar Bakhtiar came from an old and good family that had seen better days when the last Shah’s father grabbed power in the 1920s. A young Shahriar was first noticed by the last Shah’s twin sister, Ashraf, in Tehran, as was a young Taki in the south of France. The Persian and I did not know each other but we sort of got together when the predatory Ashraf invited me to dinner. I did a Usain Bolt and ran for the hills; Shahriar obeyed the royal command.
I never allowed him to forget it, that’s for sure. The truth is that 60 years ago I was sneaking around with Soraya, the Shah’s beautiful ex-wife who was divorced by him because she could not have children. Soraya warned me to keep things to myself, otherwise the Shah’s secret police would do me in.