Taki Taki

In praise of Londoners

‘How does anyone recognise an old man hanging around Belgravia and its environs?’ [peterspiro]

Southampton, Long Island

‘Why, oh why, do the wrong people travel?’ sang Noël Coward back in the early 1960s. Lucky Sir Noël, he never met the present bunch. Just as the Bolsheviks deemed the aristocracy and the intelligentsia to be enemies of the people back in 1917, good manners and conservative dress are viewed today – at least in the Bagel – as false and affected. But I’m getting away from the subject at hand. I just bought Masquerade, a doorstopper biography of Sir Noël, but I remember the song from way back, before the one time I met him. It was 21 June 1969, in Vevey, Switzerland, and Charlie Chaplin’s daughter Josephine was getting married to a Greek friend of mine, Nicky Sistovaris. I was the only journalist invited and was allowed to take pictures for Paris Match. Chaplin was gracious and eager to talk, whereas Oona, his wife, was very guarded. After the wedding Noël Coward arrived and we were introduced. ‘I’m no paparazzo,’ I ventured. ‘I can see the Via Veneto rising up behind you,’ answered the great one.

Needless to say, it’s good to be back in London again. Two encounters took place, both totally unexpected. I caught an early flight from the Bagel, checked into my hotel and went to Sloane Square for a bite to eat. As bad luck would have it, I drank a bottle of red on an empty stomach – when flying, the trick is never to eat – and when I walked out for a cigarette, my head was spinning and I had to lean against the wall in order not to look even more ridiculous. That is when a young man approached me. Uh-oh, I thought. He probably thinks the old boy is easy pickings. It shows how good a judge I am of human nature.

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