There is nothing much I can add to what Daniel Johnson and Charles Moore wrote about the great Paul Johnson, except that I shall miss his annual summer visits to Gstaad, where we walked for hours on mountain trails and I had the opportunity to take in some of his best bon mots. He knew everything and could tell a story like no one else. On the occasions when Lady Carla was with us – she is Italian and never draws a breath – Paul would not slow down for her to catch up but every five minutes or so he’d bellow ‘Is that so?’ and then bash on. My Alexandra particularly liked him and asked me time and again why I didn’t have more friends like Paul.
The answer is obvious. There are not many Paul Johnsons around. There is one, however, who is a polymath like the departed, and even has red hair. Long ago I took him to lunch and brought a couple of beauties with me. They were young, very cute, and not too shifty upstairs. After a while they asked Simon Heffer what he did in life. ‘I make a decent living posing as a body double for Fergie,’ was his answer. The duchess was in the news back then, something to do with toe-sucking, I believe. The cutie pies thought it wonderful – the body-double part, that is. And they fell for it. What separates British greats from their counterparts across the ocean is a sense of humour. It could be the diet, all those hamburgers, but the moment an American knows a lot they take themselves extremely seriously and turn into terrific bores.
One such man was the Washington columnist Walter Lippmann – a double Pulitzer Prize winner, the founder of the New Republic and adviser to presidents – who joined Gianni Agnelli and little ole me for lunch at a chic French restaurant in the Bagel.