Taki Taki

My night with Rod Liddle

Illustration: Natasha Lawson

‘I was 12 when I first got laid.’ ‘Where was that?’ ‘In Middlesbrough.’ ‘How the hell did you get lucky at 12 in Middlesbrough, when I only managed it at 15 and on my father’s boat off Cannes in 1952?’ ‘It was a dark and stormy night.’

This was no tortured confession by some doomed poet or gender-confused feminist, just party banter between the great Rod Liddle – who went Bulwer-Lytton on me – and the poor little Greek boy. The setting: the Old Queen Street garden where The Spectator is located and where we celebrated the sainted editor’s 50th birthday. Before I get to that, though, what is it about Middlesbrough? Is it the water, the climate or the girls that helped Rod lose his virginity so early? ‘I know who she is,’ was all he said when I pumped him for more details. Never mind. Rod’s wife soon joined us and he changed the conversation to economics: who will be the next lucky winner to own us? Now that’s the million-dollar question, if only it cost just a million to own Britain’s oldest magazine and the best the world has ever known. When I first joined The Spectator, it was passed from one proprietor to the next for nothing, as it cost a lot to own because it didn’t make a profit. Now that it does, it’s a whole different ballgame, as they say down in Louisiana.

Is it Middlesbrough’s water, climate or the girls that helped Rod lose his virginity so early?

Needless to say, the party was wonderful. Both Fraser and our chairman Andrew Neil gave reassuring speeches, and ordered the troops to stop speculating and start celebrating. Fraser has a very beautiful family, which as an ancient Greek I take to be a very good sign. Zeus and the rest of the gods created heroes with great looks, whereas they made the baddies look like crap.

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