The art of laziness

The art of laziness
‘The Land of Cockayne’, 1567, by Pieter Bruegel the Elder [INTERFOTO / Alamy Stock Photo]
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New York

Living a life of pleasure is fun, but it can also become tiresome. Living an ethical life of responsibility is beneficial to the soul, but also boring. I am stuck between the two at times, and I think age has a lot to do with it. A constant reminder of the very visible yoke of age comes daily, as I march up and down Park Avenue noticed by absolutely no one. I really don’t mind, cross my heart; in fact, it makes me laugh at times when I’m dressed to the nines and go unnoticed even by the panhandlers. And being dressed correctly nowadays makes one really stand out, like a giraffe among penguins. But in my case: nothing. Old age makes one invisible, which is fine if you’re a criminal, but not so fine if you have even the tiniest of egos. For women it must be ten times worse, and my heart goes out to female oldies.

With age ambition takes a time-out, as does virulence against injustice, the plight of Palestinians foremost in my mind. Forty years ago I regularly wrote against Israeli illegal settlements and outright seizures of Palestinian lands. The usual and immediate accusations of anti-Semitism followed. If memory serves, it bothered me back then because they were false – the accusations, that is. Now I’m like Rhett Butler and don’t give a damn, but then again I haven’t been writing about the Palestinians, have I? That’s because I’m lazy – according to my wife, ‘the laziest person I’ve ever met who actually does things’. The truth is that I now find most people tedious; I seem to have heard all their stories somewhere along the line. That’s bloody old age again: seen it and done it all. Never mind. There are far worse things about getting old, like the disappearance of inflamed ardour and the wild passions of illicit love affairs.

In the meantime, I’ve been hitting the dinner-party circuit with a vengeance, being an extra man and all that. My crowd no longer goes to nightclubs. Proper ones no longer exist, as we wait for Robin Birley to open his new club. But dinners at people’s homes will do for the moment, with fine wines, very good food produced by very good chefs, and some butlers Hollywood could take a lesson or two from. The Ferrari of butlers is Hercules, George Livanos’s man, and if ever a man was as good as his name it’s Hercules. Nightclubs nowadays, I am told, are dark and very loud places packed with street people craving fame and trying to stand out. How do they go about it? Well, like the Vardy-Rooney dust-up, or the Depp-Heard trial, not in a very dignified manner, that’s for sure.

I find it strange that in a supposedly egalitarian country like the States, every lowlife I see is trying to make some kind of statement in order to stand out. And even in a dark and noisy nightclub they are at it. Back in the good old Eisenhower and Kennedy days, sharp-suited wise guys from Jersey, with ducktails and snap-brim trilbies, would hang around outside El Morocco and the Stork. Entrance to those monuments of exclusivity was never going to happen for them. The reason they hung out was a pie-in-the-sky hope of picking up a Waspy girl. We used to call them greasers and tell them to get lost, but they knew how to fight dirty and many a romantic evening was scuppered on the hanky-panky front after a dust-up. Three against one didn’t help, but no greaser ever landed one of our girls, for reasons that would probably be described nowadays as racist and sexist, but definitely as snobbish. Mind you, it was great fun and if one survived the greasers, there were ample rewards that I will not go into at this time.

As I write, the markets are crashing and cryptocurrencies plunging. I care only about Michael Novogratz, the king of bitcoin, whom I’ve never met but whose father was an All-American football player and wrestler at West Point, a fighting colonel in Vietnam, and my close buddy and teammate at school back in 1954-55. But what did they expect with Biden and the spendthrifts in power? Other people’s money is what the Democrats are all about. Funny how people change the moment they’ve conned enough fools and got elected. And because I’m finally old enough to give it, here’s a piece of advice for our ex-sainted editor Boris Johnson (now degraded to the role of prime minister). You’re supposed to be a Tory! So try and act like one - and not like a Greta Thunberg toy boy.

Yep, it looks bleak all around but the good news is I’m finally getting my mail forwarded by my guardian angels at Old Queen Street. To Antony and Christopher and all the rest who have written, thanks a lot and sorry for not replying but these days mail does not follow travelling Greek boys. But one I needed to answer was from Viscount W., who reminded me of a certain lady he and I romanced 64 years ago during Wimbledon, one I’ve seen in many films on TCM and Talking Pictures since. Viscount W. is a gentleman and no names were mentioned, just times, which made it even more poignant. In fact, I don’t know what I’d want more, if they were offered to me now, the 64 years back or another romantic weekend with the lady in question.