Chekhovian boredom ruled supreme, but the loss of my luggage brought instant relief. Anger beats boredom by a mile, especially when mixed with paranoia about a plot against the rich. Let me explain:
On Monday 21 December, I left the Bagel, destination Switzerland, checking in at the first-class counter of Suisse, as the national airline of Helvetia is now called. I was informed by the friendly Afro-Caribbean lady who checked me in that I would be travelling alone up front. Delighted by the news, I assumed that was the reason she attached no luggage stubs to my boarding pass. She had made me wait for quite a while for no apparent reason, but I had thought nothing of it at the time. Christmas spirit and all that. But it was that delay that was to set off my later paranoia.
After a perfect overnight flight with impeccable on-board service — first class was half full — I waited in vain for my two bags, and waited and waited. Eventually I was told to see a lady, who took down my details and a description of the two missing bags. By this time, my driver, waiting in Zurich airport, was convinced I had missed my flight and called Gstaad to report a missing Greek boy. Although I own a mobile, I had packed it with my books, notebooks and the documents that I travel with in case we ditch on some desert island and I have time to kill. The wife, ringing from our alpine home, got no response and assumed I had missed my flight. But then she remembered speaking to me while I waited to board. He’s up to his usual tricks, she told no one in particular.
She nevertheless instructed Charlie the driver to hang around for longer. Charlie and I have a strange relationship. Two years ago, he drove me to a tiny village where one takes a téléférique up to Wengen. The village is tiny, dark and rather depressing, so when I met Charlie and his wife having an off-duty drink weeks later, I told her that while Charlie waited for me to go up to Wengen and back, he was recognised and greeted by name by all of the 14 hookers who live there. She fell for it and began to give him hell. I have tried to convince her ever since that it was a joke, that no hookers live in that godforsaken place, and that Charlie wouldn’t know what to do with a hooker if he ever met one, but to no avail. Charlie, too, has been a bit cold with me ever since.
After a while I was told that the luggage was missing and I should ring a certain number in a few days for possible news. I walked through customs where I was stopped by an officer who looked like the type of cruel amateur lepidopterist who hunts down exquisite butterflies and pins them down for gawkers to crow over. I was carrying a book, a newspaper, The Spectator and my passport. ‘I had half a kilo of coke in my bags,’ I told him, ‘but you’ve missed becoming a hero as they lost them.’ It’s moments like this that make life worthwhile. The jerk looked as if I had goosed his pregnant wife, but then an older officer smiled and waved me through.
After three days of ringing a number that had a recorded message and no news whatsoever about my stuff, I hired a private detective, Jupiter Jones, a friend of my son in the Bagel, who found the bags in no time at Kennedy’s lost and found and strongly advised Suisse to deliver them to my Gstaad chalet pronto. All’s well that ends well, plus a couple of grand for Jupiter.
Mind you, the vitriol of parts of the media, and the left’s campaign against ‘white supremacy’ in America, made me question whether my bags were deliberately left out because of my first-class ticket. We’ll never know, and to be perfectly frank, no one gives a damn. It was an annoyance, a mere bagatelle, as they used to say in smart circles before we were all declared equal. And speaking of equality, everyone in this village is locked down, nouveaux riche and old rich alike. Indoor swimming pools and entertainment areas are deserted, as empty as the town’s clubs and bars and even ski slopes.
Skiing is allowed, and everyone in my chalet — son-in-law, daughter, son and four grandchildren — has been skiing — well, the two-year-old between the legs of his mother and the seven-month-old on a sled. (The wife is in London, locked down in Glebe Place with three dogs; I am joining her soon and becoming a London resident for ever.) One ambitious hostess was fined 50,000 Swiss francs for throwing an illegal bash. A social-climbing woman threw a party despite warnings by the fuzz. The under-21s convinced an unpopular Saudi, whom everyone avoids, to make his vulgar chalet available for a rave. The father of the unpopular one has his family tree listed on the outside walls. The youngsters trashed the joint, which must have improved it, and the fuzz was none the wiser. The under-21s are threatening to do it again soon. We need a Poirot around here to stop the raves.