How to train like Taki

Gstaad Here’s a tip for you young whippersnappers: don’t get old, but if you do, you can fool Father Time by training the smart way. By this I don’t mean you should follow all that bull that floats around online. I don’t use social media, but I’m told that a system exists, which reaches millions across multiple platforms, that spreads misinformation about health, and then some. The wellness industry means big moolah, and is as phoney as Hollywood morality. Take it from Taki: all you need in order to feel good and be able to enjoy yourself is a little exercise before breakfast, and some semi-hard training in the afternoon.

I’m a one-woman man

Gstaad There’s a fin de saison feeling around here, but the restaurants are still full and the sons of the desert are still moping around. Building is going on non-stop and the cows are down from the mountains, making the village a friendlier and more civilised place. Something of a twilight mood has crept in, especially when I compare the cows with the people. Reclaiming vanished days is a sucker’s game, but it’s irresistible. I was up at my friend Mick Flick’s chalet the other afternoon, talking with Gstaad regulars about how much fun the place used to be. I tried the reverse of an old Woody Allen joke, announcing

In praise of January

Gstaad According to a little bird, Boris has gone from brilliant to bawd, and according to me this village has gone from unlivable to perfect in one easy week. The slopes are empty, the snow is excellent, the restaurants now take reservations, and the slobs are visible but not dominant in town. If April is the cruellest month, according to T.S. Eliot, January is the nicest one as far as yours truly is concerned. The liver has a break, the insect-eating grinning imbeciles have gone back down to the cities, and my brain cells are beginning to function again. It’s only a short break, three weeks, and then the mobs

America is a nation divided

New York Imagine a European country today in which a newspaper in its most populous city launches a mendacious project reinterpreting its past. The practice was perfected under the old communist system that ruled Romania, Hungary, Poland and the rest of the Soviet satellites. But it is no longer possible in that part of the world now that the old continent has rediscovered freedom. It is taking place elsewhere, though, right here in New York, marinated by the Bagel Times which has invented a nation predicated on racism and enforced racial inequality. The 1619 Project is based on delusion and is a sweeping assault on the American way of life

After a lifetime in nightclubs, now I party at home

New York   It’s party time in the Bagel, and it’s about time, too. Good restaurants and elegant nightclubs are now a thing of the past, at least here in New York, so it’s home sweet home for the poor little Greek boy, for dinner, drinks and even some dancing at times. Here in my Bagel house my proudest possessions are my three Oswald Birley pictures. One is enormous and covers the whole wall of the entrance hall. The other two are a self-portrait and one of a rather grand lady. They are masterfully executed portraits, with aesthetic as well as psychological realism, an extremely difficult goal for an artist

My password amnesia got me into hot water

Chelsea/Gstaad Oh, to be in England! But let’s start at the beginning. I challenge any reader to claim they are more technologically disadvantaged than yours truly. Or anyone not suffering from Alzheimer’s, at least. I resisted getting a mobile telephone until my days on board a sailing boat became a nightmare. I missed get-togethers, lost friends, and finally gave in around ten years ago. More trouble followed. For example, I get pings all the time and can see on screen the names of Pugs members sending messages to each other. But I don’t know how to put in my five cents. Prince Pavlos of Greece set my phone up so

Mother Nature is giving us her middle finger

Gstaad I have never experienced such a long, continuous blizzard, and I’ve been coming here for 63 years. The ski lifts are closed, as are the hotels, and it’s been coming down for a week non-stop. My Portuguese handyman Fernando now lives on his snow plough, clearing the private road that leads to the house, as useless a task as trying to bail out the Titanic. By now I should be in London, enjoying my new rented house in Glebe Place. Instead I’m housebound and snowed in, a modern Prisoner of Zenda without the Ruritanian uniforms. My only worries are the possibility of an avalanche, and my son’s insistence that

The lost magic of Palm Beach

Gstaad Good old Helvetia. I’m quitting her for the rainy but pleasant land of England. The cows are beginning to resemble chorus girls and the village an Alpine Colditz. Too much of a good thing said a wise man to a friend of mine who wanted to live on the French Riviera all year round. That was long ago. The South of France is a shithole these days — and a very expensive one at that. The real Riviera now lies far away from the coast, up in the hills: Saint-Paul-de-Vence and its environs. The rest of the Côte d’Azur, where Russian and Arab gangsters have bought all the great

The myth of American freedom

Gstaad Imagine a beautiful, sexy woman, an Ava Gardner or a Lily James, with a wart on the end of her nose. It stands out, whereas on an ugly mien it would go almost unnoticed. Noise in stunning and peaceful surroundings disturbs more than it would in grating, jarring cities. Last week, on a gorgeous sunny afternoon, after yet another record snowfall, I was cross-country skiing and stopped for a picnic lunch with Lara and Patricia, two married friends of mine who had left me miles behind. They were using the new skating method of cross-country skiing (I remain traditional, gliding on the double track). A cloudless and very blue

My unlikely friendship with Sir David Barclay

Gstaad This might surprise a few people, but I was very friendly with our late co-proprietor Sir David Barclay, a man who treasured his privacy and was not drawn to alpine high jinks and gossip. It was an unlikely friendship. We met on the slopes a long time ago. I had just finished a run and was taking off my skis when he approached me and asked if my name was Taki. I nodded, and he said: ‘I like your column.’ After all these years, I have a standard answer when a rare compliment comes my way: ‘What is an intelligent person like you doing reading the rubbish I write?’

We may be locked down but Gstaad’s nightlife is going strong

Gstaad 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

Why I’m moving to England

Gstaad It is not exactly a stop all the clocks occasion, let alone cut off the telephone, but I’ve finally come to a decision. My looking-at-cows time is over. I am going to leave good old Helvetia and find somewhere nice in the green and ‘unpleasant land’ I read about in Charles Moore’s Notes last week. (Corinne Fowler, what a halfwit; now, according to her, the British countryside is racist.) Easier said than done. The reason I want to move is that I’ve had it. For the first time in my life I’m bored with my surroundings. Sixty-two years is a long time, but then Gstaad isn’t the charming little

How not to run a literary festival

Gstaad A friend of mine who lives here wants to start a literary festival and asked me if I had any advice for him. He’s a nice fellow and very friendly with my daughter, but he’s also the type who, had he been on board the Titanic, would have thought that the engines had stopped in order to take on some ice. In other words, he’s a naive man who believes in literature and writers and doesn’t realise that both commodities are unknown and probably deemed dangerous up here among the glitterati. Perhaps I exaggerate, but I have yet to see any lovers of literature among the new arrivals: pushy,

The joy of pumping iron at 83

Gstaad So the days — and months — drift by. This once peaceful Alpine town is packed with rich refugees fleeing the you-know-what. They come from nearby cities crammed with real migrants. There isn’t an empty apartment left, and the locals are raking it in. Two good friends have died, the village is supposed to be locked down, but God awful bikers are everywhere. Yes, they are biking down the middle of narrow paths which makes it impossible to keep your distance from them. What boggles the mind is the mentality of the morons who refuse to practise social distancing. The hotels, clubs and restaurants are shut, so surely they

The joys of social isolation

No use datelining any more, I’m here for the duration. Even the ski lifts have been ordered to close: chiuso, geschlossen, fermé. The only way to ski now is the old-fashioned way, à la Hemingway: climb up with skins, peel them off, and enjoy the one and only run of the day. Not only is the climbing beneficial to one’s health, it’s also the only thing that’s free in good old Helvetia. Mind you, if too many people do it the Swiss will start charging for it. But for the moment, no one’s doing it as the snow has gone the way of women and children first in a sinking

A meditation on death

Gstaad   I shoulda been a weatherman: no sooner had I announced snow to be a Gstaad rarity than it came down non-stop. But then it rained, so everything’s hunky-dory. Older rich people who don’t ski are relieved that it’s stopped; younger types who do indulge are over the moon that it’s snowed at all. Happy, happy Gstaad… but not really; the coronavirus news has some scared out of their wits. In fact, this alpine village is beginning to feel like Der Tod in Venedig, or Death in Venice for non-German speakers. The great South African doubles specialist Frew McMillan, now the best tennis commentator on TV, used to call

High life | 7 March 2019

Gstaad   As everyone knows, the definition of serendipity is searching for a needle in a haystack, and instead finding a farmer’s daughter. Not so fast, as they say. I live among farmers and haystacks up here in the Alps, and I’ve yet to run into a farmer’s daughter who is worth the buckshot in the bottom. I was thinking of such matters all last week while skiing with my son and his two children. How happy I feel now, surrounded by wife and children and grandchildren — something I’ve avoided throughout my life while chasing daughters. Incidentally, the little turd Taki (just turned 13) is now so good a

Why I prefer cows to humans

Gstaad   The cows are coming down, the cows are coming down, and I’m off to the Bagel. My Swiss neighbours have cut, raked and baled the grass that the sweet four-legged ones with bells around their necks will be eating all winter while indoors. They will parade through the town next week, and it will certainly be an improvement after the kind of tourists we’ve been getting of late. Give me four-legged beings any old day — and I really mean that. I’ll give you a brief example. Last week, when I was in the Gstaad local bank, a couple came in and went to the teller next to

High life | 7 February 2019

Gstaad   Here in Gstaad there is no worker alienation. Nor are the rich especially worried. The talk is about snow conditions, upcoming parties, the price of real estate, Brexit and, of course, socialism, a disease that strikes those far away from this Alpine resort, but has yet to infect any of the locals. I had a long chat with a friend of mine, born and bred up here, who makes his living teaching people how to ski and fixing their television sets after hours. ‘Don’t you ever mind when you see first hand how plush the new chalets are, especially of those like myself who made it the old-fashioned

High Life | 3 January 2019

Gstaad My annual end-of-year party in the Bagel was a bust. Too many people brought their friends and I ended up asking men and women to please leave both my bedroom and, especially, my bathroom. I had some very pretty young things drop in. Some even overstayed and — surprise, surprise — there were some items missing after the clean-up the next day. But that was then. I’m now in Gstaad for the duration. The good news for the nouveaux is that it rained like hell for three days, washing away all the snow. Skiing and new moolah don’t mix. Main Street now sounds a bit like Beirut — or