Last Wednesday, 24 June, Pugs held a luncheon in honour of our first member to depart for the Elysian Fields, or that large CinemaScope screen up above, Sir Christopher Lee, age 93. Pugs club is now down to 19 members, the ceiling being 21. Our president for life, Nick Scott — I was actually the first chief, but was overthrown in a bloodless, as well as a vote-less, coup by Nick — gave a wonderful address, and we broke our custom concerning the presence of ladies. Our guest of honour was Lady Lee, Christopher’s widow. Now there’s nothing more that a poor little Greek boy can add to Sir Christopher’s obituaries, which were numerous, glowing, detailed and well deserved. Except to say that he personified that smouldering restraint of an England long ago, with his perfect manners and diction, and his ability to be interested in what other people had to say. The big ME was unknown to him.
Christopher loved the members of Pugs, every single one of us, and was equally loved in return. At last year’s annual lunch on an outdoor terrace of a Chelsea restaurant he was recognised as he got up to leave and was given a standing ovation by the luncheon crowd. Here’s what fellow Pug and knight, Sir Bob Geldof, had to say about him: ‘Christopher, what a bloke. What a Pug. Lives don’t come more lived than that.’ What struck me was the fact that Christopher wore his Pugs club tie for his investiture by the Queen three years ago, and was outspoken about the increasing depravity of film. If ever there was a palimpsest of present and past, it was Sir Christopher.
And speaking of the modern world and the ache for an unreachable past at times, it takes labyrinthine logic to turn a decent Nobel Prize-winning scientist into a pariah because of a joke. England is now as bad as America, and that’s no laughing matter. Misandry, thy real name is no sense of humour. Anyway, who today knows what’s fish and what is fowl? Sexual identity is no longer clear. Which makes me wonder about The Spectator. The place is full of young ladies, but none of them has fallen in love — certainly not with me — and I’ve never seen any of them cry. Maybe they’re all men, after all. My, my, things are getting very complicated. In America, things are straight to the point. They take everything seriously, even their newsreaders. They call them anchors and they expect them to act like true gentlemen. No fibs. One of them, Brian Williams of NBC, lost his job worth ten million dollars per annum, for claiming he’d come under fire in Iraq when he hadn’t. ‘He has lost the trust of his viewers,’ said a pompous NBC executive. Personally, I have never trusted newsreaders because they read what their bosses choose them to read. And news channels are all left-wing, starting with the BBC. The only one I trust is Emily Maitlis, and that is because she has lovely arms and legs. For absolutely no other reason. At last year’s Spectator summer party, I cosied up to Emily and told her that she looked like Andromache. ‘Er, wasn’t she the one that killed her children,’ said a puzzled Emily, while trying to get far away from me in the crush. No, Emily, you have to brush up on your classics. Andromache was the wife of the noblest Trojan, Hector, and you were thinking of Medea, wife of Jason, and the original child molester. And original feminist, I might add.
Oh well, one cannot have everything or everybody. But let’s not forget, desiring is often better than getting, or so those who never get it tell us. There is longing and belonging and all sorts of things that come to mind when drinking, and I’m looking forward to drinking with my buddy Jeremy Clarke this week at his book party. I have written the foreword, or think I have, and I only hope he does not bring the bottle of absinthe that he brought to the Speccie four years ago, the one that made me write foolish things about certain ladies who work there. Jeremy and I are a very-bad-for-our- health combination. Our upcoming cruise in late August is going to be a test for both of us. I am in better health, but my liver is old and tired. So is my ticker. Jeremy’s holding out bravely against his cancer and is much younger. We might both survive it, and then we might not. I don’t think either of us is too concerned about survival. Having a good time is far more important. Who was it that said young men do, old men die? It was half Oscar, half Taki. See you at your book launch, Jeremy, but for God’s sake don’t bring the absinthe. It’s supposed to be illegal, anyway —or perhaps I’m wrong, so bring it, what the hell.
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