My sole dream in life is to be a champagne socialist. It irritates me no end that there’s no apparent hypocrisy in a conservative drinking champagne. It affords me virtually no occasion to be seen for what I am: obliviously, infuriatingly elitist. Dear reader, I can assure you from personal experience that it isn’t as easy as Bob Carr makes it look. I’ve devoted an inordinate amount of energy to becoming completely ignorant of history and economics, but with little success. Despite my best efforts I remain a garden-variety reactionary, my consumption of champagne entirely unremarkable. The nearest I’ve yet come was attending the inaugural dinner of the Machen Club on the first of the month. Founded by Speccie writer Chris Ashton, the Club serves to advance a Christian approach to libertarianism. Or maybe it’s a libertarian approach to Christianity – I haven’t worked that bit out. Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed being the most economically illiterate attendee. It gave me a rare opportunity to put my careful study of Russell Brand and John Kerry into practice. I moved from whinging about the plight of rural farmers to lamenting the extinction of Brooks Brothers’ rolled button-down collar with remarkable finesse, if I may say so myself. ‘I just think, you know, Christianity isn’t about means, it’s about ends,’ I’d coo between gulps of Moët. ‘We ought to feed the hungry, visit the naked, imprison the clothed, and who cares if the government pitches in?’ The more customary Machenites—patently irritated but impeccably polite—explained that Jesus was a thoroughgoing deontologist and, regardless, free enterprise has done more to lift the quality of life than any other system in the world. All the economic rationalism set me back a fair way on the road to becoming a Ruinart Revolutionary.
I’ve found that being invited to drink with beautiful, intelligent people is one of the great drawbacks of being a journalist. It dawned on me today that I’ve been drunk for about three weeks straight, which I haven’t done since Prep school. (It was a very dark time. I fell under the influence of Huysmans and couldn’t bear the sheer hideousness of the world.) The nearest thing to an exception was when I and a film critic friend saw Shaw’s Arms and the Man at the Sydney Opera House. At the ripe old age of 23, this friend has just gotten Penguin to publish his first novel, and I hate him. The play was very fine, though. Andrea Demetriades, who starred in the company’s 2012 production of Pygmalion, dazzles as Raina Petkoff. I was also inclined to say something nice about Mitchell Butel’s character Captain Bluntschli, but during the post-performance Q&A he praised Shaw’s sense of humour, which Mr Butel believes isn’t cruel, as playwrights’ humour tends to be. What an ignorant comment. Shaw is one of history’s great savagers of the aristocracy. One’s heart might beat blue blood, but why should that mean it can’t be broken?
About two weeks into my perpetual inebriation, I decided to depart from my usual method of socialisation, which is filling awkward silences with disdainful sniggers. A gentleman’s greatest weapon is undoubtedly his schnauz: a pair of cold eyes peering through an arched brow and down an aquiline nose is a thing of terror and awe. As my grandfather put it, always hold your head as though you’re sniffing. (He’s also the one that taught me to speak with my jaw jutting out, which I thought was him teasing me for my shocking lack of a natural chin, until someone explained Locust Valley Lockjaw to me.) But I was getting bored of all that, so decided to be warm and friendly and conversational. Terrible, terrible misfire. Everyone I chatted with seemed to think I was flirting with them, men and women alike. Whenever I offered to buy someone a drink they felt compelled to warn me that she has a boyfriend, or needs to get up early tomorrow for a dentist’s appointment, or he isn’t a poofter himself but has nothing against poofters and is flattered, really. Alas, there’s no polite way to say, ‘I’m not looking for a snog. I’m just pretending to be a normal human being, who has dreams and feelings and laughs far louder than the situation warrants.’ So I’ve gone back to staring at my nose all evening.
Last night was something of a reprieve: an intimate get-together at the Redfern home of a friend whose wife teaches Lacan to high schoolers, which one would think is a form of child abuse. Two of my fellow guests were a middle-aged lesbian couple who drank the entire bottle of Bollinger I brought; in return, they told me exactly what they thought of Tony Abbott. Which was kind. But it’s off to more drinks this evening—a housewarming hosted, naturally, by another bloody journo. If I have to defend my undying love for Cory Bernardi one more time I’m apt to put an oyster fork through someone’s eye. Yes, I’m awfully young to be so curmudgeonly. Thank you for noticing. Yes, Tony’s an evil little bastard, isn’t he? Though, as I said, I’m rather a fan. No, please, have another glass of the Krug, it’s for everyone.
Back in Washington DC, my college friends and I had a little drinking ritual. We’d dress up in tuxedoes, down a few bottles of Laphroaig, watch videos of the late Otto von Hapsburg’s funeral, and weep gently. Maybe that’s a bit odd, but I don’t particularly mind. When I’m drunk I get nostalgic for periods of history during which I wasn’t yet born. ‘Every white man has a motor-car and a dinner-jacket and goes to bed at 9,’ Waugh wrote of Rhodesia. What I wouldn’t give to spend one last evening in old Salisbury…
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