High life

High life

30 September 2017

9:00 AM

30 September 2017

9:00 AM

I think this week marks my 40th anniversary as a Spectator columnist, but I’m not 100 per cent certain. All I know is that I was 39 or 40 years old when the column began, and that I’ve just had my 81st birthday. Keeping a record is not my strong point, and it’s also a double-edged sword. I once planned to publish my diary, but then I stopped keeping one. I’d found passages in it that were dishonest, written in the heat of the moment, most likely under the influence, and the result was a bum-clenching embarrassment.

Now I don’t use any social media, certainly not Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, being a firm believer that Zuckerberg and Bezos should be locked up for life (Zuckerberg for not doing enough to tackle terrorist content). The pair’s crime is being much too ugly, and we all know that the ancient Greeks thought that looks were a mirror to one’s soul. What is more, we’ve all read the stories about how Zuckerberg stole the idea for Facebook from two dumb Wasps, and how Bezos’s business is in the business of shutting down other businesses. Forty years in the pokey for each of them would make this a better world. And, incidentally, the world would be much more super-duper/ if we had more of Jacob Rees-Mogg/ and far less of Yvette Cooper.

The fact that this Cooper woman attacked Jacob for sticking to his religious beliefs is typical of politics today. What balls. She belongs on a dreary pavement outside a shoddy nightclub selling imitation Rolex watches, not in Parliament.


Otherwise London was fun. Catching up with so many old friends I hadn’t seen in quite a while was a mirror in itself, wrinkles and all that. The downside of being a professional peripatetic is that one loses contact with good friends, and is reminded of father time when one notices the ravages of age on them. Never mind.

In London I picked up Claire Tomalin’s memoir, along with other goodies. I shop in bookstores, never online. The reason I wanted to read that particular opus was that her ex-hubbie Nick and I happened to be near one another on the day he was killed in Quneitra, Golan Heights, during the Yom Kippur war, 1973. I was in a car with Peter Townsend — of Princess Margaret fame —and Jean-Claude Sauer, both with Paris Match, and Joe Fried of the New York Daily News. I was filing twice daily for Acropolis, back then the number-one Athenian daily. We drove to the Golan Heights twice a day from Tel Aviv in order to send stories, and on that afternoon, as Quneitra lay in total ruins, heat-seeking missiles were flying around as if it were the Glorious Twelfth. That’s when Townsend saved our lives. He told us to turn off the car engine and get out. We had never heard of heat-seeking missiles, but the veteran fighter pilot smelled something we had not. Nor had Nick Tomalin. He did not turn off his engine and… you know the rest.

He was written up as a hero following his death — the media know how to glorify their own. But the four of us knew better, though we said nothing, of course. What caught my attention in Claire Tomalin’s book, however, had something to do with opera. Nick starts to beat her after she responds in kind following his unfaithfulness. He swings at her with closed fists, she ducks and he breaks a wooden bar instead. ‘I thought at once, goodness, The Marriage of Figaro gets it exactly right: it’s fine for the Count to have affairs and tell lies, but he will not allow the Countess any equivalent freedom.’ Well, not exactly. First of all, ladies do not respond in kind — at least not where I come from. Second, one does not hit a woman — even with a rose, as they say in French. Third, the Count suspects the Countess — who is only flirting with Cherubino — and, in a great aria I used to know by heart, decides to send the youngster away to the army: ‘Cherubino alla riscossa per la Gloria militar…’ The Count does not hit the Countess — not by a long shot.

My, my, why are lefties more prone to hitting women? Is it that they are too enamoured of themselves to succumb to romantic martyrdom? Perhaps. Just as lefties today are heaping abuse on Leavers and threatening violence instead of experiencing rare vertebrate moments and accepting Brexit like the men they’re not. Again, never mind.

This has been a glorious autumn. Here in the mountains the sky has never been bluer and the air never crisper. I’ve been exercising like mad and staying home a lot. The Gulf horrors have left, the village is empty, the cows have come down from the mountains, where they’ve grazed all summer, and the locals are busy building bigger and plusher chalets for the new rich. When will it all end? Not in the near future, that’s for sure.

Africa is getting rather crowded, and the locals breed too much. There is not enough food to go around, so they come over to us. A wormy little bureaucrat from Luxembourg has abolished European borders. A few brave men like the PMs of Hungary and Poland are resisting. The media, needless to say, are on the side of the worm. Europe stinks of necrosis. The Brits should thank their lucky stars, and Nigel Farage. And now I’m off to the Big Bagel for some fun and games before I’m joined over there by the MoMC.

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