High life

My faux pas at the Duke of Beaufort’s bash

15 September 2018

9:00 AM

15 September 2018

9:00 AM

A letter from a reader in South Africa mentions that the writer’s father insisted a white dinner jacket was permissible only in Palm Beach, Biarritz or on the Riviera. I agree and stand corrected, having worn one at the Duke of Beaufort’s bash in July. A heatwave is my excuse. England was a frying pan, I was planning to drink it up, and a new Anderson & Sheppard dinner jacket was hanging Circe-like in my closet. The letter also said that if the Duke is a rock star, as I described him in my July column, then all is forgiven.

My South African correspondent would have got a surprise had he been there. There I was, looking like a Grecian version of Fred Astaire, surrounded by terribly young people dressed as if they were going to a formal rave in the Congo. Things sure have changed since my new friend from South Africa was caught by his father going to a deb dance in Long Island wearing white and was forced to change to black.

And speaking of things changing, signalling by coaches in tennis is nothing new (not that it works). I remember how when I was on the circuit, coaching by friends — there were no pro coaches back then; only countries behind the Iron Curtain employed them — was a no-no. The Yugoslavs did it non-stop and a South American friend of mine, Eduardo Argon, playing a Serb at Wimbledon, told the Serb coach Josip Palada time and again to stop it. What the ghastly Mouratoglou was signalling to Serena, however, was quite important. None of the pundits got it. He wasn’t telling her to go to the net, but to play the centre theory: hit it back deep and in the middle of the court, thus cutting down Naomi’s angles.


I felt very sorry for little Naomi Osaka, who beat the bully fair and square but had to put up with Williams’s bullshit about being a mother. If I hear one more thing about her giving birth, I swear I will climb the Matterhorn and throw myself off it. The crowd booing a Japanese girl who had beaten the big bully was as disgraceful as it gets. When the woman giving the prizes called that bully a class act, it reminded me of a used-car salesman’s spiel. Tora! Tora! Tora! Osaka won, and Noo Yawkers should just go back and have some more hamburgers.

But back to South Africa. African kleptocracy is nothing new either but it is a subject to be avoided at all costs, according to those who, say, think Boris is over the top. Which I don’t. (Though his ghastly sister is.) Persecuted white farmers having their land expropriated without compensation is not going to get thousands marching down Piccadilly or Pennsylvania Avenue. No, siree; stealing land is fine, because Afrikaners are white supremacists as far as some in the left-wing media are concerned. Just look at how the NY Times underplays the killings of white farmers by stating that ‘the killings of white farmers, including farm workers, ‘[are] at a 20-year low, 47 in the fiscal year 2017–18… since a peak in 1998, when 153 were killed’.

Gee whizz, by golly, that’s the best news I’ve had since the fall of Paris in 1940. The fact that the Donald asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to study South African ‘land and farm seizures’ and ‘killing of farmers’ had the usual suspects up in arms. The irony was that I was reading a book by my great buddy Hannes Wessels as the land grab was being defended by bleeding hearts in London and New York. We Dared to Win: The SAS in Rhodesia is a book that will leave you saddened and angry that Britain turned against its kith and kin in order to appease a murderer like Mugabe. Wessels’s co-author is Andre Scheepers, a true hero soldier in the Rhodesian conflict, wounded 13 times in a war the Rhodesian SAS were not allowed to win. Scheepers is now a priest. Wessels lives in South Africa and is the author of another terrific book, A Handful of Hard Men.

The soldier-turned-priest was offered a commission by the British SAS but chose the cloth instead. I guess he had seen enough. The old Rhodesia breaks one’s heart. I remember an article by Christopher Hitchens in which he made fun of Ian Smith’s facial tic, one acquired when he flew for Britain against the Luftwaffe and was shot at by the Germans. Such are the joys of being left wing: one’s allowed to make fun of a hero’s facial scars sustained fighting for Britain.

So what else is new? I am reminded of the repression and brutality that came to define Mugabe’s time in power when I read about the heroics, on the part of true heroes such as Andre Scheepers and the Rhodesian SAS, in the name of a cause that was lost before it even began. The ‘crocodile’ ruling Zimbabwe is no saint, and had a hell of a lot to do with the murders of the Ndebele minority from 1983 onwards. The thousands who died were dissident supporters of Joshua Nkomo. That is all now forgotten and forgiven. But books are there to remind us. And in my case, they make me angry as hell. Almost as angry as the one who had a child a year ago and plays tennis.

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