I experienced my first Zoom conference last week, and didn’t think much of it. As the great Yogi Berra once remarked, ‘You can observe a lot by just watching,’ but in my case I observed very little and heard quite a lot. I suppose that one day every meeting will be conducted Zoom-style, but I bet my bottom dollar they’ll never be as preposterous as the annual Pugs Club get-together.
As everyone knows, Pugs is the world’s most exclusive club, by a long shot. It once had 21 members, but we lost Christopher Lee, and then our president, Nick Scott, and our commodore, Tim Hoare. Pugs has neither a purpose nor a motto, and was dreamed up by Scott as he recuperated from a massive hangover on my boat off a Greek island 15 years ago. Members include a maharaja, a couple of royal princes, some German nobles, a major Greek ship owner, a few American billionaires based in Europe, Bob Geldof, Roger Taylor, yours truly and a Harbour Island-born native whose weight zooms up and down, by the name of Arki.
The Zoom meeting was called by the secretary general-treasurer, Bob Geldof, who opened it by issuing a general reprimand, then demanded payment for dues not due, fending off criticism by some members that he has never paid his own. As he put it: ‘And I never will, so go and fuck yourselves.’ This set a pattern: Bob was rude to members who dared interrupt him, and proposed that old men (me) be expelled, Germans (Fürstenberg, Bismarck, Sachs) be made to pay triple because of the war and the Maharaja of Jodhpur charged quadruple because of Amritsar.
Furthermore, he declared that the four Greek members should renounce their citizenship and apply for Turkish papers (in order to keep the Aegean peaceful while he scrounges for a cruise). He also asked that Mark Getty return to America and finance further BLM protests, and that Roger Taylor send his 62-crew sailing boat to Liberia to be used as a hospital ship for Ebola victims.
Bob’s demands, and the manner in which he conducted the annual meeting, were, to say the least, unconventional and not up to usual St James’s club standards. This was so because the only other club Bob is a member of is the Kit Kat club in downtown Bangui’s red-light district in the Central African Republic. Jean-Bédel Bokassa, the first and last emperor of the Central African Republic, proposed Bob as a member, and after a tight vote he was elected. Just.
Eventually, when Bob had finished his Fidel Castro-length address, voting for a new president and commodore took place. It was over in milliseconds. Crown Prince Pavlos of Greece was unanimously elected president, and Roger Taylor of Queen commodore. Pavlos is as good a person as there is, and the Greeks would do well to give him back his throne, but as Geldof said: ‘Who wants to be King of Greece when they can be President of Pugs?’ The meeting was taking place on Gunnerside, Bob Miller’s little Yorkshire shoot, and when word got out about the result of the vote, thousands of locals surrounded the place cheering. They only stopped when Bob Geldof came out on to the balcony to wave, a silence descending like the cold hand of death.
Never mind. The only resolution taken, aside from the vote, was that we reconvene just before Christmas in London, in order to decide where next summer’s regatta takes place. When someone proposed we meet at White’s, Geldof called him a racist and suggested we reunite at Brown’s Hotel. After that I tuned out and left Zoom. It had been too much like attending a trade union conference with Fidel Castro or Nicolae Ceausescu presiding.
Every Pug loves Geldof, who wears a sailor suit during the regattas and looks like a wolf in ship’s clothing. But his idea of an unnatural act is to reach for the bill — he claims his assets are frozen in Alaska — and he is known to suffer from premature evacuation syndrome at high-falutin’ parties. When first introduced to Princes Pavlos and Nikolaos of Greece, when they joined Pugs, he looked them up and down — they’re both over six feet — and declared that we should beware of Greeks wearing lifts.
But as I said, and for the first time I’ll be serious, he is the heart and soul of Pugs and his Mark Antony-like funeral oration after Nick Scott’s death remains a classic. You can take all the phoney sincerity in him, place it in the navel of a firefly and still have room for a dozen anti-Taki insults. He once asked me if I was born stupid or did I take lessons. I answered in kind. Actually, we love each other.
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