Greece is jasmine, bougainvillea, mimosa, cypresses, olive trees, pines, oregano, and sage; rock, sand, wine, fruit, and the bluest and cleanest water in the Med. The Peloponnese has the nicest, most welcoming, most generous of people, none more than my host and hostess at their private island, literally a paradise on earth. Around sixty staff keep the place ticking perfectly, and one thing I’ve learned in this long life of mine among the rich and famous is that you can’t fake it with the ones who work for you: If they don’t love you, it shows. I’ve seen it time and again, the long faces of staff among famous Italian carmakers, German industrialists, Texan oil giants; I’ve even seen it where Greek shipowners are concerned, we Greeks being particularly close with those who work for us. You are what those who work for you think of you. On the private island where I spent the last week, the looks of those who looked out for us told the story. We sure were one big happy family.
I sailed in and the trouble started as if a gun had gone off. A Nero-like feast awaited: fruit, vegetables, homemade pasta, rose wine to tempt Odysseus to untie himself and take on Circe; but I spotted the danger quicker than you can say “Englishmen.” Three of them were descending toward the feast, so I let out a cry reminiscent of the warning at Messolonghi, when treachery led the hated Turks to await the exodus of the encircled Greeks, who died to a man. “I’m a Greek, a patriot, save some for me.” Gavin Rankin, proprietor of London’s finest restaurant, Bellamy’s; Dave Ker, a man who unbeknownst to him once won a male beauty contest in the Soviet Union; and the Duke of Marlborough, no comment needed, were about to attack the food and I happened to be hungry. The staff, headed by the major domo whose name is Hercules, is still laughing.
The mother of my children, or MoMC, arrived that evening, commenting that I had put on weight and asking to know whether Phoebe had been around. I have convinced her that Phoebe is my fictional mistress, a 27-year-old from Kansas, who is beautiful but wild and a drunk. “She ran off with some arms dealer,” I said, “then got dropped off at Mykonos after wrecking his boat and dropping all his drugs in the sea.” “The proper place for her,” was all the MoMC said.
We also played some mind games after we realized that all the guests happened to like each other, and rather a lot in some cases, as for example yours truly and Edla Marlborough. Me: Will you renounce your title and become simply Mrs. Taki? The duchess: I’m flattered and you’re so kind, but no! Me: Why not? The d: I’m too old for you. (She’s in her 30s.) So I got a peck on the cheek for my troubles and her husband, Jamie, put his arm around me and told me not to take it personally. But oi did, oi did.
One game we played was making up the dream cruise. I suggested “Sir” Philip and “Lady” Green, and the criminal American gangster romancing their daughter; James Stunt, Bernie Ecclestone’s son-in-law and a man I’m convinced is broke and is posing as a billionaire; Stevie Cohen, the lubricious Wall Street hedge funder who made 8 billion, paid only a couple of billion in fines for conduct unbecoming an honest man, and slithered out of the hands of the fuzz by a thin, threadlike margin; and a couple of Kardashians. My choices for a “dream” cruise won hands down. Otherwise we spent our days lazing in the sun, swimming on the beach with translucent water, playing tennis, and drinking chateaux at night while dining outdoors to the chirrup of cicadas and the sounds of Cole Porter. I even sang a lullaby to the duchess: “I hear music and there’s no one there, I smell blossoms and the trees are bare, all at once I seem to walk on air, I wonder why, I wonder why.” I was then interrupted by the duke: “There is nothing you can take, to relieve that pleasant ache, you’re not sick you’re just in love.” Yippee!
And while I’m at it—the dream cruise, that is, with dubious knights and even more dubious ladies—I’d like to know why my friend Wafic Said has not been knighted or ennobled for his nonstop charitable giving. Wafic is among the nicest and most generous of men for British causes, and that does not include all the good work he’s done for Syrian refugees, yet we have such great knights like the aforementioned Green man. It is a disgrace, and someone better do something about it. The rot starts at the top, and it’s the gong system that needs fixing. Ennoble Mr. Said, strip some of their ill-gotten gongs, forbid any members of the Qatari ruling family from entering the country, and from now on send all my correspondence to Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire.