High Life

Painting London Red

June 28, 2013

View as Single Page
Painting London Red

What was that quote about London and being tired of life? Or that flickering ecstasy of a long-ago memory of being drunk at dawn and watching people going to work? Surely not at my age and in the year 2013, but there you have it. You can go home again; Thomas Wolfe had it all wrong. I felt at home all last week, both at Loulou’s at 5 Hertford Street and on Gerald Road in deep Oxfordshire.

Let’s start with Gerald Road, where the Bismarcks gave a Pugs dinner to celebrate Bob Miller’s 80th birthday. Bob is the duty-free billionaire who—surprise, surprise—is as nice, down-to-earth, and sporty a man as he is rich. We took the annual picture: The three oldies (Bob, George Livanos, and myself) were seated up front, while youngsters such as Edward Hutley, Leopold Bismarck, Princes Pavlos and Nikolaos of Greece, Roger Taylor, Arki Busson, Tim Hoare, Nick Scott, and Roger Taylor were standing above us. There was a boat-shaped cake, as Bob is a very good and record-holding yachtsman, lots of exotic drinks, and then the gray dawn was upon us. (I did see the sun, but it was in Switzerland before coming over here.)

“You can go home again; Thomas Wolfe had it all wrong.”

Later on in the day, having chosen to flame out rather than rust out, I managed to stagger to our annual lunch, a stone’s throw from Elizabeth Street where our oldest member, Sir Christopher Lee, was holding court. He is now 91, has been in more than 200 films, and is far more lucid than I could ever be. After I had a very liquid lunch and made some not-so-articulate efforts at speechmaking, Sir Lee got up and was applauded by strangers.

Getting reacquainted with a bed was a pleasant surprise later that afternoon, and the next thing I knew I was back at Loulou’s and my old friend Robin Birley’s lifesaving club. I call it a lifesaver because like his old man, Robin knows how to hire the perfect staff. I was giving dinner to Aliki Goulandris, my daughter Lolly and her boyfriend Andy, and his beautiful sister Sacha.

Then came the most pleasant of surprises. Nando, the walking death machine who was Annabel’s doorman for forty years and is now retired, tanned, and healthy at 85 years young, heard that I was dining at Hertford Street and came down from Ealing to see me. We reminisced throughout dinner about when Tim Hanbury hijacked a bus full of Japanese tourists while the driver was out having a pee in Berkeley Square. We recalled the Formula 1 driver and I who outdrove the chasing fuzz and to whom Nando swore we had never left the club. (“The automobile must have been stolen, sir.”) Once again up came the dawn and my little Lolly was begging me to “Go home daddy, you’re starting to look green and I’m worried.”