High Life

The Business of Having Fun

September 13, 2013

Multiple Pages
The Business of Having Fun

To London for a brief visit to meet Spectator readers, as nice a reason as I can think for getting on an airplane, except for an assignation with Rebecca Hall, my latest obsession with the fairer sex. Our new digs in Old Queen Street remind me a bit of my school days, not that the Spectator’s building is ivy-covered red brick, but more of a mystical communication with the past. Who knows what goes on in one’s brain, especially when lots of booze and no sleep are the main ingredients left in that tired old sponge?

Many of us were raised with a certain image of dignity—starting with good manners—that is not easily found in the hot spots I frequent nowadays. No sooner had the party begun before I realized this was going to be old-fashioned and different. Interpersonal ease, the euphemism for today’s lack of manners, was as absent as rabbis in Saudi Arabia. How delightful it was to be approached by strangers who shyly introduced themselves and said nice things about one’s writings. In the modern world expressiveness is all, i.e., “Let me hang it all out so I can show you my inner self.” This crock was not in attendance last Friday at Old Queen Street (nor was my old queen buddy Nicky Haslam). They say you cannot have too much Schubert, whom I listened to about a trout on my way to the party, any more than you can have too much of a perfect afternoon in the Spectator’s garden meeting readers and getting totally drunk on booze provided by the beautiful and windswept looking deputy editor, the same one who left me standing in a church along with the Cardinal who would have officiated.

“I know it sounds hollow and juvenile and whatever the bores wish to call it, but it is a categorical imperative for me to have fun.”

Mind you, this was supposed to be a tea party, with cakes and sandwiches and crumpets and whatever else the English have in the afternoon. Tea is not my bag, so as the place was quickly filling up I allied myself with my lowlife colleague and loudly began demanding booze. The deputy editor obliged and that was the start of a binge that lasted throughout the afternoon, the evening, and only ended around ten AM the next day. (I have witnesses to prove it. One of them works at the Speccie.) I say this because some very nice lady readers were a bit shocked at seeing me drink whiskey straight. Booze makes for sublime suspended times as it kicks in, which only dim memories conjure up later. What I do remember well is how terribly nice everyone was, how elegant and old-fashioned in the good sense of the word they were: well-dressed, well-groomed, and kind.

I will not mention names because you all know who you are, but I will join the Terence Rattigan Society. I was very flattered to meet the father of a lady whose legs drive me crazy on the telly while she comments on tennis, and I certainly appreciate a reader who flew in from Kenya of all places. And the attractive lady with hooded eyes who reminded me we had met long ago:

Me: “Anything fun take place?”

She: “No.”

And the Iranian couple that agreed Iran is a terrible danger to the world because it so often invades other countries, the last time being Greece in 480 BC (lotsa laughs after that one). And there were so many others, including two gents who almost whispered that they agreed with me about Marine Le Pen. Bravo!

And so it went. I know it sounds hollow and juvenile and whatever the bores wish to call it, but it is a categorical imperative for me to have fun. Life is short and brutish and the barbarians have long since breached the gates and are calling the shots, so at times I feel a responsibility to curate the fun at parties by playing the fool, downing the liquor, flirting outrageously with the fair sex, and breaking the ice, so to speak. It is an ugly modern world out there, full of Russell Brand types—I wish Dylan Jones, a talented nice man, had smacked him around a bit–but we at the Spectator enjoy a mystical symbiosis with our readers, and in my case a bit of alcoholic content helps. There is no more face-to-face communication between humans, so last Friday was a time warp and I can’t wait to do it again.

Then I visited the pub across the street with Jeremy and Lloyd Evans, whom I met for the first time.

Me: “Are you a banker or a shipowner?”

Lloyd Evans: “Neither, why?

Me: “Because you’re well dressed.”

Evans: “I am a theater critic.”

Me: “Sorry, I hope I haven’t insulted you.”

Evans: “Close.”

A brief drink with the beautiful 18-year-old Spectator intern who blushed when I poured her a whiskey, and then it was on to LouLou’s to meet blonde female company and my friend Tim Hanbury, plus Princes Pavlos and Nikolaos of Greece. The night went on and on and then it was time to meet my little girl for lunch, but the less said about that the better. Daughters do not like to see their fathers in a certain state—it makes for lèse majesté—but I enjoyed the flight back because I finally got some sleep.


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