Welcome, Mr 2014, if you turn out as good as Mr 2013 was, we’ll get along just fine. Throughout last year, I got happier and happier. In fact, it keeps getting better and better and at times I think there must be something very wrong with me. But I should not tempt fate, nor the Gods, because one’s fortune can change quicker than an Italian government. What it comes down to is that the mystery of joy does not pose a problem for me. I treat it as a constant, rather than as a fleeting experience. Is it a Norma Desmond-like delusion? I don’t think so, because joy is not only a way of life, there is also a trick to it: anticipation.Taki: there are too many joys to list
Can anything top the feeling just before an assignation with, say, Amber Tamblyn, my latest crush? (I have never met her, but now that I’m a Hollywood star…Seduced & Abandoned, just read Deborah Ross.) As the poet said, ‘Never such innocence, never before or since.’ Or the marvellous feeling and uncontrollable joy of overcoming the odds of old age at a sporting event? Taking the 6ft 8in Bo Svenson out at the judo world championships made my day for the rest of 2013. My daughter’s engagement to Andy Cooke brought even more pleasure, and I didn’t even have to sweat for it. A great drunken afternoon at The Spectator for the readers’ tea party, and the bacchanal that ensued throughout that night was as good as it gets, and leading up to Christmas my party in New York at the Waverley Inn, my New Year’s Eve blast in Gstaad, and the dinner for Andy and Lolly three days later rounded off a perfect season.
So, is joy derived purely through drunkenness, partying and the occasional sporting victory? Of course not, joy is a state of mind. We all know bad drunks — there’s nothing worse — and people who turn weepy the moment the grape hits home. Drink for me is like a bazooka blast, a trumpet call to start acting silly perhaps, but joyfully. Why else should one drink, except for the effect? And there are so many other joys to experience without being in the company of Dionysus: the small American town dreamscapes of drug stores, fishing holes and sunny Sunday mornings in church as depicted by a Norman Rockwell illustration. An old village green and thatched cottages of the English countryside seen early in the morning mist while returning from a dance. The gentle yet profoundly moving foibles of the Greek past as recounted by an oldie in a Spartan village square. The civic virtues still in play, however rare. There are just too many joys to list, and to hell with those who see only the brutish philistinism that has become so prevalent. All they need to do is either fall in love, get drunk, or both.
Sex also helps. Or you can read the Paddy Leigh-Fermor biography, about the life of a writer and war hero who never stopped enjoying life as well as bringing joy to others. Typically, Somerset Maugham called him a middle-class gigolo for upper-class women, but that was vintage Maugham, the most underrated writer today, but with an Evelyn Waugh-like distrust and envy of men who were very good-looking.
Yes, even nostalgia is a great joy. The languorous sorrow for things that are lost such as sportsmanlike conduct can bring joy through memory. Gardnar Mulloy comforting his opponent Dick Savitt on Centre Court at Wimbledon, Savitt going on to win. Or the time I woke up with a beautiful lady whom I didn’t remember at all on my boat and was served by a very nice butler whom I didn’t remember at all either, only to realise that I was on the wrong boat. (The owner said it was a pleasure to offer his hospitality to two young people obviously in love and blind to their surroundings. Today, we’d most likely be shot by heavies.) Or growing up in Paris in one’s twenties, being on the tennis circuit without any pressure when the circuit was amateur and fun. Seeing The Leopard, with Burt Lancaster as Prince Salina, for the first time and in Sicily to boot.
Today’s unfettered vulgarity and narcissism do pose a problem where joy is concerned — no matter how above it one tries to be, it is humanly impossible not to hear the cacophony that passes for music, see the gratuitous violence and utter horror of movies, read the pompous frills and meaningless jargon of contemporary literature. Just the lack of manners in everyday life deprives us of the joy of that very life. And yet, if one is made of the right stuff, one needs to ignore it, condemn it, and go on being a gent, or a lady. It seems to me whenever I see very angry people — and no one is angrier than Americans today — the fix is in. All those furious American feminists simply ignored it when a disgusting Brit TV commentator for NBC by the name of Martin Bashir — his parents obviously born under a bluer sky — said on air that Sarah Palin should suffer the Roman punishment for misbehaving slaves and be forced to eat excrement. It took 19 days for him to resign and not a single feminist came to Palin’s aid. Who said that women are offended by crude male remarks? A very happy new year to all of you.
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