Nicholas the miraculous

19 May 2016

1:00 PM

19 May 2016

1:00 PM

Miracles are not ceased. A few years ago, a kindly educational therapist took pity on John Prescott and set out to devise a way to reconcile the Mouth of the Humber and his native tongue. He came up with Twitter. That explains the restriction to 140 characters, barely room for Lord Prescott to commit more than three brutal assaults on the English language.

A hundred and forty was too much. Twitter did not cure John Prescott. But it did gain pace among the young — and, the miracle, with Nicholas Soames. Nick is one of the funniest men of this age. With Falstaff, he could say (he could say a lot with Falstaff): ‘I am not only witty in myself but the cause that wit is in other men.’ Even so, he is not new-fashioned. His taking to Twitter is on a par with Jeremy Corbyn becoming leader of the Labour party. No one would have thought it possible until it happened. Nicholas would know what a tweet was: the sound emitted by a bird to signal that it was too small to shoot. But who would believe that he was attuned to the fashionable young?

Oh we of little faith. He has become the Nijinsky, the Tendulkar, of the Twittersphere, with a glorious array of fours and sixes. The contrast with Boris Trump is instructive. Boris tries to drown out all debate — any other voice — with clowning and insensate egotism. Nicholas enhances serious points with spice and wit. I will confess that I have not read a lot of tweets. But I cannot believe that many twitterers have expressed such moral force in so brief a space. Nicholas’s tweets are not the sole reason why Brexit will lose. They are a further reason why it deserves to lose.

We were discussing Nick the other day in one of his favourite restaurants, Bellamy’s. I mentioned his name to Gavin Rankin, the admirable proprietor, in pursuit of a further miracle. In recent weeks, Soamesy appears to have suffered from galloping anorexia. He has lost prodigious amounts of weight. So how? I wanted to hear that he had discovered a new remedy, the Mayan chihuahua bean or some such. Couple of them at the day’s end, and in no time Falstaff is indistinguishable from his page. Alas, no such good fortune: he has done it by restraint and abstinence. A restraining and abstinent Soames: that is surely another miracle. But it is not a useful one.

Bellamy’s is no place for abstainers. It concentrates on a short menu of toothsome dishes in which excellent ingredients are allowed to sing. Although there is no direct descent from the Bellamy whose meat pie the Younger Pitt craved on his deathbed, this is life-enhancing food. I had an iced lobster souffle followed by a salt-beef pot au feu. There was also a properly French coeur de laitue salad. Any competent restaurant ought to be able to produce such a salad: many of them often fail. It would be impossible to improve on the Bellamy’s version.

Drink: a 1er Cru Drouhin Clos des Mouches ’10. Recently I have been fortunate enough to drink a lot of serious white burgundy. This was up there with the best. To follow, we had a Malescot-Saint-Exupery ’01. That year was overshadowed by the 2000s, but excellent wines were produced. This was one of them.

For dessert, I was determined to exercise a Soamesian self-discipline. So, despite a range of temptations, I abstained from pudding and made do with a Klein Constantia Vin de Constance ’11. This used to be one of one the world’s most prized wines. It was drunk by Frederick the Great, Napoleon and Jane Austen, among many others. Then it went out of fashion; now it is returning. Delicious already, the ’11 will last for ever. We hoped that this would also be true of the -Nicholas Soames Twitterfest, but not of his diet.

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