High life

My date with Steve Bannon

10 March 2018

9:00 AM

10 March 2018

9:00 AM


The muffled sound of falling snow is ever-present. It makes the dreary beautiful and turns the bleak into magic. Happiness is waking up to a winter wonderland. From where I am, I can’t hear the shrieks of children sledding nearby but I can see the odd off-piste skier and the traces they leave. I can no longer handle deep snow, just powder. But I can still shoot down any piste once I’ve had a drink or two.

For amusement I listen to the news: flights grounded, trains cancelled, cars backed up on motorways, people stocking up on food and drink as if an atom bomb had been detonated over the Midlands. In Norway it snows every day of the winter and half of the days of autumn and spring. The last time a train was cancelled there was during the German invasion in 1940. Switzerland was neutral during the war, hence the trains have always run on time and still do, even though it snows almost as much here as it does in Norway. Go figure, as they don’t say on Virgin’s inefficient, slow, extremely crowded train services.

The white blanket that covers us makes you want to get out and exercise. Throw snowballs, run up a steep hill, schuss down a mountain, get drunk on the terrace of
a sleepy inn and then ski down bleary-eyed. What I haven’t done enough this year is cross-country skiing. The reason is easy to guess. The sport has caught on around these parts as fat rich people try to lose weight. The young and the fast skate cross-country.

I am a traditionalist, which means I ski the old-fashioned way, with skis on a trace. The trace is more often than not blocked by the obese. About five years ago, a ghastly man had stopped on the trace and was on the phone. As I was getting near, I yelled at him to clear the path. He seemed shocked and continued with his conversation. So I pushed him out of the way and you can guess the rest.

Mind you, snow in the city is less fun. It turns to grime quicker than you can say Harvey Weinstein. But when it first falls it beautifies any city, including Belfast on
a Sunday evening. Nothing, however, gets close to Dagenham, where the bores that rule our lives nowadays told children not to touch the snow. That was as ludicrous as the French forcing a man who wolf-whistles at a babe to pay a €350 fine.

Just think of it, dear readers. The bores who rule us advise our kids not to touch snow, and fine those who like to whistle at girls more than the cost of a medium-priced hooker. These are the same punk-bores who demand a second referendum, or heap abuse on the Donald because he’s crude but is getting the job done. This week I’m going down to Zurich to hear a speech organised by Weltwoche — the Swiss version of The Spectator — given by Steve Bannon. He has asked to meet me afterwards and you will be the first to know what he and your correspondent had to say to each other. Zurich at night can be fun because it’s in the German-speaking area of Switzerland, not French-speaking Geneva, the EU-arse-licking part. I’m looking forward to getting drunk after he and I break bread.

In Greek tragedy, Cassandra’s role was to utter unutterable woe. As a child I regarded her as rather a comic figure and her announcements of unmitigated grief preposterous. A reminder: I was a child. Now the Fourth Estate, especially in America, has become Cassandra-like. What is more, her load of perpetual terror fills the networks and the pages of newspapers, not to mention those other horrible platforms Twitter and Facebook. (Neither of which, God forbid, I have ever used or begin to know how to use.)

Separating what’s true from what is not has become increasingly impossible as the media bias against Trump has spiralled out of control. False rumours and outrageous speculation are dressed up by papers such as the New York Times and the Washington Post as authoritative by citing ‘sources close to the President and White House insiders’. These ‘sources’ are totally and completely made up and then presented as facts by editors higher up the chain. This has been going on since day one. The Donald, of course, does not help his cause by ratcheting up the volume.

Never mind. The louder the screeches of outrage, and the more anguished the handwringing, the greater the concern for material rewards. All these Remainers and Trump haters really want is moolah, and by advertising their wares on television and in various articles they hope soon to be in Gstaad enjoying themselves in the sun and snow.

But I’m not so sure I’ll be rubbing shoulders with them. An incident took place at the Eagle Club this week, one that proves gentlemen and lowlifes do not mix well.
I shall wait to see the results, and if cowardice prevails, you will be reading about it in these here pages. As the late, great Nigel Dempster used to sign off: watch this space.

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