High life

Taki: Should I just move to a cave in France?

19 January 2019

9:00 AM

19 January 2019

9:00 AM


Do any of you know what cisgender is? I just found out. Cisgender is a term that describes someone whose gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth. Amazing, isn’t it, that we now need a pleonasm for saying that someone’s a man or a woman? I sometimes envy my low life colleague Jeremy when I read about his conversations with normal people while living inside a French cave. I can no longer converse with anyone who is ‘with it’ — you know the type, the ones who think you’re a Paleolithic hunter gatherer if you say you’re hungry, what with there being so many famine victims in Africa.

Last week I decided to get together with my kind of people, 18 South Africans to be exact, the Arnold and Penelope Taylor family (we met on the Spectator cruise four years ago), sons and daughters and grandchildren. They were skiing in Wengen, so my driver took me as far as Lauterbrunnen, a village from which a train ferries you up to Wengen. No cars, no jetsetters, no expensive jewellery shops, but quaint little Italian and Swiss restaurants and lots and lots of young skiers. I was in a very good mood because the train was full of young American snowboarders and I didn’t once hear the F-word.

When we got there, the place looked like the Russian front circa 1942. There is something Teutonic about Swiss army helmets and uniforms, and the army was out in force preparing the pistes for the great Lauberhorn race this weekend. My mood improved further during lunch and the good red wine. And there was even some good news from that great land, South Africa. According to the Taylors, the hope is that a growing middle class will eventually prevail and stop the extremist black nationalists from turning the country into a basket case à la Zimbabwe. It was nice to chat with such wholesome, sporty and polite young people. None of them knew what cisgender meant. Thank you for a great lunch and even better company, Taylor family.

My driver Charlie, who waited in Lauterbrunnen, is a terrific chef and a very devoted family man. So I had to make some trouble for him by telling him that the village where he had to spend three hours was known not only for having one hour of sunshine per day in winter — it’s shaded by two mountain peaks — but also famous for having 14 brothels that employ only beautiful blonde Scandinavian ladies. ‘Not 13, not 15, but 14,’ I insisted.

Although Charlie sort of believed me, he had his doubts. But 14 brothels in a tiny alpine village full of blonde beauties would tempt the most uxorious of men. So while he was driving me back to glitzy, shitty Gstaad, I rang his wife and told her that although he hadn’t entered any of the brothels, all 14 madames greeted him by his Christian name and seemed awfully happy to see him. She hung up on me. Charlie is a good sport and blames my indiscretions on alcohol, the altitude and on the surprise of meeting 18 normal and extremely nice people in this day and age.

Never mind. The human race always seems to survive, and although it’s going to be hard, mankind might outlast the likes of Meek Mill, Flipp Dinero, Fat Joe, Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Durk, G-Eazy, Pusha T, Offset, and others of their ilk. What are these strange names? I took them all from the gossip columns of the New York Post. Apparently, they’re famous and are much written about, and they make millions saying the F-word into a mic. Once upon a time, you would read about Winston Guest, and Howard Cushing, and Jock Whitney and Babe Paley. Now you read about media-empowered charlatans such as the above.

Nil desperandum. There is always the falling dusk and the whispering pines, and the snow has finally arrived just in time as the Gulf types go back home to mistreat their immigrant servants. The mother of my children went to a lunch with an old friend of hers, Audrey Hepburn’s ex-brother-in-law, who arrived looking like Aschenbach in the film Death in Venice: make-up, eye shadow, trembling voice. Oy veh! What is this world coming to? We all look like shit with age, but eye shadow?

Again, never mind. The race with my grandson never happened because he had to go back to school in Rome. This week I’m putting on the boots — the worst part of skiing — and will go up the glacier and give it the old college try. Fifty-seven years ago, I raced down the Piste Verte in Chamonix during the world championships skiing for Greece. I beat a couple of Lebanese rug salesmen and a Korean sliding down sideways. As I was the last racer to descend, the French minister of sport and conqueror of Annapurna, Maurice Herzog, came over and shook my hand. He had lost his fingers to frostbite. But he had Véronique de Montesquieu next to him, and that’s what pissed me off. She and I had something going, but she preferred a winner like Herzog. I don’t blame her, now.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10

Show comments