High life

It’s been a tough year for socialites

19 December 2020

9:00 AM

19 December 2020

9:00 AM

New York

Here we go again, the annual holiest of holies is upon us, although to this oldie last Christmas feels as though it was only yesterday. Funny how time never seemed to pass quickly during those lazy days of long ago, but now rolls off like a movie calendar showing the days, months, years flashing by.

I wrote my first Christmas column for this magazine 43 years ago, sitting in my dad’s office on Albemarle Street. I remember it well because I used every cliché known to man and then some (patter of little feet… children’s noses pressed against snowy windows). The then editor, Alexander Chancellor, said nothing to me but later told a friend that however bad it was, it was better than the Greek political stuff I had been filing.

When today’s prime minister was boss of The Spectator 20 years ago, I tried real hard for dramatic effect and wrote about the worst Christmas ever — Athens 1944 during a fight to the death between royalists and communists. We won, making it possible for your intrepid correspondent to write a story about it 60 years later. Boris sent me a note praising the piece that made me feel gooey all over.

They say that nostalgia is corny, but for me it’s one of the many joys of Christmas. Everyone remembers past Christmases, whether happy or sad, and mine are mostly the former. The date of our Lord’s birth made it possible for German and British soldiers to play a friendly football match during the Great War. Just imagine if the troops on both sides had refused to slaughter each other further, and demanded that the fat generals sitting on their backsides in grand country houses miles from the front duelled each other for a change. On that Christmas day in Athens in 1944, I saw a Greek commie rebel coming at us pointing a rifle, and someone (most likely my dad) shot him dead before my very eyes. I remember feeling sorry for the commie, who lay there for three days as the battle raged.

Things are more peaceful now, but only here on the Upper East Side, which lies mostly empty. The gunfire is north, south and east of here — the Bronx, the Lower East Side, and in Brooklyn-Queens. The latest craze is for straphangers using the subway to be thrown on to the tracks in front of speeding trains. The perpetrators are always described as mentally unstable, but I beg to differ. They turn incoherent once arrested, which is rare, but are pretty coherent when they are demanding money from mostly aged women riding to work. None of the four that were arrested had names that would have appeared in the Social Register, the American bible of the extinct upper class, if you catch my drift.

Never mind. This is Christmas and I must think of good things to write. With PR hacks and so-called influencers substituting truths with whatever they’re selling, the only voice that clearly and serenely tells it like it is — nowadays, as always — is that of the Church. I recently spoke at my friend Father Benedict’s benefit for beleaguered Christians in the Middle East, and for once my speech worked. I included criticism of the Pope who seems to be more concerned with open borders for Africans than with the persecution of Christians by Islamic zealots.

The rector of St Michael’s is Father Rutler, an intellectual who has written at length about Christianity and faith. We reminisced about conservative politics before the neocons took over. Father Rutler’s definition of relativism, ‘the attempt to realise unreality’, is a true gem if ever I heard one. And although he recognises that the 19th century was bedevilled by slavery, he points out that the past two centuries have seen a boom in the abortion rate. I told him that had I been born in Virginia and inherited slaves I would have freed them right away because living with unhappy people is hell and well compensated workers are ten times more productive.

The whole mess began, of course, with the Frogs, whose philosophers decided to tear down the civilisation of Christendom and supplant it with that of reason. The war against Christianity is now at its peak, with the usual suspects blathering non-stop about a few bad apples in the Church and ignoring the millions of good ones. Some brainless moron celebrity only has to babble something against the Church and the 2,000 years of culture and Christian civilisation, which have given us dignity and individual and human rights, are ignored.

Yes, dear readers, I have to get these things off my chest as Christmas approaches. The media are sometimes reluctant to express outrage at the beheading of Christians in the Middle East and the genocide of the Christian communities that preceded Islam. Mind you, following the moral demands of Christianity is not for wimps, as Bette Davis said in another context. But it doesn’t make sense to act like wimps when extremists murder Christians in their own backyard and our leaders’ first reaction is to express concern that the latest outrage might trigger Islamophobia.

This has been a year not many people will forget. Socialites have suffered the most, so this Christmas save a thought for those poor dears. For the rest of you loyal readers, have the happiest of all Christmases.

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