Looking back and trying to choose just one out of those incomparably bewitching women of one’s youth can be tricky. Giselle was definitely one of them – blonde, French, mesmeric, an apparition – but so was Kiki, very white-skinned, also French, patrician and very sexy. They were friends, those two, but they fell out after they chose the same boyfriend. They were also married to men who knew and liked the boyfriend, but back then such things were commonplace, and it was Paris after all. Both ladies are still alive and now quite old, Giselle a widow, Kiki a princess. There were many other beauties, of course, but those two stand out because of the timing: it was one hell of a winter month of sex and switch and switch again. Then the two of them got wise and it was goodbye. Ah, the foolishness of youth, though without it one would have been as useless as one is today.
I got the idea to reminisce after reading Jeremy’s column of last week. Unlike him, however, I never asked a lady how I was doing. Those things come naturally. I suppose it was the restless search for a purpose that led to the mad womanising, but incandescently porcelain skin in a woman can drive me mad, and as I said, Paris was a perpetual party, and as long as outward appearances were observed, it was ‘tout va’. My crowd was scornful of morality, yet very moral where anything but sex was concerned. Manners were observed to the extreme, and friends I made back then have lasted a lifetime.
Poignant moments are not always recalled at will, but I recently ran into one of the ladies in question and she asked me about the other, and things came flooding back. Am I living much too deeply in the past? Wouldn’t you if you were my age? I had a great youth, so why not think about it and smile? London followed Paris, and the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s were wild times in old London town. Weekend parties in the country, Hanbury, Fraser, Morley, Somerset, Gilmour weddings, Tramp and Annabel’s all-nighters, and by this time I was a happily married man with children growing up in the Bagel. That’s what I call living a full life, but an interior one it was not. What was that Edith Piaf song the foreign legionnaires sang as they surrendered to the Viet Minh in Dien Bien Phu? It was something about not regretting a thing. I feel the same, and that life of excess – drink, sex, drugs and gambling – is now in the past, the war against convention over and done with.
Well, not quite. Last week Ben Goldsmith found me somewhere in Mayfair, late at night, and rang for a car. ‘You’re in no shape to be walking alone,’ said Ben. ‘You’ll be mugged for sure.’ I protested but the next thing I remember I was home and Ben had taken care of the nanny-driver. The evening had begun in a civilised manner at Bellamy’s, Gavin Rankin’s great place where he gave George Livanos and me a terrific dinner with even better wines. The three of us had such a good time that I overdid things and after we closed the place I went looking for trouble. Finding trouble used to be my favourite pastime but it feels a bit funny nowadays. Perhaps it’s age, but most likely it’s because, having found too much trouble in the past, it all seems tame to me now. As a result I have taken on a terrific driver, a Lithuanian Catholic who talks to me about religion and will ensure that in future I get home safely without Ben Goldsmith’s munificence.
A London summer without Annabel Goldsmith’s garden party would be a bit like Boris without the blond mop, and I hooked up with old friends I never get to see any more. The prettiest girl there? Sophie Windsor, as always, but I could be prejudiced as I am her mother-in-law’s favourite person by far. I left the party early and joined friends at Hertford Street, but then came Sunday lunch chez les Bismarcks, a day that will live in infamy as we sat down at 2 p.m. and staggered upright at 8 p.m. It went something like this: two Bloody Marys, followed by a few glasses of sparkling rosé wine, then easily more than 20 glasses of fantastic red wine. Count and Countess B. left with their sons for a rock concert in Hyde Park, and I staggered home having given the driver the weekend off so that I could walk everywhere. It was a pitiful sight, a grown man crossing Onslow Square and asking for directions to the King’s Road.
Never mind. Another Greek, Nick Kyrgios, shamed the fatherland more than yours truly. I watched his father crossing himself while praying for his bum son to win against another Greek, and the speaker John Lloyd had no idea what the gesture was. Lloyd watches too many dumb videos, which is the reason Chrissy Evert gave when she divorced him. And at 67 Chrissy looked great at the Wimbledon ceremony on Sunday. As did the greatest of them all, Margaret Court. Next week I will have some tennis scoops for you, but from way back in the past. In the meantime I am going to go two days without booze, just like my doctor ordered some 40 years ago.
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