It is not exactly a stop all the clocks occasion, let alone cut off the telephone, but I’ve finally come to a decision. My looking-at-cows time is over. I am going to leave good old Helvetia and find somewhere nice in the green and ‘unpleasant land’ I read about in Charles Moore’s Notes last week. (Corinne Fowler, what a halfwit; now, according to her, the British countryside is racist.) Easier said than done. The reason I want to move is that I’ve had it. For the first time in my life I’m bored with my surroundings.
Sixty-two years is a long time, but then Gstaad isn’t the charming little alpine village it once was. It still has charm but is not so little any more, with every blade of grass that’s not farmland covered by a wooden structure. My chalet, which I’m keeping and will use on out-of-season weekends, is surrounded by farmland, so for the moment I am safe — safe but bored. I mean, there’s Jeremy Clarke flying all over Europe’s hot spots on The Spectator’s private jet, while the poor little Greek boy stands still looking at cows (one of them in particular, which has taken a shine to me, reminds me of Vivien Duffield). Time to blow this trap. I have three options: Athens, New York or the English countryside.
I’ll start with the Bagel, where I have a jewel of a flat on Park Avenue and my closest of friends, Michael Mailer. The city right now is paralysed by race-driven maniacs intent on intimidation and looting. Habitual criminals are running wild, the murder rate is out of control and there is a plan by the Democrats to further defund the police. The on dit is that the city is in far worse shape than it was 45 years ago, which is when I had some of my best times in the Bagel. Walking in Central Park was a challenge in those days, and muggers waited outside the Plaza Hotel for rich out-of-town suckers. Thieves were everywhere and everyone I knew got mugged. But it was almost like a game: if you didn’t give it up you got a brass-knuckle sandwich but people very rarely got shot.
Now things are different. There’s no Elaine’s to go to late at night and watch the muggers congregate outside waiting for us drunks. The degenerate New York Times doesn’t even report the crimes in the city, nor the fact that garbage is rarely collected and rats are everywhere. (Here’s a headline from 24 September: ‘Few Police Officers Who Cause Death Are Charged or Convicted.’) Everyone I know has left the city for places more salubrious, which means I will have to eat at home instead of in restaurants, a fact that depresses me rather a lot. I am nevertheless going next week in order to convince myself that I cannot live there any more. (Michael has promised all sorts of goodies but he’s lying.)
America was always about money and power, but many of those who attained both turned philanthropic. Nowadays thugs are gaining power through violence — a convicted pimp in Seattle has just been hired by the city at $150,000 to keep the peace. The Brits are not yet there as far as such craziness is concerned, but they’re on the way. There is no end in sight when it comes to the debate about slavery, which in any case has less to do with slavery than with control of our thought processes. I’m looking to move to the English countryside as I have a small flat in London. But I also have a habit of calling girls ‘honey’. I recently read that some asshole has decreed that calling a girl ‘honey’ is demeaning and degrading. Maybe calling the Queen ‘honey’ is a bit of a stretch, but every girl should be called ‘honey’, especially if she’s pretty. (I bet the one that sued is no Helen of Troy.)
At least England still has bookshops. They’ve all closed in the Bagel, taken over by luxury-goods stores. And speaking of books, the recently published Marked Cards, by Emmanuel Olympitis, is a very good and fun read about a period when people mingled. Manoli knows and knew everyone and there are more well-known names in the book than in all my columns put together. Get it from Quartet.
Athens is next. I almost decided to become an Athenian again, despite the fact that most of my childhood friends are gone. The city is now vibrant and the new generation is very with it without being woke and all that crap. But a funny thing happened when dining with two close and much younger friends in the chicest restaurant in town last year. There were six young women at an all-girls dinner at the next table, three of them very, very attractive. George Melas, George Vardinogiannis and I were speaking English, and I was trying to flirt with the girls next door via sign language. (Lifting a glass and toasting their beauty and all that jazz.) Then I heard one ask her friend in Greek: ‘What’s the gerontaki trying to tell you?’ Gerontaki is a kind word, not at all malicious, but it means a very, very old man. I burst into laughter and the girls apologised when they realised I spoke Greek, which made it worse.
I think that my best bet may be the green and pleasant land that certain morons now call racist.