14 SEPTEMBER 2002, Page 61

High life

Inspiration on the dunes


ASouthampton, Long Island h, what a pleasure to be on the beach without the great unwashed. Southampton is idyllic once the masses are gone, and they become scarce after Labor Day, on the first weekend of September. I stayed with my good friend Eddy Ulmann, a man whose appetite for the good things in life knows no bounds, and whose motto, like that of Casanova, is that one should flatter the beautiful for their intelligence, and the intelligent for their beauty. Eddy has many redeeming vices, such as sloth, and believes that wilful superficiality is the ultimate revenge on a cold, greedy world.

The first thing he did was to take me to church, where he is a trustee, for a beautiful Episcopal service with Bishop Robert Estill giving a wonderful sermon, one that included quotes from The Spectator, Paul Johnson and Fred Buechner, the latter having been my English teacher at Lawrenceville more than 50 years ago. It was quite a treat to hear about the Speccie and Paul in a beautiful red church on the dunes in Southampton 5.000 miles away from Doughty Street. After the service I was introduced to the bishop — a very good-looking man — and we briefly spoke about Paul.

The religious services of the C of E have always moved me more than those of the Greek Orthodox, the latter being mostly liturgical, without much human content. The one I attended at St Andrew's Dune Church was perfect. The message was to love those who sin against us and not allow evil thoughts to take over. Fair enough. I agree. It is the Christian thing to do. But what do we do about those who preach hatred in their places of worship and extol the faithful to vaporise us, as in the mosques of Saudi Arabia and all over the world, including Britain and America? It is difficult to turn the other cheek after 11 September.

Being an old-fashioned conservative, I am reluctant to leave the Greek Orthodox church, but I will make it a point to attend more services, both Catholic and C of E, and maybe do something radical sometime in the future. All I know is that I felt inspired after the bishop's sermon, and feeling inspired following a long night of boozing means someone up there is doing something very right.

And speaking of doing something right, it seems Camilla Parker Bowles cannot — at least according to the Greek press. This is a new one for me. I've heard of unprovoked attacks by slimy hacks, but going after a middle-aged woman because she arrived in Corfu on a 'cheap' charter flight has to be a first. 'We are not impressed,' read one of the headlines. 'Cheap Camilla' was another.

But I think I know where this comes from. It's called 'ragiadismos', the subliminal desire of past slaves to look up to their past masters. Most Greeks will draw their sword rather than admit it, but 400 years of servitude have left their mark. (Not on the poor little Greek boy. however; I come from a place where the Turk never set foot.) What did these buffoons expect? A royal barge. with Nubian slaves fanning Camilla, to sail up the Ionian sea and drop her off chez Rothschild? Like they used to do during Ottoman Empire days? See what I mean by ragiadismos?

Mind you, no one suffers more from ragiadismos than the English. The good old class system has done to the Brits what 400 years of the Turk has done to my lot. Still, not even the scumbags that work on British tabloids would criticise someone for flying el cheap°. Although nothing would surprise me where the press is concerned, except perhaps if Peter McKay was asked to join a St James's club, or if someone mistook Jack Straw for a gentleman.

Incidentally, Bill Cash got the measure of that bum Straw recently. Straw speaks with a forked tongue at all times, hut outdid himself when he announced that a 'constitution for Europe does not mean a superstate'. As Bill Cash wrote, 'It defies belief that this can be done in the name of preserving the roles of national government and parliament.' Defying belief is what Straw is all about. A wag told me that when Straw was born he was so ugly the doctor slapped his mother. Personally I don't believe it, but they tell me once upon a time England had good doctors.