16 JANUARY 1988, Page 38

High life

Piste off


Iwas warned by some of the most important people I know that London would be quiet this time of year. What they didn't tell me was how quiet. Annabel's this week resembled an anti-Khomeini pep rally in downtown Teheran, and things got so bad at Tramp's that Johnny Gold waived the ban on the English for the duration.

Worse, my mantelpiece is as bare as Charles Benson's bank balance, which indicates that my social life is about to follow the stock market in 1988. Mind you, I did have a pleasant surprise when Lady Edward Somerset rang to invite me to Badminton for the weekend, which proves, I guess, that even the Dukes around this town are pushed for company. The great Oscar once said that to be popular one has to be a mediocrity but I ain't convinced.

What I am convinced of is that I'd be in Gstaad, rather than posing as a hermit in SW3, had the good Lord dropped some white stuff over the Alps. The last time the Bemese Oberland resembled El Alamein was back in 1964, and I spent the whole month of January walking up the Wassen- grat with Irwin Shaw, and playing tennis with my friend Philippe Washer. In fact, none of us missed the skiing, especially as the Palace gave us a discount which we paid with the then almighty 4.30 Swiss francs to the dollar.

Needless to say, such are the joys of Bakemornics, 24 years later it's almost cheaper to give a dinner for six at Mark's Club than to swing for a couple of pitta- bread sandwiches in the buffet de la gare of Saanen. But never mind. Money isn't everything, as my rich socialist friends tell me, especially when things are bound to get worse as far as the root of all socialist envy is concerned.

What I find far more disturbing is the Stalingrad-like siege imposed upon my favourite station d'hiver by my fellow countrymen. It seems that some of Premier Papandreou's nearest and dearest invaded Gstaad over the holidays and, worse, not content with sending postcards back to the Olive Republic, insisted on lunching at the Eagle Club to boot. The Trojan horse turned out to be the daughter of Greece's richest man, which proves once and for- ever that Virgil was right on.

I guess the only defence left to me is to once again run for president of the club, as I did exactly ten years ago when I came in second. For those of you who didn't read The Spectator ten years ago, the voting process begins by discreet canvassing the year before an election. Being the only member — along with my friend Zog- raphos — who had been elected twice (we had been thrown out for brawling with an English civil servant), I thought it only fair to lead the club into the Eighties. So I approached my fellow Greeks and asked them to write in their vote with my name on it as a joke. Just before the general meeting was held, the retiring president took a look at the proxy votes and almost had a stroke. Only about 15 out of 300 members had voted, and I was leading 15-love.

Alas, the bores carried the day, and I came in second best out of two (285-15, to be exact). But like Gary Hart I am once again a candidate, convinced I am the man to lead the club into the Nineties, and like Gary I plan to run my campaign on the cheap, from Annabel's.

And speaking of changing the guard, Aspinall's now belongs to Peter De Savary, which means Princess Michael will be taking up punto-banco in the near future. I dropped in for a quick loss earlier this week, and the place looked like the Magi- not Line the day after Guderian's armour had set the world's land speed record while crossing it. Everything was spick and span, as if nothing had changed, but the regulars looked awfully worried. Good habits — such as free booze and food — are very hard to break, and for the moment there is fear and loathing in Curzon Street. In fact, Charles Benson, a prudent man, has already lost two stone in anticipation.