16 NOVEMBER 2002, Page 77

Animal behaviour


ZNew York

oomorphism, the representation of human beings as animals, is not an exact science, but it does come in handy at times. Don't these royal butlers and courtiers remind you of the male hangingfly, a predatory insect? Don't the Spencers put in mind a baboon's tantrums to scare away predators? And Paul Burrell? Which one is he? He's not a reptile, like Patrick Jephson and Ken Wharfe, but he's no lion either. I remember him as a friendly type, who burst out laughing when, during a Kensington Palace lunch, I told Princess Diana about Philomena', the title of a Jay McInerney short story. (It transpires during a family Thanksgiving dinner, attended by three generations, that grandma had given grandpa a blow-job on their first date.) One thing I can tell you for certain: I would not insult any animal by comparing its behaviour with that of those two-legged ones that work for the tabloids, During my last night in London I saw some of those creatures skulking outside the club I was at. What a way to make a living. Incidentally, when I say my last night in London, it almost was my last night, period. Up bright and early, and nursing my usual Karamazovian hangover, I was driven to Heathrow where I boarded British Airways flight number one, the 10.30 a.m. Concorde to the Big Bagel. Two hours out we blew an engine, had to scramble from 55,000 feet to 25,000, and crawled subsonic and rather gingerly back to London. My seat was 2B, next to Princess Firyal of Jordan. a very old friend. In front of me was Dr Mortimer Sackler, a philanthropist who's made zillions out of feel-good pills for stress. (No, he did not pass them out.) Behind me was a Brazilian lady whom I also knew, but whose name I won't reveal. Po. When we began our downward spiral, both Sackler and Firyal remained impassive and cool. (The Princess popped a pill and offered me one, but I declined.) The poor Brazilian lady got very nervous, so I tried to reassure her by making a joke. 'Don't worry, at Mach One you won't feel a thing when we hit the water. ' It had the opposite effect, and I felt very bad about it afterwards, but my intentions were pure.

Well, all I can tell you is that one's life does not pass by in a so-called flash. I remember trying to figure out whether the pilot was telling the truth or not, because he should have kept the plane going towards Gander. According to my watch, we had passed the point of no return, so why was he turning around? Something to do with the trade winds, which could carry the big bird along for a while. In other words, we were going into the drink. Or so I thought.

Needless to say, everything ended up hunky-dory, and after a short wait back in London we piled on to another Concorde and finally made it to the Bagel, after more than ten hours in rather sweaty-palmed conditions. Now one of the last pleasures left, going from London to the Bagel in three hours and 20 minutes, is suddenly less fun. Do I fly and die, or do I die of boredom on a normal jumbo? Ah, the problems of the rich, they're enough to drive one to cocainefuelled sex sessions.

And speaking of sex, I had a girlfriend some years ago who would arrive in Cadogan Square wearing her fur coat, beautiful shoes, and nothing else. Perhaps a necklace. It was a very sexy thing to do, but this girl was not British. I am surprised that shy Di did the same, but if it's true, good for her. Again, the only one who knows is Rosa Monckton, and despite the fact that her daughter's legacy was lifted by the Spencers she's not talking.

What tricky times we're living in. Even my old and best buddy, Charlie Glass, is trying to cut corners. One night in San Lorenzo last week I ran into him in the process of trying to become co-editor of The Spectator. The old-fashioned way, that is. He was in the company of Rachel Johnson, sister of the sainted one, who's also known as Mrs Ivo Davvnay-. 'Where is Mr Ivo Dawnay?' I demanded of the sainted one's sister. 'He's in Kenya trying to establish democracy,' came the answer from this latter-day Penelope. Well, I guess that gives Charlie quite an open field, because democracy is as likely to come to bongobongo land as I am to send a Concorde ticket to my children. Mind you, it was all in very good fun, and when Charlie stepped away for a moment, I, too, tried to become co-editor of the Speccie.

I had a great time in London, but now I'm back working hard on the American Conservative, whose first quiz prize, incidentally, was won by one William Kristol. A one-way Concorde trip to the Israeli Riviera.