19 JANUARY 2002, Page 50

Facts of life



ere are a few truths about Cecil Parkinson from someone who knows him and likes him very much. He not only has provided very good financial care for his illegitimate daughter, Flora, he — not Flora — is the victim in this case. I was around in 1982 and heard from the horse's mouth what was going on. The horse's mouth not being Lord Parkinson, that is. Sara Keays has been trying to destroy this man's reputation ever since he and his family decided to stay together. It's as simple as that. The fact that the jackals of the yellowest press this side of Karachi are putting the boot in is immaterial. Facts are facts and the truth is the truth. In my not so humble opinion, it is Sara Keays who has exploited Flora, and has now turned her into some kind of freak celebrity. Parkinson has done the maximum a man can do without having to break up his family.

I will come back to this in a moment, but first something about women getting pregnant. It is a fact of life, especially in the case of Catholics who feel strongly about abortion, that children will be born out of wedlock. Even more so where young people are concerned. And it's a man's duty to support the child and its mother hut, having done that, not at the expense of his original family. But rather than preaching, let me tell it like it is. When I was in my early twenties, a well-known New York society hostess arrived on my father's doorstep and claimed she was pregnant. She was 33 and Episcopalian: I was 21 and Greek Orthodox. She was married: I was not. My father ordered me to Paris immediately and then took matters in hand. He accompanied the lady to Cuba and that was that. She eventually divorced and has been happily married ever since to an even richer man. She once told a mutual friend that John Theodoracopulos was a very wise man. That he certainly was. To have had a child when I was 21 with a 33-year-old married lady would have been as intelligent as investing in Kabul real estate during the late Seventies.

But here's the other side of the coin. Many years later, while very much married with two children, the same thing happened. Having failed to become a future duchess, an English girl from a well-known family arrived at my doorstep in the Big Bagel and announced you-know-what. I was very understanding and sweet, at least I hope so, but did point out a few truths: First of all that she had been living with an English marquess until recently, and the poor little Greek boy was only there to make a future duke jealous. The marquess having said no, the Greek boy was supposed to say yes. But the Greek boy was married, and not about to make the family he loved unhappy in order to make the English girl happy. The bad news was she was Catholic. The good news was that in the end I don't think she was pregnant after all. Some years later she got pregnant with a married man and eventually married him. Moral of the story? Shit happens. Especially when there's a golden ring dangling somewhere.

But back to Cecil Parkinson. What appals me is the way the press has jumped on the morality bandwagon and made him Out to be by far the biggest shit since Robert Mugabe. He is nothing of the sort. On the contrary, he has been crucified for standing by his family, for having generously paid for Flora and her mother, and for having kept a discreet silence over the sorry affair. Sara Keays began an affair with a very much married man with three children with her eyes wide shut, it seems. According to Cecil and others whom I know and trust, he has never shirked his responsibilities towards Flora, nor did he ever try to shove her into a mental home. In legal terms, Parkinson could sue against Sara's allegations and win hands down. In real life, however, there's not much he can do. Going after the mother of one's child is not on. Take it from one who knows. Cecil Parkinson is the real victim, and he has paid dearly for the extra-curricular fun he had. Again, moral of the story? Do have fun, but be careful whom you have fun with. And never with one who has just been dropped by a future duke.