Youth and beauty
To London for the 50th birthday party of Charlie Glass, a great friend of long standing despite him being left-wing and a womaniser. My, how the years go by. I first met Glass when he was an ABC correspondent and filing stories from far away places to the then tiny circulation Spectator. 'Why do we need another commie?' I asked no one in particular. Unlike the husbandstealing Toynbee woman (her man must be a hero of sorts), I really don't give a damn what hacks write. Most of it is total bull—t, designed to impress their masters and give them access to the corridors of power. Power, of course, is relative. Toynbee can kiss arse to her heart's content, but she will never have the kind of power, say, that a banker or industrialist enjoys. Constantine Karamanlis, then president of Greece, once remonstrated with my dad about the latter's embrace of the colonels. 'You people come and go,' answered my extremely combative father. 'I have ten thousand workers to care for and a business to run; what am I supposed to do, shut down my factories and tie up my ships just because a bunch of colonels staged a coup d'etat?'
When you really come down to it, even politicians don't wield much power. A Gianni Agnelli will wipe the floor with them anytime, and he's a senator for life to boot. The first time I encountered Ted Heath — and mercifully the last — was in La Leopolda, Gianni's grand house in Villefranche, in 1962. Heath was accompanied by Edward, I believe, Du Cann, and he wanted to play tennis. I refused. He was an extremely unimpressive man, and it stuck out, especially back then. Even if Lady Thatcher had not turned out as great as she did, she had to look a giant beside the person she was succeeding. That perma-smiling cobra, Tony Blair, is another nonentity in my opinion. Like Clinton, his icon, everything he says and does is in order to win votes.
Just look at his coterie. Have you ever
seen such catamites, such onanists, such smiling wallet-lifters? (The Daily Mail, incidentally my second favourite daily after the DT, should be ashamed of itself, superimposing a Napoleonic hat and uniform on Blair; the great Napo created the Napoleonic code and built the Arc de Triumph, Pont Austerlitz, Pont d'Iena, the cemetery at Pere Lachaise and Montmartre, a part of rue de Rivoli, the Vendome column and the Concorde obelisk. Blair created spin and built the Dome!)
Compare these lunch-bucket pilferers with, say, Otto von Bismarck, whose Prussian birthplace celebrated its 300th anniversary last week. Europe quaked before him, and his Blood and Iron policies led to great victories in 1860 and 1870. Can any of you, dear readers, imagine a Polly Toynbee or a Hugo Young, or a toady like Rusbridger trying to curry favours with the Iron Chancellor? There would be a horrible squishing sound, as when one steps on you know what, and that would be the end of you know who.
But back to much more pleasant subjects. The Prussians are, of course, my favourite people because of their modesty, state service, discipline and thrift — alas, great virtues which I lack. No sooner had someone advertised these virtues, critics bridled at the list and offered a competing set of Prussian 'vices': militarism, authoritarianism, expansionism, and blind obedience. Now, I ask you once again. Can anyone who does not look like Polly Toynbee or a Guardian reader fail to agree that there is nothing greater in life than militarism, authoritarianism, expansionism and blind obedience?
Certainly not in my book. One of the pleasures of my life was to discover karate at an early age. As long as the Japanese ran the show, karate remained a martial art. I loved it and followed my sensei's (teacher's) orders blindly and to the letter. I once broke my hand blocking a kick during a sparring session. `Ah. Taki, you lucky, now you fight with left hand, confuse the opponent,' is all my sensei said. The moment Westerners took over, it became an athletic contest. Karatekas now cheat and show off, all in the name of sport. But where was I? Ah yes, Charlie Glass.
To be 50 is a terrible thing, especially if one is obsessed with women, as Charlie is. When I first moved to London in the late Sixties I hung out with Charles Benson, John Aspinall, Dominic Elwes, John Lucan and others of that ilk. Then they got old and I began friendships with Harry Worcester, Oliver Gilmour, Tim Hanbiuy and so on. When they eventually got married I moved on to younger men and, of course, women. Now I hang out with very young people. Charlie Glass and I have only this in common. His female friends keep getting younger as he gets older. I know that some people disapprove of this, but I guess it's too bad. We can't all be expected to hang out with the Polly Toyn
bees of this world. Youth and beauty are, after all, essential in such a grubby and ugly modern world.