15 JUNE 2002, Page 55

Cracking up


Three oiks ruined it for me on Concorde coming over. Modern-day travel is bad enough as it is, but to pay through the nose and then have to sit and listen to swine who have paid ten pence in the pound is too much even for a man of the people like myself, My God! This proletarian brutalism has made the English loathed the world over, and even those terribly nice girls working the aircraft looked a bit shocked.

I told one of the slobs to keep his voice down as I was trying to read, and he looked at me in that cowardly way punks have — half smile in case I'm someone well connected. and half defiant because I am, after all, a pensioner — but nothing came of it. I know that BA is in trouble but punks should be told to behave or else before they get on. When I asked the stewardess exactly how much 'these gentlemen' had contributed to fly Mach 1, she smiled ruefully and said nothing. Enough said. I sat with the beautiful Princess Ferial of Jordan, talked about the Middle East, and in no time we had landed.

The first pleasant surprise was being met by Nigel Dempster, who drove me in pelting rain to see my oldest English buddy, Charles Benson, confined to his bed in hospital and giving it his best shot. Nigel went in first and told Benson that he had just been to Heathrow to pick me up but I had been arrested for drugs and gone straight to the cells. 'Oh no, that stupid Greek will never learn,' croaked Bens.

When I was arrested 18 years ago, Charles and Nigel were the first to come to my rescue, Benson accompanied by a posh lawyer who supposedly could reduce a murder charge to a traffic violation. Like a fool. I chose a local Indian chap who convinced me that posh lawyers were the wrong mouthpieces for drug cases. I, of course, went down. Benson has never allowed me to forget, nor has his posh lawyer friend.

When it was my turn to enter, I told Charles that the fuzz had allowed me to go free because I was visiting the greatest man of the English turf. That got a laugh out of my old friend, but then it all became a bit too much for me. What a bummer. Without Benson there's no way I'm going to Ascot — it would be a bit like going to Windsor Castle and discovering the Blairs living there. Mind you, miracles do happen, and Benson has got out of trickier situations.

We once went to Paris together — be had a beautiful blonde in tow — who told us she couldn't stand the French because they were all perverts. As luck would have it, during dinner a small, elderly, extremely well-dressed man came in, stood before us, and exposed himself. Although I was in the middle of a steak poivre, I cracked up. As did Benson. My girl ditto. But Benson's woman was furious. '1 told you, didn't I?' she kept repeating. When the man saw us laughing he took heart and began to do what boys do in school. The whole place began to rock with laughter — even the waiters were holding their sides — until Benson's lady ran out in tears. 'Ah non, ca suffit,' said le patron, and threw the masturbator out. I believe the restaurant was La Closserie des Lillas. Papa Hemingway's favourite haunt. The year was 1970.

The trouble was that Benson and I couldn't stop laughing because in all the time we've spent in locker rooms never had either of us seen such a miniature willy. 'I want to go back to England,' said the English lady. 'I told you they were all perverts, and you're just as bad.' But Benson finally had his way, explaining to her ladyship that the French had an instinct for first-time visitors, and tested them in extremis. She was dumb enough to believe him, and I had to listen to her groans for the rest of the night as my room was connected to his. She certainly changed her mind about sex and perverts, that's for sure.

The whole scene was terribly funny. Two drunks, Benson and myself, a sophisticated Parisienne and an English girl who burst into tears when a funny little man showed her his funny little vvilly, but then turned into a tiger when Benson introduced her to his heavy artillery. The next day we went racing, Benson lost his shirt, and by the time we got back to England he, too, had gone Francophobic. Oh well, I wonder whatever happened to that little man, and so does Benson, who credits him with the victory he had later that night.

And, speaking of victories, the great Arletty was brought to trial for having slept with some awfully good-looking German officers during the occupation, but she got away with it by announcing that, 'Yes, I did, but, if you didn't want us to sleep with them, you shouldn't have let them in!' There's something about Paris that makes everyone horny as hell, and, although I love Benson much more than I love my brother, I think it's Paris that did it, not the funny little well-dressed wanker.

Next week I'll tell you about two royal parties I'll be attending this week, parties to which the funny little man I'm sure is not invited.