Magazine article The Spectator

Nothing but Trouble

Magazine article The Spectator

Nothing but Trouble

Article excerpt

For the end-of-the-year issue, the joke to end all jokes: a few weeks ago I wrote about my acquaintance from White's Bar, Osama (Harry) bin Laden, and how he had been sold life insurance by another friend, David Metcalfe. Now I hear from the latter that not only did people take it seriously, some earnest souls have even turned their backs on him. When I stopped laughing, I decided perhaps the joke had gone far enough. Let's put it this way. By no stretch of the imagination has David Metcalfe ever met bin Laden -- for God's sake, whatever happened to that famous English sense of humour? -- and any suggestion that he sold the cave-dweller anything is just too outrageous for words. No wonder advertising works. People will believe anything they see in print, especially when they wish to believe it.

Mind you, Harry Laden is a very generous fellow -- just ask the boys in White's -- but even he would not go around buying life insurance, especially from a monarchist he's never met like David Metcalfe.

What he does do all the time is contact me and drop hints of his whereabouts, in order that I can write about it and confuse the spooks in the CIA who are looking for him. (Tora Bora, White's club, Aspinall's, Annabel's, the Ecuadorian Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, even Langley, Virginia. ) The man is very bold, but he also has no shame. He's been nothing but trouble for me, and a woman in Palm Beach, Pauline Pitt, stopped speaking to me because of my friendship with him. Such are the joys of knowing people who are on George W.

Bush's hit list. But I must say, Osama did laugh like hell the last time we chatted. I asked him what the difference was between neoconservatives and women? He did not know. The answer is that you can sometimes find women on the battlefield.

Oh well, speaking of Ecuador, Neville Shulman, a good and loyal buddy to the great but ailing Nigel Dempster, has written a fascinating book about his adventures in the jungles and mountains of Ecuador -- Climbing the Equator -- with a foreword by Chris Bonington. As has Michael Ashcroft, written a book, that is, about how dirty the Dirty Digger's doughboys play. Lord Ashcroft sent me a nice note with it because he used a column of mine. For once I had it right. When the Times started to attack him, my shit detector, as Papa Hemingway called his instinct, told me that the Murdoch creeps were trying to destroy a man on orders from New Labour. …

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