Magazine article The Spectator

A Rare Treat

Magazine article The Spectator

A Rare Treat

Article excerpt


Nursing the inevitable Karamazovian state, I watched the pretty Georgina Rylance on New Year's day playing the heiress in an Agatha Christie TV adaptation of The Mystery of the Blue Train. It didn't help at all. Some of you may recall that Miss Rylance infamously turned down my offer to become her chevalier servant some time ago. Being a good actress, she should have faked it. So seeing someone as beautiful as her prancing about the Blue Train only brought regrets. There is something painfully nostalgic about the French Riviera, and the train I used regularly to take on my way down to that fabled land.

Loss of youth and all that, plus the fact that the place is now a sweaty, overcrowded hellhole inhabited by filthy people full of filthy lucre. But this is a new year and we should start on a happy note.

Such as the party given for my friend Jean Claude Sauer's 70th in Paris. I flew there as a guest on John Sutin's Pilatus, the private plane for all seasons. Pilatus is the best-kept secret among the folks who know small aeroplanes. It takes off like a fighter, and can land on a 100-yard-long patch of grass or snow, if need be. It is Swiss-made and was conceived for landing on glaciers. From Geneva to Paris it took eight of us, plus the pilots, less than an hour, its turboprop quiet and cruising at 285 knots. Soon I shall be the owner of one, or, better still, a part-owner.

When my father died, like a true nouveau riche, I began making the rounds asking about flying private. 'Don't do it unless you fly 400 hours a year, ' said Lord Hanson. 'Otherwise you will definitely kill yourself through pilot error.' The good lord knew what he was talking about.

Apparently, pilots are like athletes. They have to fly regularly, otherwise they lose their edge. The answer, of course, is partownership, although it takes a very truthful man to admit to a sweet young thing that others, too, own the flying machine that's whisking her to him far from the madding crowds of Heathrow.

So what's a white lie every now and then? Actually, it is not even a lie. It's withholding a fact, c'est tout. Pilatus aside, the party in Paris was just about perfect. …

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