Magazine article The Spectator

A Better Class of Patriot

Magazine article The Spectator

A Better Class of Patriot

Article excerpt

The Fitzdares' party at Annabel's was not quite the kind of shindig I was expecting. After all, Fitzdares is a bespoke bookmaker, and bookies are not known for classy parties, only for classy fleecing of their clients. Not Fitzdares, however; a company I have invested in along with the Goldsmith boys and James Osborne, uncle of the shadow minister. Actually it was like old times. Great food, lotsa good wine, very good company, and then disaster.

Fitzdares, alas, decided to go all-out the patriotic way, which other bookies have not. We backed England to win against Sweden and we wuz robbed by that late goal. As an investor, I wish they thought less of England and more of Taki, but what the hell, it's nice to see someone who still cares for the old country who does not have an enormous beer belly, a bald head, and lotsa stupid tattoos all over.

The other thing that bothers me about Fitzdares is how nicely they treat both the winners and losers. If I had my way, only the latter would benefit from private cars and choppers, but then I'm not a businessman. And speaking of business, the poor old Queen should dissociate herself from Corporate Ascot, which is what the onceproud racecourse has turned into. What a vulgarity. Whoever is responsible for this should be knighted for turning something old and very English into an airport facility which doubles for drunks, ugly women and some good-looking horses. After all, destroying the old and beautiful gets one a handle nowadays, so why not a knighthood for those who did for Ascot what Bomber Command did for Dresden. I only went once, but I could see the disaster even before I got inside the perimeter.

Who were these people? Traders and corporate types have replaced the old aristos and the wonderful and colourful spivs who used to be as much a part of the place as the horses. Ascot has now surrendered its soul and has turned its back on its history. In fact, the place has the grandeur of a parking ticket. Too bad, and much too sad, but this is how the modernists, whose imperative is to proletarianise everything, want it.

Mind you, just as one despairs about a gracious way of life one was used to and which no longer exists, a telephone call from Willy Shawcross gives hope. Olga and Willy have many friends, among whom are Lady Solti and the patriotic playwright Ronald Harwood. Back when I was on the tennis circuit, big ones like Emmo and Hoad used to hang out with small-timers like yours truly. And gave tips. Not many noticed. But it's the same in the world of words. …

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