Magazine article The Spectator

Diary

Magazine article The Spectator

Diary

Article excerpt

Let me ask you all something round this table: what are you personally doing to help win this election for the Conservatives?" This rather emotive question was put to a group of us at lunch. The fact was, nobody was doing anything much. My canvassing has so far been confined to asking my office driver whether we can rely on his vote on 1 May. (`Only if they bring back Lady Thatcher,' was his reply.) As far as Vogue House is concerned, it isn't any of my business how my colleagues intend to vote, though I'd guess that the staff of Vogue and GQ will come out pretty solidly for Labour, House & Garden and Tatler will go Tory, while the World of Interiors is preoccupied with loftier things and probably hasn't registered. I couldn't say which way the Brides vote will swing, except that it's strongly in favour of marriage and family values. Our forthcoming magazine Conde Nast Traveller is less of a factor, since most of the editorial team will be out of the country on polling day, reviewing safaris and Caribbean hotels. It occurred to me that, with the April payroll, I could instruct our accounts department to deduct 60 per cent tax at source, to remind everyone what a socialist regime would mean in practice. But there's no need to panic yet. One measure of electoral prejudice that hasn't been properly considered is the Prime Ministerial Fanciability Factor. At dinner last week, I questioned eight intelligent women - not all Conservative diehards - on which of the party leaders they'd rather sleep with. Seven chose Major, only one chose Blair. There were no votes at all for Ashdown, though there was some hankering (or hanky-pankering) after Sir James Goldsmith. There was a strong conviction that, between the sheets, Tony Blair might fail to sustain the hydraulics for the required time, whereas John Major could be depended upon for a good, old-fashioned, non-deviant tumble. Until MORI start including questions of this sophistication in their opinion polls, we should treat their pronouncements with scepticism.

For five or six years I've had almost no sense of smell. I've no idea why it suddenly went, though it is probably sinus-related. Apart from the fact that I can't really taste food, it is no real disadvantage, and I've never bothered to do anything about it. Smell has never struck me as nearly such an important sense as sight, touch or hearing. Last week, however, my sense of smell returned with a vengeance, in an entirely unexpected way. We had been invited to dinner at the home of a travel writer and, on arrival, were hit by the most evil stench imaginable, somewhat like raw sewage. It blasted like mustard gas through my blocked tubes, making me retch. For the first time this decade, I could smell properly. It transpired that our hosts were giving us durian pudding: large, green, thorny fruit from South-East Asia, which smells so strong that in Bangkok it is illegal to eat them in public places. Durian have recently become available in London, notably at a Thai supermarket called Tawana in Chepstow Road, and are becoming a bit of a cult among the well-travelled. Much of their appeal lies in their rarity and in the difficulty of transporting them home and storing them: bus conductors have thrown people off between stops for having durian in their shopping. Our hosts had kept the fruit outside on the windowsill until the last possible moment, but it still stank out the flat in seconds. All round the table, guests were turning green and covering their faces with napkins. Those who were actually brave enough to try the durian pronounced it delicious, confirming Anthony Burgess's assessment that `it is like eating custard in a public lavatory'. …

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