Magazine article The Spectator

Love and Loss

Magazine article The Spectator

Love and Loss

Article excerpt

On a beautiful, crisp Saturday morning on the first of the month I flew from Gstaad to the château de Dampierre, the duc de Luynes's seat southwest of Paris. My old friend Jean-Claude Sauer was getting hitched for the fifth time, to a wonderful girl by the name of Brigitte -- incidentally, the fifth Brigitte he has married in his long and colourful life. (He obviously loves the name although he insists it's a coincidence. ) Jean-Claude lives in a charming house on the estate, now that he has left Paris Match after 40 years of covering wars and women for the French weekly. He and I go back to the Fifties, so that's one wedding I wouldn't have missed even if Eva Green had rung up and suggested an assignation. (Well, perhaps I might have missed it. ) If the lunch was not exactly a déjeuner sur l'herbe, it was definitely a déjeuner champêtre, as I painfully found out while doing the tango with the bride afterwards. I fell rather hard and dragged her down with me having caught my shoe on the cobbled stones of the courtyard. Mind you, it was a memorable outdoor lunch for 16 close friends, starting with Jean de Luynes, Michel de Bourbon, John Sutin, Jean-Pierre de Lucovich and our various wives and live-ins. A trio played some wonderful old tunes and in no time everyone was totally gone -- the men, that is -- and we continued late into the afternoon until the mother of my children dragged me back to my Swiss hole using the excuse that the small airport in Saanen would shut down for the night. I could think of worse things to do than spend a night in Dampierre, and in view of his multiple trips to the altar, I am certain the bridegroom would not have minded.

Be that as it may, the trouble with nostalgic occasions such as this one is that I'm constantly reminded of what we've lost. Last week, at a Yehudi Menuhin Festival concert in Gstaad, I watched as the burgers gathered for après dinner drinks in the square. Civic pride demands that everyone is dressed to the nines. No trainers, no tattoos, no sweats.

No swearing and no people puking on the ancient cobbled streets. Table after table of diners and drinkers and not a broken glass or drunken oik in sight. This is Europe at its best, a civilised and uplifting Europe, a world of yesterday. The lowering of standards is the bane of our time. We are allowing our society to be shaped by the nastiest people promoting the cult of yoof, and the tabloids and television lead the way.

When I read about people fleeing Britain, my only thought is what took them so long. …

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