Magazine article The Spectator

Cracking Up

Magazine article The Spectator

Cracking Up

Article excerpt

Three oiks ruined it for me on Concorde coming over. Modern-day travel is bad enough as it is, but to pay through the nose and then have to sit and listen to swine who have paid ten pence in the pound is too much even for a man of the people like myself. My God! This proletarian brutalism has made the English loathed the world over, and even those terribly nice girls working the aircraft looked a bit shocked.

I told one of the slobs to keep his voice down as I was trying to read, and he looked at me in that cowardly way punks have half smile in case I'm someone well connected, and half defiant because I am, after all, a pensioner - but nothing came of it. I know that BA is in trouble but punks should be told to behave or else before they get on. When I asked the stewardess exactly how much `these gentlemen' had contributed to fly Mach 1, she smiled ruefully and said nothing. Enough said. I sat with the beautiful Princess Ferial of Jordan, talked about the Middle East, and in no time we had landed.

The first pleasant surprise was being met by Nigel Dempster, who drove me in pelting rain to see my oldest English buddy, Charles Benson, confined to his bed in hospital and giving it his best shot. Nigel went in first and told Benson that he had just been to Heathrow to pick me up but I had been arrested for drugs and gone straight to the cells. `Oh no, that stupid Greek will never learn,' croaked Bens.

When I was arrested 18 years ago, Charles and Nigel were the first to come to my rescue, Benson accompanied by a posh lawyer who supposedly could reduce a murder charge to a traffic violation. Like a fool, I chose a local Indian chap who convinced me that posh lawyers were the wrong mouthpieces for drug cases. I, of course, went down. Benson has never allowed me to forget, nor has his posh lawyer friend.

When it was my turn to enter, I told Charles that the fuzz had allowed me to go free because I was visiting the greatest man of the English turf. That got a laugh out of my old friend, but then it all became a bit too much for me. What a bummer. Without Benson there's no way I'm going to Ascot - it would be a bit like going to Windsor Castle and discovering the Blairs living there. Mind you, miracles do happen, and Benson has got out of trickier situations.

We once went to Paris together - he had a beautiful blonde in tow - who told us she couldn't stand the French because they were all perverts. As luck would have it, during dinner a small, elderly, extremely well-dressed man came in, stood before us, and exposed himself. …

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