Magazine article The Spectator

Requirements for Happiness

Magazine article The Spectator

Requirements for Happiness

Article excerpt

High life

To Sebastian Taylor's terrific spread in St Tropez for a weekend of sun and games. For the poor little Greek boy, the rays are as important as spin and lying are to New Labour. Sebastian's parents are academics, which means he wasn't exactly brought up like Christina Onassis, or Taki, for that matter. I take my hat off to him, although we had a rocky start about 25 years ago when I invested in Toil, his oil exploration company. We dug and dug, so deep, in fact, that we faced the China syndrome, but the only oil we found was on the hair of a Mexican digger called Chico.

Now Sebastian has made it and, incredibly, he's become much nicer as a result. This is almost unheard of. Most people turn arrogant and smug and flash with moolah, but in his case it's the opposite. His farmhouse lies on a hill surrounded by vineyards, pines and olive trees. It is truly wonderful and done in very good taste. It was a very un-St Tropez kind of weekend because we actually exchanged ideas and didn't once talk about the jet set. Robin Birley sat reading all day and discussing politics late into the night.

I read Green on Capri and picked up a quote from it which was bandied about during a lunch with Riviera types. As Flaubert wrote to a friend, `To be stupid, selfish and have good health are the three requirements for happiness, though if stupidity is lacking, all is lost.' A Swedish friend of ours, leader of the international jet set, disagreed. `I'm as happy a person as there is,' he announced, `and I'm not at all stupid; I run an Internet investment group.' He then resumed his conversation on a mobile with some blonde on some beach about the party they had attended the night before. Oh well, it takes all types, especially modern man, stuck in some eternal adolescence talking about leveraged buy-outs and the latest beachwear from Prada.

Which brings. me to a John O'Sullivan article in the National Review. It's about the manly ideal, and in it O'Sullivan remarks how eminently mature actors like Cary Grant and Spencer Tracy seemed whether playing in romantic comedies or, say, playing fathers. `They wore suits, went to offices, drank cocktails, danced foxtrots and solved problems. …

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