Magazine article The Spectator

High Life: Taki

Magazine article The Spectator

High Life: Taki

Article excerpt

It's that time of year again. Yippee! And get your wallets out. Scrooges are no longer tolerated at Christmas, although once upon a time people were so fed up with the annual Christmas shakedown that in 1419 London biggies ruled that Christmas solicitations were banned. Servants, apprentices, tradesmen and churchmen had all become professional supplicants, and were not best pleased by the ukase. But as someone once said, it is better to give than to receive, so there. We now give to doormen, barbers, hairdressers, garage attendants, lift operators, building supers, postmen and rich tiny children with hands outstretched. You name it, they expect it. And let us not forget professional beggars outside expensive stores. One of them once threw the dollar I had given him back in my face. I pocketed it and thanked him, and he called me a fucking cheapskate. What the hell, I've been called worse names.

There is no more Christmassy city than New York, and no more Christmassy village than Gstaad, where I'm spending the holiest of days. The fact that there are millions of people on the make in New York and thousands in Gstaad is immaterial. Christmas puts everyone in a good mood, except for bearded types in sandy places. I think that having been sent away to boarding school at a very young age has a lot to do with the warm and pleasant feeling of anticipation that hits me when Christmas time comes around. It meant getting away from rules and regulations and boundaries and seeing up close what awaited me once I was free. (Old Dad had girlfriends galore and some very spirited friends with girlfriends.)

Even movies about Christmas are wonderful. Is there a better one than the delightful Christmas in Connecticut, shot of course in sweaty Los Angeles, starring the divine Barbara Stanwyck? There is a baby involved, a handsome naval officer, a powerful publisher (Sydney Greenstreet) and a beautiful wooden Connecticut farmhouse covered in snow. It begins in New York City. Everyone is hectic, trying to finish off before the holiday begins. The action moves to one of the most beautiful states in the union -- except that it votes Democrat -- and total confusion breaks out. It's my favourite film about Christmas -- that and Miracle on 34th Street.

The old cliché is that Christmas is for small children, but I don't agree. I get more excited about Christmas than my children. Mind you, they are grown up (although I only allow pictures of them around the house taken when they were tiny). When the children were very young, Christmas gave me the opportunity to get drunk in front of them, because their Kaiser mother was always whispering in my ear that children who witness drunk parents end up being drunks themselves. …

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