And so farewell to Stamford Hill. It got better. One night the craic at Maggie’s (see last week’s column) lasted until seven in the morning; Sunday night was quieter, with me striding home at five on Monday morning. Everything in moderation, that’s my motto. For those who think that this was a drunken debauch, let me assure you it was not: my bourbon was topped up only hourly; this was about the conversation, not the alcohol.
It was also cheap: Maggie’s being a legit place, no money changed hands at the end of licensing hours. This was invitation only, and I was proud and honoured to be invited. I was also particularly pleased to be introduced to Maggie’s husband of 20 years, an incredibly cool Jamaican with a wide-brimmed hat and an awesomely natty double-breasted suit. Were anyone to ask me for an example of a gentleman, he would be the first person I would be pointing at, if pointing were not rude.
And then the travels begin again. I now find myself in an attic room in Shepherd’s Bush, not 200 yards from the family home. The room belongs to my great friend L—’s daughter. This is yet another example of time having a joke at my expense. I have known I— since she was a child; she has since then been through university and came back yesterday to look up some stuff in order to do her taxes. That she is not only grown-up enough to have to do her taxes, but grown-up enough to do them, all by herself, is itself remarkable. But then there has always been something remarkable about her.
She is one of those people I keep bumping into, beyond all likelihood, and by far my favourite. One of the others is OK, but a bit of a bore, and with tiresome political views; another, whom I shall not name either except to say that he once starred in a television adaptation of the Just William books, is a weapons-grade, ocean-going twat, pompous, affected, weird and, thank God, I haven’t seen him in years. The last time I did was in a flat whose owner had made the design decision to turn all her books’ spines to the wall. She was a wealthy woman and there was a lot of wall.
That was depressing enough; and then Toby Young walked in. We all know what we think of Toby Young, but at least I know him well enough to call him an arse to his face, and can derive a little innocent pleasure from doing so. And then in walked Once William. It was, by some margin, the Worst Dinner Party Ever, and only the presence of H—, the Best Girlfriend Ever, saved it: she didn’t know Toby Young from a hole in the ground, and still managed to find fault with every aspect of his educational policy when she asked him what it was. Never have I been prouder to go out with anyone.
Anyway, back to I—. I have met her, by accident, at: Moorgate Tube station, en route to that very dinner party; sitting opposite me on the last train from Cambridge to London on a summer’s Sunday night; on the anti-Trump march last year – a million-to-one chance; and one other time, which I have forgotten, maddeningly.
Watching the young grow up is one thing; seeing it only at well-spaced intervals is another. One is reminded that one progresses not only at a snail’s daily pace to the grave, but by leaps and bounds. Yesterday I took my youngest son to the Uxbridge Arms in Notting Hill Gate. That pub has changed hands – the inimitable Linda has left, alas – but it still hosts its Sunday evening quiz; next time I’m in the area, on a Sunday, with funds, and a working brain, I’ll go in and have another go at winning the fabled pot.
But my son behaved with humour and grace: it is important to tell the younger generation about not only the importance of pubs, but the importance of behaving well in them. It is nice to know that the baton is being passed on. I have seen more than enough evidence to suggest that the future may well be in safe hands. I mean, just think about it. People roughly my age: Toby Young, Nigel Farage. People roughly my children’s age: my children, and I—. I think that says it all really, don’t you?
This article appears in the 17 Jan 2018 issue of the New Statesman, Churchill and the hinge of history