I was somewhat shocked to discover that five of your friends died between receiving an invitation and your 60th birthday celebration. Unless they died tragically in the same accident, it would suggest that the thought of attending your celebration proved too much for these poor souls.
Of course they didn’t all kick the same bucket. I have many friends who are much older than myself. Therefore, for my 60th birthday, I would have invited some guests who were 80 or over. As the likelihood of death increases with age, it is not a complete surprise for them to find death suddenly cancelling their acceptances.
Think also that I am more than 14 years older than my wife. So when she celebrates her 60th birthday, I will be 75. Given that average global life expectancy is 71, I might well, statistically, snuff it before she gets to 60. But I will try my best to hang on.
You say that a name like “Lord Ping-Pang Pong” doesn’t quite cut the aristocratic ice. Why not, if Lord Pong had offered outstanding service to the country? Besides, it is a name that is easily pronounced and remembered, unlike, for instance, James St John Smythe. In A View to a Kill, James Bond, played by Roger Moore, uses the name to pose as a horse stable heir. However, he must repeatedly correct his interlocutors. Who wants a name that is mispronounced all the time?
Lord Pong, if he exists, is, in all likelihood, a non-dom, and therefore he will not qualify as a peer, however much he might have contributed to the UK. Anyway, it’s amusing to have a name that is more often mispronounced than not. There is so much inner satisfaction when one hears others struggling over Lord Cholmondeley (pronounced Chumley) or Lord Abergavenny (pronounced Abergenny). It is also amusing to have funny names that are easily pronounceable. Step forward the classic example written in 1943, by Sir Archibald Clerk Kerr, HM ambassador to Moscow, to Lord Reginald Pembroke: “In these dark days man tends to look for little shafts of light that spill from Heaven . . . So I propose to share with you a tiny flash that has illuminated my sombre life . . . God has given me a new Turkish colleague whose card tells me that he is called Mustapha Kunt. We all feel like that, Reggie, now and then, especially when Spring is upon us, but few of us would care to put it on our cards. It takes a Turk to do that.”
While I salute your noble protocol towards beggars, I have to ask if you would extend the same policy to the disquieting situation in Scandinavia. In Stockholm and Oslo the streets are lined with beggars.
Poor Sweden. Only a few years, the country didn’t even know what a beggar was. But now, even in the smaller towns, beggars proliferate, particularly in Stockholm. Denmark, her neighbour, did not help matters when its justice policy spokesperson said last year: “We don’t want to make Denmark a hotel with a reputation across Europe for free food and board . . . Choose another country, for example, Sweden.” Never in history was there a more effective promotion of unwanted tourism. Sweden is now a target for beggars, and her government is struggling to know what to do. If in Swedish, there is the idiom “beggars can’t be choosers”, it might now have to be changed to “beggars can be choosers”.
Wearing long trousers and dress shoes but no socks used to be the summertime preserve of fashionably insular North Americans. However, I have recently spotted this growing phenomenon among younger, trendy Londoners. What are your rules on “no socks” with long trousers?
It is a spillover from countries, principally those bordering the Mediterranean, that don’t want to distinguish between going to work and going on holiday. So they dispense with the socks. In England, it is impractical to dispense with socks for half the year because it’s cold not to wear them: a test of real manhood rather than a show of fashionable eurotrash. In the office, it is infra dig to go sockless if only because it is unsavoury to see naked ankles appearing between the hem of trousers and the shoes. Certainly not the kind of sight I like to witness when having lunch at my club.
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