She was built in 1921, a beautiful wooden ketch that is as graceful to look at as she’s uncomfortable for fat cats accustomed to gin palaces. I’ve sailed her over many years, the last time giving her to my children, as I was in plaster having fallen from a balcony in Gstaad. This time it was worse. In fact it was the greatest no-show since Edward VIII skipped his coronation and showed up on the French Riviera instead. Michael Mailer had hinted that some Hollywood floozies were eager to sail around the Greek isles, but arrived empty-handed.
The absent floozies were missed, but were immediately replaced by my son and his son, and off we went, four males looking for mates down the Peloponnese coast. Young Taki, aged seventeen, won hands down, romancing the most beautiful sixteen-year-old in the whole of Greece, whose grandfather was a friend of mine and whose great-grandfather was a crony of my father. Such are the joys of old age.
Aello’s crew of five was eager, willing and able — there is nothing worse than reluctant, pusillanimous sailors — and there was a surprise right off the bat. The steward Fraser Richardson, a Scot, is a handsome young man who has written a very good screenplay, according to Michael Mailer. He told me that his grandmother, Moira Macfadyen, is a loyal and longtime reader of The Spectator. “So what else is new?” answered yours truly. “Everyone whose brain hasn’t turned to cheese reads The Speccie.”
With family on board, I decided to act responsibly and in a dignified manner. Once upon a time wild scenes of drunkenness and women-chasing were par for the course. No longer. Our first port of call was Prince Pavlos’s and Princess Marie-Chantal’s villa high up on the island of Spetses, where the Greek royal couple was giving lunch to their five children and their friends. A great breeze, fifteen youngsters, very good wine and some beautiful girls made me quickly forget any resolution I had made. Especially after being greeted by Poppy Delevingne as though I were a returning Odysseus. Poppy is among the nicest girls around, and she’s high-stepping it with Pavlos’s Constantine-Alexios, a Greek prince with old-style Hollywood looks.
Well-oiled after a lunch that lasted almost until dark, off we sailed across the bay to pay a brief visit to Peter and Lara Livanos, whose two great boats were anchored in front of their seaside mansion. More wine and more stimulating conversation followed. Peter Livanos, the King of LNG, is a very wise businessman who reads history.
The subject we discussed was — duh — China versus the U S of A. Peter does not think that China will use violence to take Taiwan. The latter will fall into Chinese hands like a ripe apple sometime over the next fifty years. Unlike the hamburger eaters who have four, or possibly eight, years to make things happen, the undemocratic Chinese have time on their side.
The irony of all this is that even five years ago, all of us would have been on Uncle Sam’s side, dismissing the Chinese as robotic slaves of a dictatorship that threatens the world with its ideology. “No más,” as the boxer Roberto Durán announced when he quit during a fight with Sugar Ray Leonard. Uncle Sam has turned into an intolerant, stoned, cop-hating, woke-loving slob that promotes a culture where thieves and other miscreants are not viewed as criminals, and honest people are deemed to be deserving of being robbed.
But why am I writing about pre-traumatic Uncle Sam-induced stress disorder and Chino-melancholia when on my last night in Spetse I discovered the greatest bar-dive packed with friends? Pavlos and M.C. were with someone whose parents first befriended the poor little Greek boy in Paris very long ago.
The night of their wedding we went to Maxim’s, just the three of us, and it looked like a marriage made in that nice place up above. Alas, it didn’t last. But they had Arki Busson, the smartest boy of his generation, a terrific skier and Romeo, now in his fifties and a self-made tycoon. We talked about the good old days and health and, as Pavlos now trains hard in karate, the conversation turned to the Musk v. Zuckerberg so-called upcoming fight. I’m not the Delphic Oracle, but it ain’t gonna happen. Take it from Taki: Arki would make short work of them both; my money’s on him.
This article was originally published in The Spectator’s October 2023 World edition.