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The summer party season kicked off with a showstopper: the Ark Gala dinner and auction in the presence of Kate and Wills. Planned in just three months, a multi-million-pound pleasure dome complete with swimming pool, dance floor and rock stage was whistled up in just a few weeks for the ‘Flashy People’ (© the Daily Mail) to disport themselves in for Just One Night. All eyes were on the slendertone Duchess in a shimmering gold gown. She ate all three courses including the blackcurrant soufflé, and did a lot of leaning forward over Prince Pavlos to do smiley chatting to Liz Murdoch, cleverly working out that she was the most important blonde in the room by far. I was sitting next to Ian Wace, the chairman of Ark, who organised the dinner that raises many millions every year for child health, welfare and education — a very nice man who gives away a lot of his own money. We were all issued with smart bracelets fitted with dongles that knew your email address, so I worried that if I raised my arm I’d drop £180,000 on a two-week internship with Anna Wintour of US Vogue (am not making this up, someone did) so I tried to pledge money instead by using a gizmo on the table. I thought £500 was about right for a jobbing journalist. A message flashed up. ‘You have pledged £1,500,000.’ There was only one button to press. It said: ‘Confirm?’ As I panicked wildly at the string of zeroes, it occurred to me that many present could have pressed yes without feeling a thing.
Ihave no doubt Dominique StraussKahn is guilty of troussage de domestique but I can’t help finding his primate hulk, leonine brow and serpentine cleverness somewhat attractive. I would say that I find his Jewishness attractive but am not sure that’s advisable, or even legal, at this point. ‘Doesn’t surprise me,’ said Hanif Kureishi, sucking on a menthol cigarette, when I confessed my unmentionable crush. ‘Violent sex criminals on Death Row in the states have women writing to them in droves offering themselves and hovering outside prisons. It’s a wellknown syndrome.’ I also confessed to the older brother. ‘Very simple,’ the mayor said. ‘Women cannot resist men who obviously like women.’ A younger brother, a veteran of the international financial institutions, explained that DSK was by no means the only lapin chaud in Washington DC. ‘That’s why it’s called the World Bonk,’ he said, at which point my 68-year-old mother piped up. ‘Are you all talking about Strauss-Kahn?’ she enquired. ‘Terribly sexy! It’s because he’s Jewish, of course.’
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Speech Day. Parents had to be in their seats by 9.15 a.m. Wellington College, Crowthorne, did then put on a terrific Cameron Mackintosh-level display, an all-singing, all-dancing affair with a cricket match, field gun exercises, exhibitions, etc, all accompanied by bugler, pipe and drum. The speeches were moving and, even better, short, and I liked how the school regimented events unlike, say, Bedales, where all Sports Day events are ‘optional’, I am told. I yield to no one in my admiration for the energy of Anthony Seldon, the Master, but eight hours wandering round the playing fields in the rain on my own felt long at times. The nonagenarian Duke, Valerian Wellesley, maintained a ramrod bearing throughout even as mummies half his age in floral frocks (me) flopped in the back of Volvos for ‘little rests’. My husband managed to avoid the day completely. ‘When I was at school the Fourth of June was all about the picnic lunch and you could leave when you liked,’ he told me when I limped home. The more you pay for a child’s school, the more time they spend at home, and the more often and earlier the parent is expected to turn up at school and jolly well stay.
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Help! On 7 July, it is the Spectator party, the London Library party, the Everyman party at Spencer House given by David Campbell, and it is the publication date of a deluxe new paperback written by me that the editor, Fraser Nelson, has rightly banned me mentioning even though it describes Peter Mandelson ruffling his hair on p. 106. I know the chic thing to do would be attend none of them (as Diana Vreeland said, ‘elegance is refusal’) but this what I predict: I’ll leave the Lady in Covent Garden, zoom to St James’s Square to try to catch Sir Tom Stoppard’s eye before cabbing it to the Speccie and then on to Spencer House. So I will jabber at people how it’s lovely seeing them but I’ve got to dash and then, 20 minutes later, they will spot me, having apparently found someone better than them, which is what my daughter would term ‘cringe’.
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Rachel Johnson is editor of the Lady, and author of A Diary of the Lady (Penguin).
the spectator | 18 June 2011 | www.spectator.co.uk