rom the great bear selling oysters outside Paris’ Hôtel Lutetia. He was part of the furniture in Saint-Germain – a huge, looming presence with deft, shovel-hands. We’d often exchange nods, then one day, we started talking. He shared a love for bivalves that’s stayed with me ever since. Nearly 25 years later, another teacher chimes in: “You have to bite into them, that’s when the umami flavours develop.”
Sir Ranulph Fiennes knew no boundaries but his own. He tested them over a lifetime against the most inhospitable places on earth. Fate fought back in 2003: the explorer extraordinaire suffered a heart attack on a plane waiting to depart from Bristol airport. He was 59 years old; spent three days in a coma, and required double-bypass surgery to survive. Four months later, he completed the Land Rover 7x7x7 Challenge, running seven marathons across seven continents in seven days…
‘Your mother wouldn’t like it’, ran the ads – ding-dong marketing to the cad sans the cash to bag an Aston. Carry On sauce promising pulling-power at every turn; that’s how MG positioned the B GT in-period. Not that my Mum took offence: Dad drove an early roadster at the time they first met. A sagging, green rust-box replete with boot rack and steel wheels. Tales of 100mph blasts to Yugoslavia. Parents improbably cool as young people. Faded memories of heady days that made up my mind: I had to have a B, and it had to be GT.
‘Good cooking,’ writes Patience Gray, one of its most underrated proponents, ‘is the result of a balance struck between frugality and liberality.’ Timely advice for eating well as another year dawns. Christmas is over; waists and wallets show the strain. Kitchen cupboards open empty, and there’s a fridgeful to finish up… What have we got?
It was Julia Child, who taught me the distinction – and what a teacher she was! 6 feet and 2 inches of culinary inspiration. Blithe, bombastic, haphazard, endearing. “People who love to eat,” she said, “are always the best people”.
Broad shoulders; narrow hips; cool detachment, and a steely glare: in the war-torn 1930s, Marlene Dietrich expressed that most ‘masculine’ ideal: “I am at heart a gentleman.” Close to a century later, she makes more sense than ever. Plus ça change…
Ask raffish tailor, Hardy Amies about style, and he’d reply: “A man should look as if he has bought his clothes with intelligence, put them on with care and then forgotten all about them”. The Mercedes-Benz W124 coupé is such sprezzatura made metal, and arguably, one of the finest cars ever built. Now is the time to buy.