THERE WERE NEVER IN THE WORLD TWO OPINIONS ALIKE

HIGH LIFE / LOW LIFE

HIGH LIFE / LOW LIFE

Michael Warren Davis finds himself at lunch with Andrew Bolt, Miranda Devine, expensive cigars and too much champagne.
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Ah, I thought to myself, This is the Turnbullite table. Yes, fine, whatever: I love Malcolm. I love his unironic orange ties and free-marketeer swagger. “Bite me,” as the Yanks say.

When I asked my taxi driver to take me to the Bathers Pavilion in Mossman, he nodded vigorously and assured me he knew just where I meant. In fact he didn’t, and $45 later dropped me off at the Balmoral Beach public showers, which are on the exact opposite side of the Esplanade from my destination. In an impromptu homage to Mr. Bean I strolled along the sands in suit and tie; lighting a cigarette, I scowled at passers-by who were (altogether more sensibly) scowling at me. But despite my best efforts I wasn’t, at bottom, the slightest bit cranky. It was the day of the Spectator writers’ long lunch, and awaiting me at the end of my odyssey were the most decorated conservative journalists in Australia, a three-course meal, and bottomless champagne. True to form, I was fashionably late; if there wasn’t a concept of fashionably sweaty before, I feel quite certain there is now.

The prospect of meeting the rich and famous has never really daunted me. I just pretend to be famous, which is something like practiced indifference. It’s more or less treating famous people the way famous people treat commoners. And I don’t mean that haughtily: in my experience, famous people prefer not to be fawned over.

In fact, I once spent twenty minutes or so chatting with Peter Reith. Afterwards a friend rushed over to me and asked, “Do you know who that was?” I didn’t; so my friend told me. Unfortunately, I’ve since forgotten. But I reckon I spent more time with Mr. Reith than anyone else in the room. We just chatted. Maybe after fifteen years he was glad not to talk about the Howard Years for a while. I was happy to oblige, if only because I don’t know very much about John Howard—outside of the fact that conservatives are meant to speak about him with a reverence usually reserved for popes and transsexual Olympians.

So I spent the hour before lunch began slurping champagne and smoking quietly in the corner, pointedly not speaking to anyone. Whether I came off as a Very Important Person or a Rather Pathetic Drunk I’m not quite certain.

Eventually my dear friend and Mon Droit managing editor Catherine Priestley joined me. She was also fashionably late, but wasn’t, from what I could tell, quite so fashionably sweaty. Catherine chose a different method of socialization. She picked out each of our fellow guests by face and name and told them which was their best article, when their birthday was, and what their mother’s maiden name is—punctuated with lots of “Wows” and “Goshes”. I don’t think I fared so well. Anyway, I got along, and I got very drunk.

Then, after about five hours and ten glasses of chardonnay, it occurred to me to lecture Andrew Bolt on the finer points of T.S. Eliot’s oeuvre.

Eventually we were herded into our assigned places for the actual luncheon, where I was placed between former ABC chairman Donald McDonald and The Australian’s Grace Collier. The seating arrangement perplexed me until someone gave a speech decrying the recent leadership spill, at which point my table erupted in jeers. Ah, I thought to myself, This is the Turnbullite table. Yes, fine, whatever: I love Malcolm. I love his unironic orange ties and free-marketeer swagger. “Bite me,” as the Yanks say.

The highlight of the meal itself was my own speech, so I won’t go too much into that; it might come off as a bit vain. Regardless, all the real fun came after we’d eaten. Once our places were cleared and the speeches concluded, most of the company promptly marched onto the balcony for various tobaccos. I became immensely popular as the cigarette dealer—more so than Paul Murray, with his deep pocket full of cigars. I reckon Neil Brown smoked about half of my pack, and Miranda Devine pinched one toward the end of the evening. (“I don’t inhale,” she assured me. Sure thing, Miranda.) Then, after about five hours and ten glasses of chardonnay, it occurred to me to lecture Andrew Bolt on the finer points of T.S. Eliot’s oeuvre. The Waste Land is child’s play compared to the Four Quartets, I informed Mr. Bolt. Now sober, I loathe myself slightly for it. But I was, of course, right.

During the late hours of the afternoon I also properly met Speccie editor Rowan Dean for the first time, after so many months of hassling him endlessly to publish my drivel. For those of you who don’t know, Rowan is probably Australia’s greatest living satirists… not that I can think of any other Australian satirists. But he’s certainly up there with P.J. O’Rourke. Do yourself a favor and grab the Weekend Financial Review: his political humor column is on the second-to-last page, and it’s a scream. Really, I’d give my left nut to be as funny as Rowan. He offered some of the best encouragement of my life—which I think he’ll regret sober—like not to worry about sending in four submissions a week and keeping him up till 3am every Tuesday with edits to publisher’s proofs. Oh well. He’s in for it now.

His wife Sarah is also one of the kindest women you could hope to meet, and the theme of the evening was, “How the Hell did Rowan snag her?” Sarah reckons she’s my biggest fan, and has formally challenged my mother to fisticuffs for that title. She’s also the brains of the whole operation, and obviously a woman of remarkably discerning taste, so I can’t help but covet her praise.

This is probably the worst publicity anyone could give the Spectator, but please, dear reader, go out and buy it. For your own sake. Rowan’s unofficial motto for the magazine is “Insightful, engaging, and provocative.” I think you’ll be engaged, and I’m sure you’ll be provoked. Exactly what it will provoke you to do I can’t say, but that’s all part of the fun.

champange

 

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