Gstaad, Switzerland

The staff are back and all is well, as they used to say long ago in faraway places. The gardener and the cleaner are Portuguese, and they greet me, with their inherent dignity, from afar. The Filipina maid and cook almost gets me in a headlock trying to thank me for keeping her on salary while she rested at home. I shoo her away. Who does she take me for, a lowlife cheapskate like Leona Helmsley? I didn’t hesitate to send them all home.

Mind you, I’ve taken such a shellacking in the stock market that I’ll soon be applying for a job myself, perhaps as an aging gigolo to some fat old tart from Marienbad. I tango well and can waltz, so all I need to do is grow a pencil-thin mustache.

But I’ll start with the bad news. Michael Watts, the gentleman who brought close to 40 loyal Spectator readers up to Gstaad last winter to meet me, has died. His widow Alison wrote me a brief note to let me know, and my thoughts are with her. Speccie readers are special, and Michael and his friends are loyal subscribers. The whole thing depressed me no end.

An email from Brisbane lifted my spirits. Ian Callinan is a long-time reader, and he writes about the great Roy Emerson and other friends we have in common. I am unable to answer as I lose his message by pressing the wrong button. Oh, for the days of pencils with an eraser on top. Never mind. There is further good news in the form of Dr Aris Exadaktylos, professor of emergency medicine (i.e., when you arrive half-dead with minutes to spare, Dr Aris knows what to do). Not only is he the youngest prof; he is also the only Greek professor and director with his own chair in emergency medicine throughout Europe. I knew he was a great man when I spotted a ‘Nixon’s the One’ poster in his office. Dr Aris was born only two years before two mendacious hacks in cahoots with a disgruntled FBI officer brought down a great president.

From the Bern hospital he heads, Dr Aris sends us some info. Unlike show-offs who preach to us after the facts, the good doc’s message makes perfect sense: we know more about the virus now and can treat those who suffer from it better. Use common sense and things will be fine. Although a man of superior merit, he does not grandstand; instead he exudes an attitude of calm, combined with flashes of acute observation.

In pursuit of an ever more fickle and moronic audience, the merchants of this Alpine village have just about banned books, assigning them to the back of a once proud bookshop, now a store that sells bric-à-brac. My first-ever opus was displayed in the window exactly 45 years ago, next to a bestseller by David Niven and one by William F. Buckley. I outsold them both because back then Gstaad was full of Greeks interested in what I had to say about the colonels who had just collapsed. It was a strictly local victory; David’s book sold like hotcakes the world over.

Mind you, I have said all this before. This small place has become Slobovia, with people of undetermined provenance parading all over town now that the place has opened up. The kindest thing I can say about this mob is that they’re not exactly Almanach de Gotha material, but then Gotha types nowadays are few and far between. My son celebrated freedom by having 40 beers with Moritz Flick and Albert von Thurn und Taxis. All three of them are beer lovers and have a Schoenburg for a mother.

JT has now moved to his own chalet high up on some mountain nearby, a place I have visited only once, in the summer, because one needs ropes and oxygen during the winter months. (That boy will be the end of me.) My daughter, in the meantime, is about to give birth in Austria, and I’m headed there next week.

Needless to say, those who sell foodstuffs have made a killing during the lockdown. The butcher — a very nice man — is worried that someone might include him on those rich lists that appear every so often these days. And speaking of the rich, the next time I read or hear someone refer to Switzerland as a tax haven, I will pour my coffee down their neck while they’re bloviating. The new socialist regime in Bern is out to kill the golden calf and is succeeding. The taxes for those the socialists deem very rich are astronomical, and I foresee an exodus not unlike the one from France back in 1981, when the socialists there decided to soak the well-off. They never learn, do they?

Very few do. Free-market capitalism is the best way to support the poorest and the neediest. Just wait and see what will happen in the Bagel following the virus impact. The city is the biggest employer, and Bagelites who are municipal workers are paid by the taxes of those working in big glass buildings. The latter are now fleeing, and what I’d like to see is how the municipal workers are going to be paid. Perhaps with Noo Yawk scrip moolah. Ditto here in Gstaad.