Marina Waldorf looked beautiful last night. I approached her at the bar in at Argyle club in Mayfair. It was full of fashion industry people.
“Waldorf”, I said, “No relation to the salad?”
“Haven’t heard that one before,” she said.
The barman popped the cork and spilled Moet into our glasses.
Marina was wearing black, a designer dress, with no sleeves. I was also wearing black and had taken a shower. We were joined by her two friends, Stephanie and Elspeth.
“Elspeth,” I said. “No relation to the salad?”
Well, there might have been an Elspeth salad – with croutons. Marina helped break the silence that ensued with a polite giggle. She and I had got off to a good start, albeit because I had bought her a champagne. (Still reeling from that one – a Coke costs the best part of five quid in that place – four one-litre bottles from KwikSave. That’s where I’ll go to meet women.)
Marina told her friends I write a column.
“Who do you write for?” said Stephanie. “Agriculture Week,” I said. “Agriculture Week?” said Elspeth. “Yes, farming, combine harvesters, pesticides.” “Cool,” she said, unconvincingly. “Are there other magazines you’d like to work for?” said Marina, diplomatically. “I wouldn’t mind Vogue or Tatler,” I said. “But neither has a farming section.”
She smiled. The other two made their excuses and walked away.
“Ýou told me you write for The Times,” said Marina. “I do.” “Why didn’t you tell them that?” “I thought farming would impress them more.” “You’re a bit mad aren’t you,” she said. “Possibly,” I said. We found a table. “Are you gay?” she said. “Here we go,” I thought.
A man stepped up, hair tied in a ponytail, mid-forties, sporting a belly and the menacing self-assurance of the nightclub owner he turned out to be. “Fabio!” said Marina. She got up, hugged him and left an imprint of her lips on his cheeks.
“Marina, Marina!” he said, in an Italian accent. “You look beautiful, cherry.”
Then he sized me up.
“This is Paul,” said Waldorf. Not my name but who was I to complain. “Paul,” said Fabio, looking at me but addressing her. “Is he gay?” “Are you queer Paul?” said Waldorf. “Not only am I not gay”, I wanted to say, “I am not Paul” – sixty pounds for a bottle of grapes and this is what you get.
They summoned a waiter and snuggled up to each other. Then, at last, Oscar turned up. He loved taking me to these places and leaving me to my own devices. Then, knowing my devices to be faulty, he’d come and rescue me.
“Marina!” he said. “Oscar!” she cooed. Oscar knows everybody.
She hugged him and kissed him on both cheeks. “You look like gold ingots in a Swiss bank vault Marina!” he said.
Words of stilton and cheddar can dazzle women. It’s all about delivery.
“Thank you handsome. How do you know Paul?” she said. “Paul? ”
He clocked she meant me.
“My best buddy,” he said. We met the other week. His Rolex seemed to wink at me. “Oscar I want you to meet Fabio, he’s the owner,” she said. And boy was the owner fuming. He looked like he could eat Oscar for breakfast. Whoever he was, it was time for him to leave. This was some consolation to me as once again, I made my way home on my own.