Pissed-off Toff recently received an invitation to a grand Eton reunion dinner. This has prompted some soul-searching.
I write in the darkest hours of the night. In front of me is a glass of iced vodka, and also a solid 18-carat gold fountain pen, the beauty and rarity of which cheers me up while I contemplate failure and the passing of time.
I recently received an invitation to go down to Eton for a dinner in College Hall for the leavers of 1979. Forty years since one left Eton??!! Excuse the banality … but how time has flown. It all seems only yesterday. I can remember, with crystal clarity, everything, absolutely everything that happened in those five most formative years. And what has one achieved since then? A few love affairs; some foreign adventures; a few small passing successes, a little welcome fame, and a little less welcome notoreity. But on the whole, one is weighed in the balance and found wanting.
So I have been humming and hurring about whether to accept this undoubtedly grand invitation from Eton; and putting my pride to one side, I rang a few (OE) friends and spoke with some degree of frankness about my fears.
The response was unaninmous. You must go, they said. The message was delivered in different ways. One friend, who has made a large fortune, said: “No-one’s bothered about how successful you are or otherwise.” Another said: “Go. You will enjoy it.” So the message seemed to be: man-up, and do it. Accordingly, I have written to Eton to accept.
There is also another way of looking at it. Might there not be a number of chaps at this 40-year reunion who will welcome the appearance of a man who has not made or married money, who owns no land, who is not rich, and who has not even inherited a title?
“Poor old Pissed-off Toff,” they will think. “At least I haven’t messed up as badly as he has. Phew!!!” They will not despise me because I have failed. They will, on the contrary, welcome me for this same reason.
Eton will ask me for money, which I won’t give because I don’t have any. But since one of my brothers has given them a large suitcase full of high-denomination banknotes, I am not going to be feeling too guilty.
Then there will be a talk given by one of the more successful chaps in my year, and invited to do so by the school. Last time – ten years ago – it was Johnny Boden, of on-line clothing fame. I always liked him from old times, well before he became a household name; and true to form, he gave a good talk ten years ago, in the self-deprecatory manner that is the mark of the upper classes. It started off with something about how when people want an OE to give a talk at some event, they first contact David Cameron … then Boris … and then, when they are desperate, they’ll get on the blower to him.
I wonder who will be giving the talk this time round. We’ll have to see. But I will put on my smoking jacket and will go. Wish me luck.