Remembering Gimlet

I’m sitting in my office room and the place is still. The rest of the house is dark. Everyone’s out and I’m here writing about the death of a friend. I haven’t felt such gloom since my father died 28 years ago. The question of Why did he have to die? is implicitly followed by that of How did he live his life? The answer to that is easy: recklessly. Learning how to die, according to Montaigne, is unlearning how to be a slave. Nick Scott, who died last week in India, was no slave.

Nick went to Eton and was an army man who was a very talented landscape artist and gardener, among the best-dressed men of his time, a club man par excellence, a very good father to two boys and two girls, and probably the best-unpublished writer of his generation. He was funny as only few people can be funny, with a straight face and via cartoonish exaggeration. I met him a very long time ago at Simpson’s-in-the-Strand, at a lunch given by Charlie Glass. Nick was talking about his children and I evinced surprise. Nick asked me why. “I thought you were gay,” said I. “What makes you think I’m gay?” “Well, not one but two palazzos in Venice, English, and an old Etonian—surely you must be gay.” He banged his head on the table with such force, plates fell off it. As his forehead began to balloon, he went on as if nothing had happened. Incidentally, Nick was as gay as I am.

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As with Rick and Captain Renault, it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Nick invented a grotesque, fun-house distortion of yours truly, pronouncing my name as Taaaki and imitating my drunken slurring whenever my name came up. We began to cruise together, along with the Bismarcks, Tim Hoare, and the rest of the Pugs Club boys. On board Bushido long ago, we had an after-dinner vote on who among the guests was the most unpopular. There were eight guests and six crew. I had the ballot box stuffed and 34 votes went to Nick. Without saying a word, and fully dressed in an impeccable linen suit, he quietly threw himself over the side, his credit cards and pictures of his children floating away as he surfaced.

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