Saturday, July 14, 2007

Garden Parties

If you walk into a crowded room and Tara Palmer-Tomkinson is somewhere in the crush, it’s her face you’ll see first. She could be marching with half a million people in a Hyde Park demonstration, or hidden in the top tiers of Man United’s gargantuan stadium, and you’d pick here out instantly, as if she had a spotlight trained on her.

That’s an almost psychic gift. It’s as though, amid the blur of the crowd, Tara is the one person who’s in focus. When Hanna, Shipi and I rolled up at Sir David Frost’s garden party in north London, TPT was naturally the first person we spotted.

It wasn’t as if there was a mere scattering of famous faces. Everywhere we turned we caught the eye of people we’d seen countless times on TV, often making statements to the House of Commons or being interviewed by Larry King on CNN.

Many were politicians, but we also spotted Bob Geldof, Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber, General Sir Michael Jackson, Rowan Atkinson, and Derren Brown. Bruce Forsyth and his wife Wilnelia were there, full of lively chatter — but it was Tara who shone brightest.

Perhaps her companion, the Dubai media mogul and fashion stylist Mohieb Dahabieh, was partly responsible, because TPT was wearing a dress that made everybody stare. It wasn’t just backless — it was virtually bumless.

While we were chatting, a guest tucked her business card in a place which I’ve never seen used for business cards before. Even Tara looked surprised. She blamed Shipi at first but, though he is sometimes fond of schoolboy pranks, even he wouldn’t be that cheeky.

Sir David posed for a photo with me at the gate. His events are strictly camera-free, but there must have been 50 paparazzi hanging around in the street, so he was happy to let us take a snap.

There’d been no photos the previous evening either, at Kensington Palace for Princess Michael of Kent’s annual garden party. We were invited to take cocktails on the lawn, and as in previous years the princess insisted all her guests wore “shoes for lawns” — she doesn’t want stilettos ruining the perfectly manicured greens.

The downpours and deluges of the past few weeks threatened to make a washout of the evening, so I spent a few minutes teaching the princess how to “cloudbust”. It’s a simple piece of psychokinesis — just stare at a cloud until it goes away.

Scientifically, it’s impossible to prove how much of the effect is due to mindpower, but against all the odds Princess Michael’s party stayed dry.

We talked mostly about art — the princess is a connoisseur, and president of Partridge Fine Art Ltd. The following afternoon I joined her for lunch at Partridge’s beautiful house in Bond St, London, and marvelled at the exquisite furnishings. The cutlery, especially, caught my eye — it was silver, and so gorgeous that I couldn’t bring myself to bend it. I must be growing up.

Most dramatic of all were the mirrors... but don’t be tempted to hang one on your bathroom wall unless you’re a billionaire.The price of one mirror, from St Petersburg, was £550,000.

My table companions included the owner Mark Law; Countess Pinky Le Grelle, a marksman who was the first woman to shoot for Great Britain at the Olympic Games, in 1988; the interior designer Tatiana Rugova, and Lady Middleton. I also spent a long time chatting to Oscar Humphries (pictured), a young man who is perfecting his eye for artworks and antiques while he works there.

I asked Oscar if he was ever intimidated by the titles of his clients. “Hardly,” he said — ”my father’s a Dame.”

It turned out his father is Barry Humphries, alias Edna Everage.


I’ve written before about the dangers on my BlackBerry mobile phone and email handset, known to many users as a CrackBerry because it’s so addictive. I’m afraid my obsession with the device is now completely out of hand.

Hanna is threatening to buy me a full suit of body armour, because I’m a menace to myself and everyone around me as I stroll through London, peering at the screen and tapping away with my thumbs on the keyboard.

She’s particularly worried about my habit of walking out into the road without looking up. Anyone who wanted to assassinate me would have only to send me an email as I was about to cross Oxford S

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