AUTHORS of many books, and a goodly company of leading ladies and gentlemen of the Fourth Estate, were among the many guests at the recent party given by Dr Brian Inglis, in his Hampstead home, to celebrate his 70th birthday.
We were there to join in wishing him Ad Mulios Annos. Famed as a writer on alternative medicine, and on the paranormal, Brian is incredibly young looking, and remarkably fit.
I first made his acquaintance when he was a journalist on the Irish Times. These were it's great days under the editorship of Robert Smyllie. He changed it from being a Protestant and Unionist organ into being a genuinely Irish Newspaper with a circulation beyond the Pale.
Brian was a fellow journalist of the then theatre critic of the Irish Times, Seamus Kelly, and the Quidnunc columnist Patrick Campbell, (later Lord Glenavy).
The future editor of the Spectator, and TV commentator, had served in the RAF in the second World War, with the rank of squadronleader, and was mentioned in dispatches.
There was an RAF link among the guests. Gavin Lyall, former RAF pilot officer, expert on firearms, and writer of best selling thrillers which crowd every airport bookstall, was a fellow guest.
With him was Mrs Gavin Lyall Fleet Street's leading lady columnist, Katherine Whitehorn, who is one of the main reasons for the increasing sales of the Observer.
What discerning students they have in St Andrew's University. They elected her rector from 1982 to 1985! And, by the way, what a charming tribute Katherine Whitehorn paid recently in her column to the memory of G K Chesterton.
That lovely man (as they say in Ireland) Robert Kee was there too, (ex RAF pilot 1940 to 1946). He will always be loved and remembered in lreland for his TV series, "Ireland, a Television history in 13 parts", first screened in 1981.
He is also author of that monumental history of Irish Nationalism, The Green Flag, first published in 1972.
Irish history is his hobby, and he is presently engaged in writing a highly controversial book on the Guildford IRA pub bombings. His thesis is that there was a miscarriage of justice.
Another great friend of Ireland was there, the Supremo of all wine writers, Cyril Ray. His writings in the Manchester Guardian were much admired by Eamonn De Valera, who was always pleased to give him an interview.
An honorary life member of the Kildare Street and Dublin University Club, he had just returned from a weekend wine consultation in the capital of the Four Green Fields.
Ruth Dudley-Edwards, of that distinguished family of historians and academics, was another guest, who told me that she is putting the final touches to a life of the publisher Victor Golancz, the founder of the Left Book Club.
Her recent book on Patrick Pearse, the poet-leader of the Rising of 1916, brought about a completely fresh re-evaluation of that death-wish bloodsacrifice schoolmaster and visionary, who so willingly gave his life for Ireland.
I asked a distinguished Catholic author and journalist at the barbecue if he read the Catholic Herald? The exStonyhurst product paused for thought, and said that when he was not in his home in the country, he had a new top-floor study in Notting Hill.
He saw the Herald there when attending moring Mass in the local church. He would read it, he said, if there wasn't a picture of Mgr Bruce Kent on the front page! I wondered if they had been at Stonyhurst at the same
Last weekend, after the magnificent birthday party. I read the distinguished writer's "Saturday Column" in The Daily Telegraph. In this he wrote that his local church testified to a "simple love of God as well as an uninstructed regard for beauty".
Commenting on the Victorian Age of Catholicism he wrote of today, "Nothing of that spirit now remains, and if you enter the church you are likely to hear praise of Nicaragua as of the Virgin Mary. But those windows remind me of the sanguine past."
I have enormous sympathy for Paul Johnson's point of view. I was delighted to hear from him that he is engaged in writing a history of antisemitism, to be published next year.
He said that anti-semitism was rife long before Christianity took a hand in it. The one time editor of the New Statesman (1965 to 1970) and author of A History of Christianity, and of Pope John Paul II and the Catholic Restoration, is an amazingly profound and prolific writer.
Uri Geller was there too, but my barbecue fork was unbending.
Paul Johnson's comment on Nicaragua and the Virgin Mary set me thinking. Personally I see the country and Our Lady walking hand in hand.
Remember Gilbert Keith Chesterton's insanely wise and prophetic book, The Napoleon of Notting Hill? In this "Juan del Fuego, President of Nicaragua" says, "Nicaragua has been conquered like Athens. Nicaragua has been annexed like Jerusalem. The Yankee and the German and the brute powers of modernity have trampled it all with the hoofs of oxen. But Nicaragua is not dead. Nicaragua is an idea."
This was GKC writing in 1904 about 1984.
To GK writing in 1904, the London of 1984 was a rather non-colour world, presided over by a King elected from the
bureaucracy in power. Mrs Thatcher? The Napoleon of Notting Hill is shot through with the most evocative of colours as befitted an artist of the Slade School such as Chesterton.
He knew his Camden Hill, as he had been born there.
It is the wildest of romances, which read now in 1986, has a mad sanity about it, which persuades us to move into a world which has rejected mediaeval walls and local liveried armies in favour of the "contras" of President Reagan's policy in Nicaragua.
And, speaking of chivalry, and Knights errant against the most appalling international injustices, the Polish excombatants Association in Britain tell me that on September 13, at 11 am, a ceremony will take place at the Katyn Memorial, in Gunnersbury cemetry, in Hounslow, Middlesex, to pay tribute to the memory of the 15,000 Polish prisoners of war, murdered in 1940 by the Soviet secret police. The British Legion will be there, but just how many British Members of Parliament remains to be seen.
The introductory poem, to The Napoleon of Notting Hill, dedicated to Hilaire Beltoc is of great beauty, with its lovely opening lines: "For every tiny town or place God made the stars especially; Babies look up with owlish face And see them tangled in a tree: You saw a moon from Sussex Downs
,4 Sussex moon, untravelled still,
I saw a moon that was the town's The largest lamp on Campden Hill".
The forthcoming book on anti-semitism reminded me of the days of Sir Oswald Mosley and his black-shirted British Union of Fascists, who held provocative marches through the East End of London, to beat up the poorest of the poor Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany, who worked in the sweatshops of the garment district there.
This Fascist violence filled the London Hospital in the Mile End Road with casualties, and churned the stomachs of believers in British democracy. The knucle-duster brigades, complete with the Union Flag, were out to show who was top dog.
Today the same type of provocative marches by the Orange Lodges in the Six Counties are designed to put the fear of God into the Catholic minority.
The difference is that the Royal Ulster Constabulary are a law unto themselves, and permit these marches, particularly the more violent and bloody march of August 12.
It the Government, as Lord Whitelaw has announced, intend to celebrate officially the 300th anniversary of its "Glorious Revolution" of 1688, in 1988, they will be pouring petrol on the conflagration in the North of Ireland.
Catholic peers have pointed this out, and Norman St John Stevas MP, has been quick to say that King William of Orange and the Glorious Revolution was one of the more squalid episodes of English history.
Catholic opinion differs, as the Duke of Norfolk, writing in his introduction to the Colour Library publication on the Royal Wedding, as Earl Marshal of England, has this to say: "Of the 12 countries comprising the European Economic Community, six are happily ruled by Kings, Queens, or, in one case, by a reigning Grand Duke. Their political structures are in fact constitutional monarchies, where the monarch is head of state, but with little direct political power. We in Britain have evolved this excellent form of government since the Revolution of 1688 . . ."
Still, I wouldn't like to be in. Portadown, in the Catholic ghetto, on August 12 1988!