Autistic Society dinner

This week’s column was going to consist of just one word, repeated a thousand times: PERSEVERE. If you are seeking success, whether that’s at school or in a relationship or in your career or any other arena, it’s the one word which truly matters: PERSEVERE. Keep saying it to yourself, over and over, in as many different ways as you can: PERSEVERE, KEEP TRYING, NEVER QUIT, YOU CAN DO IT, PERSEVERE.



Albert Roux


Mr and Mrs Edward Fox


Jane Asher and Gerald Scarfe


Gerald Scarfe and Ian Heath

In parts of Britain and the US, about one per cent of children have
been officially diagnosed with autism. No one knows what causes it, or
how it can be prevented — there’s no cure and no vaccine.

children benefit from good education and treatment, and lots of parents
say their child’s difficulties have added a new dimension to family
life and enriched it.

But it can also be an exhausting,
frustrating and devastating disability. Profoundly autistic children
sometimes have to go to residential schools, and they might never be
able to live independently or earn a living. That’s a huge
responsibility for the whole family to face.

So I was keenly
interested when my son Daniel introduced me to Colin Barrow, the
president of the National Autistic Society’s board of trustees.

is also deputy leader of Westminster Council, and Dan chairs the Hyde
Park residents’ association. As I shook Colin’s hand, I remembered what
Hanna had told me a few weeks earlier: “Daniel is inviting us to much
smarter parties than we’re used to.”

Hanna was right. Showbiz
parties are all about designer labels and bling…but I’ve grown out of
those, so I usually go in a Hawaiian shirt and flip-flops.

attends functions where all the men have hand-tied dicky bows. I tried
showing up at a lawyers’ ball in a Hawaiian shirt once, and no one was
amused, least of all Dan.

Sure enough, the invite Colin and his
wife sent, for the National Autistic Society (NAS) annual dinner, at
their grand Westminster home, promised to be a real black-tie affair.

also offered a dinner prepared by Albert Roux, perhaps the greatest
chef in the country — the man who transformed British cuisine when he
opened Le Gavroche in London 40 years ago.

I’d wear a suit of
armour, or Speedo trunks and a feather boa, or even both outfits at
once, for an Albert Roux dinner…especially as I knew he would be
preparing an exclusive vegetarian option for guests who didn’t eat meat.

enough, his main menu was mouth-watering, and almost enough to tempt me
to be a carnivore for the night: canapes of duck roulette and smoked
eel, followed by a leek and lobster terrine, with supreme of guinea
fowl for the main course.

The veggie choice was equally fabulous
— stir-fried vegetables, followed by tomatoes stuffed with rice, and
the most succulent fresh fruit.

The guests were a treat too. I
chatted to the brilliant cartoonist Gerald Scarfe, who’s married to
Jane Asher, the NAS president.

Gerald drew the unforgettable illustrations for Pink Floyd’s The Wall — his art is as instantly recognisable as Dali’s.
Heath, the political cartoonist from Private Eye — and a hundred other
places — was there too. I couldn’t believe how young he was.

recognised Edward Fox’s voice before I saw his face. He’s barely
changed since The Day Of The Jackal, and like many actors he’s a great
conversationalist — totally confident and full of fascinating stories.
Hanna and I felt as though we were being treated to a private

The auction after dinner raised a breathtaking £50,000 or more.

auctioned a crystal vase which I designed myself: it netted five grand,
but Gerald Scarfe easily trumped me — a guest paid £15,000 to be
caricatured by the master.

I have to admit it’s a prize I’d
love, but I was also tempted by the Heath original painting, the
weekend at the Grand in Amsterdam and the astrological necklace from
Bentleys, with the planets and starsigns picked out in gold and

But perhaps the most desirable lot of all was the
house near Rio de Janiero, overlooking one of 2000 perfect beaches
scattered across 365 islands…your own private paradise, for 10 days.

“You’re right,” I told Hanna as we drove home. “Dan really is getting us into a better class of party.”




Buchel, the sculptor who filled a warehouse with broken fridges and PCs
for his latest exhibition, was staggered when he saw how much junk I’ve
accumulated during 20 years in Britain. “We’ve got to make a show out
of this,” he insisted. “Let’s call it Uri Geller’s Garage!” I haven’t
told him it’ll be the first in a series — I’ve got enough clutter to
fill Uri Geller’s Attic, Garden Shed, Understairs Cupboard, Guest Room
and Space Under The Sink!





On my way to visit the connoisseur
and collector Anthony d’Offay, I stopped at Grays Market off Bond
Street to pick out a small gift for the great man. My eye fell on an
antiques stand called Spectrum, run by Sylvie (centre of picture) and
Julie. Since Anthony has just opened a teashop, I thought I might take
him a teaspoon. “We’ve only got one but it’s beautiful, 1744 and solid
silver,” said Sylvie. I held it up to the light. The bowl was engraved
with a letter “D” — for d’Offay, of course! That’s not mere chance — it
must be synchronicity.



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