Slightly out of time but still right on the money
Max Hastings, Ulster Hall
He didn't exactly yomp onto the Ulster Hall stage, but Sir Max Hastings, the man who deployed the Royal Marine term for walking with a full pack during the Falklands war, made an impressive entrance nonetheless.
Tall, slightly shambling in an English way that can hide Bond-like sharpness, the military historian and editor talked not about his special subjects — wars, 11 of which he's covered, and papers, two of which (The Daily Telegraph and the Evening Standard) he's edited, but himself.
The offspring of two famous bylines, Anne Scott-James and Macdonald Hastings, known as Mac, he was fixated with guns at 11. But as his mother said after asking at 90 if he'd forgiven her — for being fairly absent — nobody who made anything of themselves ever had a happy upbringing.
Hastings topped the anecdote off with a decent pay-off. He said if you're worried about dinner party chat, all you have to do is ask your neighbour to describe his or her “ghastly childhood” and they'll be good for hours.
Hastings comes across as someone born slightly too late.
He'd be the perfect person to be stuck next to at dinner.