TWO Secret Service officers greeted my partner Jane and I as we got out of the gold buggy and arrived an hour late for the 50th reunion of my class at Georgetown University in Washington DC. One classmate who was leaving said simply “The President’s inside”.

Bill Clinton was a member of my class and he brought Hillary along to the party. They were a bit more punctual and had arrived in good time. Each was ‘holding court’ in a different part of the ballroom and doing it in very different styles.

Hillary looked glamorous, dripping in gold and black stripped scarves. Bill was in a blue checked shirt. They ‘worked’ the crowd differently. Although it was Bill’s reunion, Hillary had the bigger crowd. She didn’t know the other ‘kids’ in the class as well as Bill did, but she was accepted as one of them, joking, swapping stories and taking photos.

I was surprised to find out she was planning to turn up in Oxford later this month to give a lecture. She has a lot of powerful stories to tell and during the party she shared them in a relaxed, friendly way. When she is not in the spotlight and under pressure to perform, a different, some would say delightful, Hillary emerges.

But inevitably in that group of his classmates, Bill was the star. He hasn’t lost that personal ‘touch’ of shaking your arm with both hands and his focus, if anything, has improved. When he is standing next to you, listening and talking, it still feels like you are the only person in the room with him, even though this time the 1960s discotheque music was blaring out You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling, The Bristol Stomp and Let’s Twist Again.

The Clintons didn’t dance but many in the class hit the dancefloor and even danced on top of the tables. It was that kind of party and the tables were more creaky than the 70-year-olds jiving on top of them. The classmates of 1968 have lost none of their ability to shock and surprise.

All the drinks were free. One classmate commented that ‘after all the millions we have donated to this institution, the least they could do was to supply the booze’. But it wasn’t a booze-fuelled shindig. Wine was inexcusable. I asked the bartender to see the bottle of white wine from which he poured my glass to see if the label said ‘turpentine’ anywhere, and I wondered quietly whether or not the cocktails had been watered down. If so, maybe that was a good thing. We all did have a tendency to over-imbibe. At the end of the night everyone was still standing and wanting more.

We didn’t all leave at the same time so there were enough golf buggies for everyone to have a ride to the University gates. I didn’t see anyone fall over, just a sea of happy faces of people who can still let their hair down and loved to boogie.

On Sunday, Jane and I headed back to the real world of England. After a 6,000-mile, all-night flight with terminal cancer, I felt invigorated enough to refuse a ride at Gatwick on one of those airport special service carts down what seemed like miles of corridors leading from the plane to passport control. I’m not ready for the knacker’s yard.

Despite all the doomsayers warning me not to travel because a trip to a USA hospital would spell bankruptcy, despite all the health risks of travelling with a totally depleted immune system, sometimes you just need to grab life with both hands and give it a good kick start.

This week I’m back in harness at the Churchill Hospital getting chemotherapy; and I think I’ve found a way to crack the problem of my violent reaction to the cancer treatment, but more on that in the future. These little battles where you win the round on points do add up.