Royal Ascot Starting Post November 2010

Dear Rowley,

At present I am in bed with two of my most favourite boys: my parents’ Cavalier King Charles Spaniels Dougal and Murphey. Sound like two Irish navvies don’t they? These gorgeous creatures call to mind a Victoria Wood TV play called Pat & Margaret that had more zingers in it than Some Like it Hot. My particular favourite was when the two misfit sisters (one a Hollywood soap star and the other a woman who works in a service station) confront their cold, estranged mother. ‘You never loved us did you?’ emotes Wood looking like a hurt puppy. Mother turns to them and says, ‘I never knew what love was until I bred my first Afghan’.

Well, I left London on something of a high. In the morning I wrote a 1000 word introduction to Thoroughbreds: Fashion at Royal Ascot for Thames & Hudson to dummy-up with the pictures I had sent previously. I am thrilled this project has got the go-ahead from the Ascot Trustees, that I will get the chance to work with the fabulous Gary England not to mention Mrs T and that the art director of Savile Row, Sam Clark, may have sufficient time to work on the Royal Ascot layouts with me.

Mrs T and I had a lovely lunch at the caff – Sheekey’s Oyster Bar – and came to the realization that we had missed each other immensely and couldn’t wait to get started on the next projects. For the rest of the year and into Jan 2011, this will be the Ascot book and the Louis Vuitton Guide to London fort 2012. Mrs T will excel at both and, let’s face it, we will be in and out of the Savoy on various projects. It looks like FINALLY the Savoy party for Savile Row is sorted. We did yet another walk through of the River Restaurant with the lovely Mark Scholfield and I think we’ve got the makings of a lovely evening.

I won’t spoil the surprises and will report back on the 23rd if I have recovered by then. Actually, I have to because Cartier is hosting a launch for Carol Woolton’s Fashion in Jewellery book at the store that evening and on the 24th Nicky Haslam unleashes his Cole Porter Revue on the Beaufort Bar at the Savoy (the mind boggles). I had a great fun morning at the Savoy last week in the company of Brett who I am trying to persuade to ask Liza to perform a couple of numbers from her new Confessions album at the Beaufort. The whole album is she and Billy Stritch at the piano singing standards. I do hope she’ll agree. Perhaps there are too many memories at the Savoy of Judy not to mention Frank and Sammy D.

But back to Royal Ascot. The fundamental question with the research is how much history, how much celebrity, how much grandeur and how much of the people material will strike the right balance? I think the answer would be to follow the blue print of Savile Row and make the layout a series of gear shifts that tell the story chronologically but breaking it up with little tit bits such as full page spreads of single portraits with a paragraph of directly quoted text about why Royal Ascot holds such a special place in the hearts of the Royal Enclosure stars.

I have already put the word out on Cecil Court to start the search for material. There are some super racing cigarette cards in one of the shops and I have acquired several vintage magazines with fashion/racing graphics on the covers. I am still not sleeping through the night so picked-up a copy of the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire’s book Home to Roost that was on the bedside table in Derbyshire. Apropos of a chapter about tiaras, the Dowager Duchess writes ‘What are tiaras for? They are the finishing flourish to the best evening dress, accompanied by long white gloves of thinnest suede, ending above the elbow and cleaned after every outing. They are the night-time equivalent of an Ascot hat’. Charming, no?

I have a feeling that there will be an embarrassment of riches when Mrs T and I start to research the words and pictures for Thoroughbreds. Everyone who was anyone has attended the race meeting in its 300-year history. In fact everyone who even thinks they are anyone has attended though they may have been denied access to the Royal Enclosure. Fortunately Gary England has a super collection of Enclosure shots from the last five years of the Royal and I know Getty Images has some super material not scanned online hence exclusive to the new book. David Drummond on Cecil Court tells me that he had the world’s largest Ascot collector in only last week. Who knew from the specialized subject let alone the world’s largest collector?

In a bid to escape Match of the Day on Sunday morning television, I switched channels to BBC2 and what appears to be children’s programming. Rather refreshing that it is still finger puppets and daft adults like Play School back in my childhood. I expected it to be ‘bitchin’ rappers teaching the little moppets the phonetic alphabet or New Labour jobsworths teaching kids to speak that nonsense PC English that never fails to make my blood boil on the Today programme.

Doesn’t it make you laugh when some policy wonk calls a gazzilion dollar deficit a ‘challenging issue’? Or when some Diversity Tsar (something to do with the X Factor?) burbles on about gender issues or racial empowerment. Calls to mind Bette Midler’s wordplay about a plane crash. ‘The plane will not plummet from the sky killing everyone on board, it will simply fail to maintain altitude’. Until next time…