A Theatrical Evening January 2011

Dear Rowley,

You’ve got to give it up for the gays, haven’t you. I was trolling down Old Compton Street the other day and saw a No VAT sign outside GAY. ‘F*** the Recession’ it read. Love it do. Personally, I think all this gay lib is going a little bit far. I regularly see guys holding hands now in Mayfair. Better half would be mortified if I locked digits with him at the Chelsea Flower Show. Yesterday, when stoating down Shaftsbury Avenue, I clocked a gorgeous guy who looked like David Gandy. Perhaps it was. In my head I thought ‘pwooooar’. Then I realised I had actually articulated said expletive in a Sid James cockney accent with the requisite palm in arm gesture. Thank the Lord I didn’t give a dirty cackle at the end! Benny Hill is alive and well and living in Bloomsbury Towers.

A super evening last night at the Renoir Cinema to watch The King’s Speech with the fragrant Rosy Runciman. What a film. Colin Firth is a shoo-in for the best actor gong at the Oscars and Helena Bonham Carter just gets better and better. Who said there were no good parts for actresses who don’t have tits like an Animatron and cascades of blonde hair? Seriously, though, if you want a real lift Rowley, go and see the movie. It ended poignantly with the King giving a flawless speech on the wireless on the eve of World War II. It left hanging in the air the thought of all the ugliness and horror the King and his people would go through in the coming years. God help us if there’s another war because I don’t think the current generation of youngsters would rise to the challenge.

If there was another war, I’d volunteer for ENSA and dress up as Vera Lynn singing morale boosting numbers for the boys, wouldn’t you? Rosy is the archivist for Sir Cam. His new musical, Betty Blue Eyes, is coming up in April and is based on the fabulous Alan Bennett-penned film A Private Function. Rosy has asked me to write a piece about the fashions of 1947 for the programme and I am thrilled. She has even thrown in a couple of tickets for the first night. Felt like Noel Coward darling.

I do love the Renoir Cinema. You get a better class of punter: none of those popcorn-guzzling Yanks in socks and sandals who feel compelled to travel everywhere with a two litre bottle of still water as if they are climbing the Eiger rather than sitting through two hours of celluloid heaven. I loathe people eating, talking, fidgeting and swearing in cinemas. Better half goes positively apoplectic in a multiplex cinema. We have a list of acceptable venues now where you can guarantee that ‘the young’ do not gather like a pack of mad, ill-behaved dogs.

After the flicks, we decamped to Ciao Bella on Lamb’s Conduit Street where we were greeted like the Delmonico’s scene in Hello Dolly. Such fun. We had two bottles of Valpoliparrot and a few snifters of Grappa and a good time was had by all. Speaking of which, I had a super lunch with my mate Helen at the Royal Opera House in the Amphitheatre restaurant. My dear, the food is exquisite. I had Sole Muniere and it was simply perf. Helen is one lady in London who always has me in shreds with laughter. We never stop from the minute we sit down until the macchiato.

Having worked the weekend to finish another chapter of Fashion at Royal Ascot: Three Centuries of Thoroughbred Style, I took the day off yesterday and had another divino massage with Dino. He keeps my body and soul together, that one. We never stop gassing from the minute my rump hits the massage table. That sounded more vulgar than it ought. There’s no funny business at Relax: no happy finish unless you count laughing your ass off.

I had a very nice email correspondence with a TV production company who would like to develop some factual documentary ideas with me for BBC1. Thrilling! I have Zack and Inside Out to thank for that one no doubt. Who is the beehived blonde lady in the picture I am sending you this week you might well ask? She is none other than my dear friend Patricia Carruthers in the early 1960s when she was a showgirl. Patricia used to live in an upstairs flat on Old Compton Street above two divine streetwalkers who would always shoo punters away from her door. She danced everywhere from the Embassy Club to the Lebanon.

Patricia and I first met at Pitti Uomo in Florence many moons ago when she worked for the Italian Trade Commission. She was essentially my fixer and my nanny. After my first trip there reporting for the FT and the International Herald Tribune, she said she didn’t know why Pitti bothered with a hotel room for me because I was never in it. I recall vividly nights on the Ponte Vecchio dreaming of being on the back of a Lambretta. Within minutes I was, being whisked out into the Tuscan hills by an Italian sturdly postman. I had a long-standing fling with a Swedish exchange student who was living in the Palazzo Borghese in Florence in a garrett and working in a bar called Tabasco (it does burn, Rowley). Every Pitti season, I would head down to Tabasco come the witching hour and there he would be. It was very romantic as it happened. And it happened frequently.

Enough of my torrid past. I’ve got to concentrate on my torrid future. So life is sweet, I’m sleeping better and I am writing like a gypsy on fire. Whoever said January was a slow month? There’s more darling, there’s lots more…