All This and Heaven Too January 2011

Dear Rowley,

Vintage champagne half price at Tesco this afternoon. Get in! I have had an absolutely Joanna Lumley ‘lovely’ Sunday. It started after a good six-hour sleep that pleased me immensely. Then I got my glad rags on and tottered into Mayfair for the 11am service at St George’s. Though I have been several times now, it was the first sermon I listened to preached by Rector Roddy. He was really rather marvellous encouraging that we all take time out of our lives to ‘ponder not wonder’ about the Christmas message. All the Gorgeous Georges were on form. I almost felt motivated to take the veil darling.

I am pondering what more I can do for St George’s. I could do a mean Alan Bennett ‘Mrs Vicar’ stealing the communion wine and replacing it with Ribena. There wasn’t champagne in the vestry today so, feeling quite hard done by, I trotted over to Relax on Brewer Street. No Dino but a very lovely lady gave me a facial and neck massage that worked wonders for my circulation and my sinuses. You know I missed an appointment over Christmas and the darlings sent me a Christmas card wondering how I was. As the proprietress said, ‘if you’d have died, it would have been on the news’. Bless.

After the heavenly massage and a nice cup of lemon and ginger tea (they remembered), I took a stroll through Soho back to Bloomsbury Towers. En route down Brewer Street I walked past the gay nightclub Shadow Lounge who had the most super poster outside declaring ‘diamonds are a gay’s best friend’. Too right, duckie. I was wearing my Grandmother’s diamond and ruby headlamp that had the receptionist at Relax mesmerised like a snake hypnotising a mongoose.

Home, heating on 32 and an afternoon glued to BBC7 who were playing back-to-back banner episodes of The Archers in anticipation of the series’s special 60th anniversary episode tonight at 7pm. The nation will be glued to their Roberts Radios collectively as we have been promised a storyline that will profoundly alter Ambridge for years to come. You can always tell the true Brits from the yahoos with The Archers. If you think it is a much-loved radio soap and the longest running in the world, then you pass. If you think it is the corporate logo of an international fast food operation then your passport should be confiscated immediately.

I wonder what the storyline will be? It has to be death or deaths because what else has ramifications for decades to come for Ambridge. My money is on a crazed gunman running amok a la Raoul Moat and randomly killing characters. All I can say is I hope Lilian and Linda Snell are unharmed by 7.30pm. It took me nigh on 20-years to learn to love The Archers. It is without doubt one of life’s greatest pleasures and always a comfort to listen to; reminding one that we are still in England and life hasn’t quite gone as mad as one thought.

Isn’t it interesting that the austerity to come in 2011 is not necessarily a bad thing. It will really test our collective metal. I for one have many thoughts on how to handle the lean times. I am taking inspiration from the late great US Vogue editor Diana Vreeland who wrote a marvellous column in 1940s Bazaar called ‘Why don’t you?’ in which the eccentric one would offer pearls of wisdom such as ‘why don’t you wash the blonde baby’s hair in last night’s flat Champagne?’ If only there was any left!

My ‘Why Don’t You?’ tips are ostensibly as barmy as Miss Vreeland’s but they will, I think, work for me and possibly for my tribe too. Why don’t we all give up smoking for 2011 if only to allow us to carry on drinking Prosecco and Champagne? Why don’t we all save the cigarette money and pay for a weekly 90-minute massage at Relax? Why don’t I do more for other people and not live such a feckless, self-obsessed life? Why don’t I take lessons from Leon at Anderson & Sheppard and learn how to steam and press my suits rather than spending fortunes at Capri on Southampton Row?

Don’t worry our Gail and Diane, I will always find something to launder if only to enjoy half an hour laughing and chaffing with you every week. Why don’t we all downsize and give what we do not want or need to other people or to a charity of one’s choice? I don’t think I’ve ever off-loaded something and regretted it: and that counts for people as much as inanimate objects (occasionally both). Why don’t we all stop taking so much over-the-counter pharmaceuticals and rely instead on keeping healthy rather than treating ailments that inevitably come if you live a rackety life? My Savoy party was sponsored by Tanqueray 10. It should have been sponsored by Glaxo Smith Kline.

Why don’t we all work hard and be nice to people? It’s a relatively simple philosophy and one I read on the cover of a red leather notebook from Smythson. Why don’t we all try to be a bit kinder to ourselves and take time to ponder how fabulous life can be when you let it and take time to appreciate it?