Shake the Money Tree January 2011

Dear Rowley,

Just a quickie darling. Two very pesky magazine editors didn’t pay me when they promise so last week was all about austerity. I feared I would have to throw myself on the mercy of the parish or, worse, go with the Raggle Taggle Gypsies Oh! Fortunately, a cheque was biked over so I only had three days to survive on the shekels I raised converting all my foreign currency to sterling and raiding my sixpenny bottle. Reminds me of a Julian & Sandy sketch on Round the Horne. One of Julian’s ‘friends’ in the Merchant Navy, Jock, sent him a ship in a bottle. He shows it to Mr Horne who says, ‘why, Julian, there’s nothing in it’. ‘No’, says Sandy, ‘it’s the Marie Celeste’.

Well, I found Austerity Sherwood quite resourceful as it turned out. I managed to eke out the cash on basic groceries from Tesco rather than filling my boots at Waitrose. Isn’t Tesco awful? I was, admittedly, helped along by the delicious leg of lamb roasted in garlic and rosemary with roasted vegetables and creme brulee to follow that better half cooked for me over the weekend. I was also helped along by four cases of Chianti that my friend Patricia had shipped over from Italy for the cellars in Bloomsbury Towers.

Had a super conversation with Kerry Taylor this week who is a great fashion historian and auctioneer. Google her darling. She has sold pieces from the collections of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor (in fact, she catalogued the collection for Sotheby’s), Princess Margaret, Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis, Bubbles Rothermere, ┬áDame Barbara Cartland, Diana Princess of Wales, Audrey Hepburn, Leslie Caron, Jerry Hall, Marie Helvin and Princess Lilian of Belgium. Anyway, I want to feature some of the fashion still life images that she shoots for her catalogues. As you know, my Thames & Hudson picture budget is relatively modest and I asked Kerry if I could have the shots. She quite rightly said that there would be a fee. Too right. I think too many of us work too hard for too little and don’t have the luxury of stashing our well-gotten gains offshore.

Sorry to rant Rowley but it is a lot of years since I’ve been short of a bob or two. Never say never, eh? Anyway, the cheques will clear tomorrow, I’ll get a few quid from T&H for the Fashion at Royal Ascot advance and all will be well with the world again. As King Charles II said on his deathbed: ‘let not poor Nelly starve’. He wasn’t just whistling Dixie honey. On the upside, I had a lovely phone call from Henry Poole & Co’s bookbinder Mark Winstanley at the Wyvern Bindery in Clerkenwell. He has offered to make me a bespoke cover for the Savile Row book. Isn’t that wonderful. Should I take a leaf out of Count Dracula’s book and have it covered in human skin…preferably magazine editors’ skin seeing as they are so damned tight.

A further upside of being strapped for cash is only being able to afford a couple of drinks when one is out on the town. I’m working so damned hard at the moment that there really isn’t time for socialising. Imagine the scene in Bloomsbury Towers with me huddled by a gas ring in granny’s old mink with no heating eating a nourishing bowl of Baxter’s Lobster Bisque with dippy gruyere bread and down to my last 40 Vogue Menthol: truly pathetic I am sure you’d agree. But, then again Rowley, you were always hopeless with money. Like I, when you are down to your last few pennies you’d go and cheer yourself up by buying a cashmere sweater at Ralph, a new tie and silk pocket square at Turnbull & Asser, the latest signed hardbacks at Hatchards and finish a good day’s shopping with Welsh Rarebit and a Flight of Italian fine wines in the bar in Fortnum’s basement. Such fun!

Three cheery pictures to make us smile. The first is of a costume jewellery parure made by my friend the very talented Simon Harrison who is I think one of the great jewellery designers de nos jour whether working in fabulous fakes or the real thing. I think I told you he is trying to make an artists’ impression of the snake-headed bracelet Mrs Chieveley gets trapped around her wrist in An Ideal Husband. The second is a bit dark, taken as it was at the crack of dawn. But have a look at the red and white sticker at the top of the lorry windscreen. ‘Caution. Working at Rear’.┬áCan’t make it up can you. Third picture is of some jolly hats in James Lock & Co.

Thrilled to report my book is still in the window at Hatchards and Waterstones Piccadilly. I can hardly believe that there will be a sister title to join it come June. Anyway Rowley, I have to shake the money tree and write my column for the next Rake and a 3000-word meander through the Savoy’s wicked past. That should keep me off the streets for a while. My mentor Bobby Hillson is treating me to an Italian local tomorrow lunchtime. He’s called Luigi. Until next time…