Out of Africa…March 2011

Dear Rowley,

The age of anxiety seems to be growing apace. So now we’re policing Libya’s no-fly zone as well as Afghanistan and Iraq while cutting the armed forces to the point when all we’ll have left is equipment made by Fisher Price. It’s enough to make you whip out the holiday snaps and go into a reverie for times past. Hence the picture of happier times when I was on a water safari after a DeBeers diamond mine trip to Botswana a couple of years ago. I tell you, I have never been so relaxed sipping a gin while watching elephants frolic in the Chobe River.

Reminds me of Christmases past when the family Sherwood used to do quizzes after the Queen’s Speech. I will never forget my Grandmother’s finest hour when asked the question ‘who was the elephant man?’ to which she replied ‘is it Sabu?’ There was another faces game that Nan Gandy would host as quizmaster; cutting out portraits from the Radio Times and pasting them on cards passed around to each team after a minute to identify the mug shots. Eclectic wasn’t even in it. On any given card you could have anyone from Gloria Hunniford to General Pinochet.

Thank you for your condolences by the way darling. I did take it rather hard as it happens. Who’d have thought it? The Oddbins on Southampton Row darkening its doors forever without so much as an advance warning. Coming on top of the swift bombing of Libya and the countdown to nuclear meltdown in Japan, one wonders how many more surprises a chap can take. All it will take to send me over the edge is to hear that Cherie Blair is appearing on Strictly Come Dancing. Before you know it they’ll be telling me Justin Bieber has combed his hair.

It’s not all gloom though, is it? Fashion at Royal Ascot is practically finished so now it’s on to the nice bits such as guest lists for the launch party and publicity pieces. It is a toss-up next week whether Mrs T and I go hell for leather and finish Vuitton London 2012 or I take some time off to savour what people risibly call ‘closure’ on the Ascot project. I think it best to plough on with Vuitton and have double ‘closure’ this time next week and then relax. Relax? What that?

Having dug-out two safari shots for you, I thought I’d make it a trio of nostalgic travel snaps with this letter. The suited and booted shot was taken on the opening night of the London Cut exhibition in Tokyo.On the left is one of my oldest friends Anthony Keegan and in the centre is the exhibition’s brilliant art director Steve Lidbury.  Japan has been much on my mind; not least because the situation there is so horrific it is bordering on surreal.

The chain of events playing out there is like a rather far-fetched disaster movie. ‘Oh my God it’s an earthquake of catastrophic proportions’. ‘Run, it’s caused a tsunami’. ‘Pointless to run from Nuclear fallout’. You’re half expecting Bruce Willis in a white vest to swing by on a rope to save the world. No, it isn’t a laughing matter. Tokyo is one of my favourite cities and it is heartbreaking to see its neon lights blacked out.

Still, it’s not all bad news.Don’t you find it terribly interesting that the law seems to be catching-up with all those people who seemed to think they operated above it all these years? I’m thinking of the Prince Andrew set of shady billionaires who live in sunny places and think tax is only for the little people. Schadenfreude is rather a cheery emotion in these interesting times we are living through.

While waiting for a considerable sum overdue from a client, I happened to stray £100 over my HSBC overdraft. It was as if my reckless actions had shaken this international piggy bank by its foundations. I must have had ten to fifteen automated calls – over a weekend if you please – harassing me with threats, injunctions and God only knows what else. It was the telephonic equivalent of releasing the Hound of the Baskervilles in Bloomsbury Square once it has been familiarised with my scent: two parts Obsession to one Saint Moritz smoke.

Long story short, the payment went through, HSBC did not apologise for behaving like deranged stalkers and I concluded that there IS still a class – or perhaps caste – system based on obscene amounts of ill-gotten wealth. The super rich are indeed in a class above the rest of us dummies who pay our taxes, don’t claim any kind of benefits let alone any exemptions and scrupulously pay our way however grudgingly. What’s the point of chasing the cheats, the frauds, the shady buggers and the hardened lags when you can intimidate decent people and make your margins because you know we will do the decent thing whenever possible?

That adenoidal robot Ed Milliband calls us the ‘squeezed middle’. It makes one sound like an Agent Provocateur corset. We’re not the squeezed middle, we are the majority held in contempt by the political classes and the public sector quango leeches. It made my blood boil when the creator of Midsomer Murders was criticised for saying his charming television series was a last bastion of an England before multi-colturalism was foisted on us by Mr Blair. How many nice white middle class families appear in The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency?