Panic on the Streets of London March 2011

Dear Rowley,

You, like I, would defend any Britisher’s rights to peaceful protest. As a matter of fact, even an old Thatcherite like I would agree with some of the concerns voiced by the quarter of a million people who marched through London on Saturday protesting about the swiftness and severity of government cuts. There was one point in particular that I agree with entirely: to whit, why are we spending millions a day on the Libyan no-fly zone when money is too tight to mention in the UK right now? As for the banks! They have shown their true colours as mercenary, money-grabbing faceless global monoliths whose mission is to make us pay. On that score, I would have been tempted to throw a brick through HSBCs window.

However, I have nothing but contempt for the work-shy thugs who occupied Fortnum & Mason, defaced The Ritz, set fire to Oxford Street and basically defiled central London with their filth and fury on Saturday’s march. The march actually came past Bloomsbury Towers and I can tell you it was terrifying. Even mid-morning some of the shy little anarchists were wearing IRA balaclava helmets to protect their identity. One got an inkling of how Marie Antoinette must have felt as she was wheeled on a tumbril to her execution in the Place de la Concorde.

Why pick on darling old Fortnums? The brain-dead (and mostly middle class) anarchists said that F&M was the place rich people go for their weekly groceries. Nonsense! Fortnums is where our much valued tourist masses go to buy tins of biscuits. What must those unfortunate enough to have been shopping on Saturday think of us? I noticed the police barely tickled the protesters – probably on the grounds of health and safety – even though it’s nice to know there were a couple of hundred arrests. Bring back the birch I say. What really irritates is that we’re investing all that money in protecting Libyans when our own citizens and our guests are terrorised on the streets of London.

Do the anarchists realise they are destroying our economy by targeting central London? And since when was it a crime to sell luxury goods to tourists? Or serve them tea at the Ritz? It makes my blood boil that these relative few who live for violence and destruction seek to tear down all that is beautiful and civilised. I wonder who they think they mean when they talk about the rich? Sadly the aristocracy and royalty are no longer the ‘filthy rich’. The rich today are the people who own multinational brands that sell the anarchists their tatty clothes and take-away burgers. Facebook and Twitter – the devices by which the anarchists organise their insurgencies – are far more worthy targets than state owned banks.

Bloomsbury Square was littered with stickers on lamp posts and street signs with pointless drivel such as ‘kill the rich’ and ‘day of rage’. There was litter everywhere and graffiti all over the route of the march. It won’t be the rich cleaning this up. It will be honest citizens who take pride in their neighbourhood and immigrant cleaners. Well done anarchists. You must be awfully proud of yourselves.

I had a day of rage last week when I happened to have cause to return to Gieves & Hawkes. I haven’t really had an awful lot to do with G&H since I stopped looking after their archive and started the Henry Poole & Co ledger project. While I’ve been away, much has been done to the interiors of No I Savile Row. I have enclosed two pictures of what I called the Wall of Fame: 75 portraits of the great and good customers of Gieves Ltd and Hawkes & Co bought from the National Portrait Gallery and framed in gold all the way up the Regency staircase. This is no more.

In place of the grand Wall of Fame is a series of grotesque cartoons of customers such as the late Diana, Princess of Wales, Prince William and Michael Jackson. They make the horrors in Leicester Square look like Rembrandt. The staircase has been fitted with a bubblegum pink carpet and the store is littered with scented candles and hydrangeas. I’m not entirely sure what the overall message is supposed to be – perhaps that Savile Row does have a feminine side? – but I cannot imagine military men of the Colonel Bluster ilk will take to the new look. And if G&H really is tailoring Prince William’s wedding uniform, I can’t imagine his equerries would be too pleased with a buck-toothed, balding caricature of their chap. Thank goodness Mr Gieve isn’t alive to see it.

As promised, I have sent another picture from my evening at the Tower of London at the invitation of Historic Royal Palaces. This particular shot was taken gazing down at the steps leading up from the waterway Traitor’s Gate. I would love to say that it was on those very steps that Anne Boleyn entered the Tower for the last time and the same steps that her daughter Queen Elizabeth I stubbornly sat upon as Princess Elizabeth when her half-sister ‘Bloody Mary’ had her unjustly incarcerated in the Tower. Sadly, those pesky Victorians who so liked to tidy up history replaced the ancient steps with pristine new ones a century ago.

I was very sad to read extracts from Hugo Vickers’ new book about Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor. She clearly had a very unhappy life. I think she would have been quite contented as a mistress even though King Edward VIII would not entertain the idea and abdicated for ‘the woman I love’. But was Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother the villain of the piece and the agent of Mrs Simpson’s exile? The Queen Mother is quoted by Vickers as saying ‘you need to know someone to hate them. I barely knew the woman’. How perceptive of the old lady. Until next time…