Road Rage April 2011

Dear Rowley,

Finally back at home as black as a pit pony having spent another afternoon in the Henry Poole & Co archive trying to track down the founder of the Buchanan whiskey dynasty –  a one James Buchanan – who was a friend of Dickens and the Prince of Wales. I’ve found a James Buchanan correct to the dates (around 1877) but he has form as a resident of Philadelphia USA and that might count out our boy. The index system for the Henry Poole archive is obscure to say the least and the clerks’ handwriting is sometimes undecipherable. Anyway, onward and upward.

En route to Bloomsbury Towers, I was crossing a bus lane minding my own business when a feral, stoat-faced cyclist literally aimed his front wheel at me and hissed like a cobra because I was in his way. Bear in mind this was a bus lane and he was travelling at speed in the wrong direction. I offered some choice epithets and the weasel got nasty in a broad Scottish brogue no less. I wonder if he was one of the anarchists who ran amok in Piccadilly last month?

Anyway, said Scottish weasel shook me up good and proper. It took a good hour of Radio 3 and multiple games of bridge online to wind me down. Hence my rather tranquil pictures with this letter. The first is of Southwark Cathedral taken behind the high altar. My mother and brother were in town over the weekend and we lunched at Roast in Borough Market. I do like Borough, don’t you Rowley? We must support those guys more. Two bottles of Prosecco and a side of Parma ham for less than £20. What’s not to like?

Mum, brother and I all agreed that life will be dull now the BBC drama Silk has finished. Maxine Peak is the best TV heroine since Helen Mirren as DCI Jane Tennyson in Prime Suspect. Martha Costello is a working class heroine who has made good and is eligible to take silk. My favourite line is about her male rival. He is Eton and Oxford educated. When Martha’s colleague reminds her what her background is she says, ‘yes, secondary modern and too many nightclubs in Leeds’.

If Maxine Peak doesn’t win a BAFTA for this series, then there is no justice in the world. I was rather adoring Natalie Dormer in Silk too. She first came to my attention playing Queen Anne Boleyn in the ludicrous US TV series The Tudors. The history was risible – Jonathan Reece-Myers as a perennially gorgeous Henry VIII – but Dormer played Anne Boleyn with more conviction than any actress since Genevieve Bujold in Anne of the Thousand Days. When I was walking past the Globe Theatre on the Southbank I noticed that the new Anne Boleyn play is back on the boards for the summer season. We can’t miss it again Rowley. So looking forward to the press night of Betty Blue Eyes.

So what news of the Royal Wedding? Well, one of the cloth mill owners swears blind he has seen Prince William’s RAF uniform on a dummy at Gieves & Hawkes despite the fact that the gossip has been circulating around Savile Row that the Prince will wear something quite different. Who to believe when the rumour mill is grinding? I had a lovely conversation with Amanda Wakeley this morning who is recovering from pneumonia in the Swiss Alps. We nailed the foreword to Fashion at Royal Ascot: Three Centuries of Thoroughbred Style by 4pm today and I have to say Amanda gave very good copy.

So what else is new? I am swimming like a Scottish salmon every morning and toning-up surprisingly well. I cannot thank Gail from Capri (the dry cleaner not the island) enough for suggesting I join the Romanesque pool and health spa in Holborn. I literally fall out of bed at 6.30am and am in the pool or steam room by 6.45am. I do the papers until the newsprint is dripping from overtime in the steam room then swim like the Little Mermaid. Before you know it I will have pecs like Fatima Whitbread.

The next week holds far too much work considering I’m supposed to be having a week or two off after finishing the book. Still, the weekend is shaping up nicely. I’m taking my Thames & Hudson team for lunch at Bob Bob Ricard on Friday to say thank you for working like maniacs from Jan to April. I’ve also got a meeting with the Queen’s cousin Lady Elizabeth Anson to ask her advice about how best to approach the Royal Wedding commentary for BBC News. Lady Elizabeth is the mastermind behind the planning for all royal birthdays, high days and holidays. Funnily enough, Mrs T used to work with her.

I know one shouldn’t, but I am thoroughly enjoying Mussa Kussa, foreign minister and spy-chief of Libya who is currently hiding-out in London at a secret location such as Champneys or some such. Mr Kussa couldn’t have looked less sinister if he had an opera cloak and black moustache and twirled it. Colonel Gaddaffi’s son says Mr Kussa is old and sick and makes up stories. This suggests to me that Mr Kussa is the smoking gun of this deranged dictatorship. Forgive my spelling, but I think we’ll find he is the Kaiser Soze of Libya. It does make one snigger tha Mussa Kussa sounds like a cartoon villain that you’d battle on an MP3 Player in the manner of bash the rat.

My other pictures this week are of a knockout display of spring flowers on the North Bank of the Thames and a statue on Fleet Street that I have never noticed before of Mary Queen of Scots. I believe it and the statue of Elizabeth I further down the street are the only outdoor statues of both Queens. It must get Elizabeth’s goat that wherever she is – be that Westminster Abbey or Fleet Street – her nemesis is not much further.