The Tweed Run April 2011

Dear Rowley,

There’s a Kirsty McColl song called Thank You for the Days that came to mind on Grand National Saturday. It has now become something of a tradition that I gather-up a picnic and scads of Prosecco from John Lewis’s food hall and hie me hither to Huntsman on Savile Row to join the troops for lunch before the annual Tweed Run makes its official cycle past whereby the chaps at Huntsman judge the best dressed lady and gentleman. The Tweed Run is very much a tradition established by The Chap magazine: a periodical dedicated to tweed plus twos, moustaches, pipes and all round good egg dressing and behaving.

Every year, The Chap also hosts an Olympiad in Bedford Square where games are played such as jousting on bicycles, the egg and spoon race and tossing the croquet mallet. I was unaware of the Olympiad last year when walking home from Fitzroy Square. First I saw a rotund fellow sitting outside a pub drinking a pint wearing a fez on his bonce. Then I encountered a couple in Privy Counsellor’s full dress and court dress. The closer I got to Bedford Square, the more eccentric and colonial the dress. It looked like a right royal hoolie.

Back to the Tweed Run. The best of Huntsman was in residence – Miss Charles, Johnny, Peter and Pippa – with two honourable members of the house actually riding in the Run wearing Huntsman house tweed. Anda and Jerome made a surprise appearance with lots of gossip from Paris and Marrakech. Jermone had spent an evening in the Villa Saint Laurent and had super pictures to prove it. He also had news from the couture house of Balmain of which there will be developments.

There is nothing as fun as picnicking on a cutting board, quaffing Prosecco in a bespoke tailoring house and waiting for the Tweed Run to stop traffic on the Row and pose with their pipes. When the escadron volante appeared, Johnny asked if I would help judge the best-dressed. This was a great honour and we were quite frankly spoilt for choice. I didn’t even notice a certain Mr Ewan McGregor amongst the cyclists but see if you can spot him in this week’s pictures. He brought his teddy and that earns numerous brownie points as far as I am concerned. No English gentleman is complete without his teddy – or in my case a stuffed monkey given to me on my fifth birthday that I christened Judy after the chimp in Tarzan.

Next year we must close off Savile Row and turn the conclusion to the Tweed Run into a street party with a brass band, Pimms tent and lashings of Ginger Beer. I say this because the Tweed Run always coincides with the Grand National at Aintree. Huntsman’s den of thieves are all keen gamblers so we all stick a bet on. I had £20 to win on a 66-1 who fell at the fifth post. I also had a tenner on Oscar Time who was the mount of Cheltenham winning amateur Sam Whaley-Cohen. Sam came second in a marvellous race but I didn’t back him each way. What’s the point? Better to take the big prize or fall trying.

So unlucky on the Turf, lucky in love I always say. The rest of the weekend was spent with better half who is at present still putting-up with me in book publishing mode: in other words falling asleep after dinner then waking on the hour from 2am until health spa time at 6.30am. This has to adjust now that the pressures of work are off until I start filming again next week and gear-up for the Royal Wedding. Speaking of the Royal Wedding, my mate the rare book dealer Natalie Galustian set-up a meeting with HM The Queen’s cousin Lady Elizabeth Anson who is orchestrating the wedding breakfast for Prince William and Miss Middleton.

So I stoated down to Ladbroke Grove to meet Lady Elizabeth unsure about quite what I could ask her over and above advice about this year’s Royal Ascot and the Royal Wedding. Lady Elizabeth was formidable but she was also kind and I had the chance to show her the proofs of Fashion at Royal Ascot: Three Centuries of Fashion at Royal Ascot. It was Lady Elizabeth who – at the invitation of the Duke of Devonshire and the Queen – realigned the Royal Enclosures at Ascot when it reopened in 2008 with a new Grandstand and made the Enclosures more sympatique for the old guard. She is, after all, one of the greatest party planners in London if not the world.

We did discuss who was designing the dress for Miss Middleton amongst other things and dismissed some of the press rumours apropos Prince William riding to the wedding on horseback. Strike one against the idea was the smell of the royal male bridal party dismounting after a canter to Westminster Abbey. The other was the security. The chaps would be sitting targets not to mention terribly slow leaving the congregation to sit knitting or twiddling their pearls in the Abbey as the Prince rode to the alter.

I did learn something very interesting about the Queen’s house parties at Windsor Castle for Ascot Week. The royal party lunch and then have a matter of minutes to put their hats on and prepare for the Royal Procession so the Queen’s hat is not seen by even her guests until minutes before the carriages. So no one can place bets about the colour of the Queen’s hat and clean-up with insider trading. This also tells you what a pro the Queen is in setting a hat with pins that prevent it being whipped off during the blustery carriage drive down the Royal Mile. The Queen has never lost a hat in her entire reign. Until next time…