Wedding Bells April 2011

Dear Rowley,

May one have a rant? Does anyone still speak the Queen’s English? You can’t walk down Charing Cross Road without being drowned in a shoal of chavvy Italian tourists; they who are wont to wear black puffa jackets that look like they have been crafted from bin liners. Of course it is the school holidays and that always makes Londoners wince, particularly when gangs of ‘yoof’ linger on street corners speaking what can only be described as Hip Hop patois. Even adults are catching on to ‘innit’. It’s enough to make you reach for a Jane Austen.

My dear friend Nicky Malone and I had a bit of a ‘what’s it all about?’ conversation on two barstools in J Sheekey’s Oyster Bar where we both despaired of modern life and the distinct lack of manners in anyone under thirty. I’d had one of my oldest friends, Tessa, on the phone that morning who has become something of a vigilante when it comes to manners in public. The Tories should employ her as the Miss Manners Tsar.  Apparently, a grotty wee nipper had wiped an ice cream on Tessa’s coat when on the Metro and the mother had replied defiantly ‘well, he’s only a kiddy’. A good wallop round the ear hole and a dry cleaning bill would have been a more appropriate response.

It seems that the only people disadvantaged in Britain are the British. Put a palm tree cross in a van and you get sacked for being subversive. But you try telling a hoodie throwing paint at the Ritz to identify himself and you’ll get slapped with an injunction for abusing the little moppet’s human rights. Tessa is moving into a new house that is at present uninhabitable. A lady from the council tax Stasi came round and deemed it fit for purpose. ‘Would you house an asylum seeker here?’ asks Tessa. No she would not. But said lady with clipboard did take a photo of Tessa’s grandfather clock adding ‘you can afford to pay council tax’. That’s what we’re up against Rowley.

I recall an equally chippy Scotswoman from the Inland Revenue saying she would bet I had been educated at Eton and Oxford. No, says I bagging a line from Martha Costello in Silk, I was educated at a comprehensive school and too many nightclubs in Leeds. But I didn’t let that hold me back. There is nothing wrong with being aspirational except for the fact that you get bashed for speaking correctly and wearing nice clothes. Funny old world, isn’t it? I don’t know where the Jeremy Kyle generation came from, do you? But they are breeding like rabbits so it’s only a matter of time before we’re totally outnumbered.

I had a conversation with my Mum and Dad this week who have run a business since the 1960s. Now it is impossible for anyone to earn a living because the red tape binds your hands and robs your till. I had no idea that if you play a radio in a shop then you have to pay £400 for ‘performing rights’. You can have a member of staff who almost permanently pregnant and you have to pay, pay, pay that maternity leave. Health and safety prevents you from asking a member of staff to sweep a floor just in case she or he impales themselves on the broom. The world has clearly gone mad.

Back to more salubrious subjects. The highlight of this week for me was a visit to Hardy Amies at No 14 Savile Row to view the new collection. The house looks immaculate, the collection is superb and the archive room display of magnificent wedding dresses made by the house since 1946 is just to die for. The bridal dress exhibition – including one worn by one of the glorious Guinness girls in the 1930s – lifts one’s spirits and warms the heart. It also focuses the mind about Catherine Middleton’s wedding dress.

After all the speculation about Oldfield and McQueen creative director Sarah Burton designing the dress, it is refreshing to see the Daily Mail take a punt on a relatively unknown dressmaker who I think is bang on the button as the designer of Miss M’s dress. The Royal Wedding was always going to surprise us all. After all the speculation, the royal family have made it a mission to outfox the press. For this alone, I think Catherine and Prince William are worth their weight in gold.

I had a very optimistic morning today despite my earlier rant Rowley. I had coffee at Franco’s on Jermyn Street with a sixteen year old boy called Jack Head who is passionate about Savile Row, dresses correctly, is terribly well read and amusing to boot. Chaps like this give me immense hope that there is a future for bespoke tailoring. Mind you, there won’t be much of a future if our illustrious leaders have anything to do with it. There is a rumour that Prime Minister Cameron will not wear a morning coat to the Royal Wedding for fear of appearing posh.

We’ve all heard previously that Mr Cameron will not be photographed with a glass of champagne either and has a penchant for posing on RyanAir flights to hammer home his man of the people credentials.  If one is lucky enough to be born into privilege, then it is one’s duty to stand by it, acknowledge the luck and take the consequences in the public arena. Besides, by abandoning the morning coat – a garment Mr Cameron was probably born wearing – our Prime Minister is damaging the bespoke tailoring trade and lowering our country’s standards to the rock bottom. Pull your socks up man and dust down your black antique silk topper. Your country expects and all that…