Life Is A Cabaret. July 2011.

Dear Rowley,

Enclosed the promised snap of my masseur Santiago. Only kidding (more’s the pity), this picture is a salutary reminder that the lion’s share of British men living in London should not under any circumstances dare to bare when the sun is searing over London on a July day. Now I’m all for a washboard stomach and a pitch perfect pair of pecs on display on a Mediterranean beach. But I do object to every Tom, Dick and Harry taking his top off in town the minute the temperature rises above 20 degrees. It is simply not done to strip off in an urban environment…unless time is well past midnight and the venue is discreet.

Of course I strip off every morning before 7am when I visit the camp Romanesque pool, sauna and steam in the basement of the Holborn Hotel. I tell you, if I didn’t detox every morning with buckets of mineral water, lengths of a pool and steaming like a lobster I would look like W. H. Auden. You’ll be pleased to hear that I have finally got my ass into gear and am working like a beaver on my new book projects Handmade in England and Spectacular! The Golden Age of Parisian Cabaret. I have enclosed a 1950s picture of two feathered showgirls at The Lido that I hope we will include in the proposal for Spectacular! I’ve had the most marvellous week researching the Belle Epoque years of cafe-concert cabaret in Paris.

It’s funny how life goes in full circle, no? When I was studying A Level art, my thesis was about the cabaret paintings and posters of Toulouse-Lautrec. I was only 17 and yet I was obsessed by the lesbian clown/acrobat Cha-u-Kao, the knickerless Quadrille dancer La Goulue (the Glutton) and the cabaret chanteuse Yvette Guilbert who took to the stage in green satin and elbow length black gloves. I don’t know what draws me to the nigh world. Perhaps it is because I was born to wake early, nap in the afternoon then wake up revived for an evening in the bright lights of the big city.

When I was five years old, my parents took me and my brother to London to view Trooping the Colour and visit the Tower of London to see the Crown Jewels. That trip marked me for life. I loved it. LOVED IT. Anyone who visited our house in Sheffield who had been to London was a creature of infinite fascination to me. I don’t know whether I believe in destiny but I do know that London drew me to it like an industrial sized magnet. I had to be at the centre of the centre of the creative and cultural universe and nothing was really going to stop me getting there.

Oh Rowley, nostalgia ‘aint what it used to be. I was saying to better half this weekend that events of only a year ago seem decades away. Isn’t it peculiar how Father Time plays tricks on you? It seemed only yesterday that my brother and I were being dressed in satin suits with flared trousers for that London trip when I was five years old. Yesterday in the desperate hours of the late evening my brother’s girlfriend Michelle had their first baby. She is christened Georgina Emma and is the first scion of our dynasty. I am thrilled – tickled pink – to be an Uncle even though I already feel like an honorary Uncle to better half’s brood of nieces.

Perhaps it would be appropriate to high tail it to Chatsworth and go and visit my new first niece? I am not particularly mad about babies until they reach twelve months and develop some kind of personality. Then again, in the early stages it is more about the parents than the baby. Whenever my girlfriends have babies, I buy Jungle Red lipstick, camp movies and pashminas for the mother because in the early weeks most people dote on the baby not the mother who is exhausted and needs to rediscover her femininity.

What the hell do I know about recreation…sorry, procreation? I don’t think I will ever have children even though I took great delight one year in baiting my father when I told him I would have to adopt two little moppets to be called Ming Lio and Juan. Really only kidding. I don’t even think I could cope with a puppy never mind a child. I do love dogs however. When Mrs T and I last went down to the Savoy Archive in Hackbridge I had the usual love in with the owner’s two Jack Russells. Dogs give you unconditional love and dote on your dimples however ‘tired and emotional’ you may be.

Better half and I long to have dogs. He would like a ‘proper dog’ such as a labrador. I would love a pack of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels who will enter a room before I do. But you need a house the size of Versailles with gardens to match to be fair to darling King Charles’s. I could accommodate a Cavalier in Bloomsbury Towers but don’t have the life to be fair to a dog. I couldn’t cabaret all night with a clear conscience if a dog was pining at home and I could never take a flight to Paris or Florence if I had a dog to consider. But then again, the Euro Millions Lottery is pegged at £150 million this week so you never know as the widow once said…

Still, if I had a Cavalier better half wouldn’t get a look in. My brain turns to mashed potato when I see a dog’s goo-goo eyes staring trustingly up at me begging to be petted. I felt much the same emotion many years ago with a green-eyed Spaniard on Son Bou beach. As the uncaring mother in Victoria Wood’s PAt & Margaret said, ‘I didn’t know what love was until I bred my first Afghan’.