Off With Her Head. July 2011.

Dear Rowley,

The most extraordinary thing. I was tripping through Bloomsbury Square when I chanced upon a couple eating al-fresco on the grass – not dissimilar to Manet’ Dejuner sur l’herbe – wearing T-shirts bearing the legend ‘Very personal trainer’. What can this mean? Presumably they don’t work for Virgin Active.

I do feel future generations will look back on the language of 2011 and laugh like drains at us in much the same way Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh captured the superficial timbre of the 20s Bright Young Things: ‘too killing’, ‘sick-making’, ‘terribly bogus’ and all that. What do you think Nick Clegg means by ‘muscular liberalism’? The last time I encountered such a thing was on the beach in Gran Canaria circa 1997. And as for Ed Milliband’s squeezed middle, the mind boggles. Pass the sal volatile, Maud.

A lovely start to the weekend. My American friend Eric – a great Savile Row man – is in town on business for most of the summer so we met for a bite at Franco’s before taking a detour to Fox on St James’s Street to buy Eric a cigar. I am not a cigar man but was utterly enchanted by Fox. Royal Warrants for Emperor Napoleon III, Edward VII and George V hang on the walls and in the basement – where smoking is still legal if not actively encouraged – is a little museum with ledgers relating to Churchill, Oscar Wilde and the Emperor who was, like I, a cigarette smoker.

Nice to know some corners of London are still civilised. Another corner is the little known terrace on top of the Trafalgar hotel in Trafalgar Square where the rooftop garden and bar gives one of the finest views of London’s rooftops and monuments. I have never been so close to Admiral Lord Nelson and only from the windows of the Savoy do you see the Palace of Westminster and Big Ben standing so proud. Eric and I knocked off a couple of stiff gins and a good time was had by all.

Eric and I are going on a jaunt to see the new Anne Boleyn play at the Globe theatre on the south bank next Saturday. I am not a little obsessed by Anne Boleyn and have been since childhood. Her execution by a French swordsman in the Tower of London having been convicted of adultery, incest, treason and witchcraft was quite one of the greatest abuses of Henry VIIIs power. Her real crime? Failing to bear a male heir. It is a fascinating game of what if? wondering if Anne had successfully carried a male child to term.

With the play in mind, I spent the weekend on something of an Anne Boleyn marathon watching first Anne of the Thousand Days and then The Tudors. The former, starring Richard Burton and Geneveve Bujold is rather how I’d like to imagine the real Anne to have been. Bujold is pert, pretty and bewitching. She is also imperious, teasing and shrewish as well as blindly ambitious and fiercely intelligent. Bujold is magnificent in the trial and execution scenes of the film and was quite simply robbed of the Oscar.

The Tudors, by contrast, is a lavish American production populated by the most gorgeous creatures to grace a TV screen not least Jonathan Reece-Myers as Henry and Natalie Dormer as Anne. I wasn’t disposed to like The Tudors. But as soon as I realised it was going to ride roughshod over history, feature gratuitous amounts of sex and refuse to cast anyone touched by the ugly stick I thought ‘what’s not to like’?

Of course it’s a load of old codswallop but I must say a second viewing of Dormer’s performance impressed me immensely. Almost two hours were dedicated to Anne’s final days and death and Natalie Dormer absolutely rocked it out with a bravura performance. I particularly loved Anne preparing for her execution being cut with scenes of her successor Jane Seymour preparing to meet the King at Wolf Hall.

Can’t wait for the sequel to Wolf Hall to come out, can you? The first novel deserved the Booker of all Booker Prizes award. Who is your favourite author Rowley? No, let me guess, P.G. Wodehouse? I have to say I find myself returning to Evelyn Waugh on an annual basis. I found a copy of Waugh’s Black Mischief in better half’s bookshelf on Sunday and did not put it down until I had finished this glorious satire of colonialism and the Britisher abroad.

Black Mischief tells the story of an Oxford educated African Prince who eventually takes the throne as progressive Emperor of Azania, Lord of Wanda and Tyrant of the Seas. The satire is exquisite, not least the hopeless British Envoy to Azania who is far more interested in organising gymkhanas and drinking gin to bother with Foreign Office papers in the diplomatic bag. If you haven’t read it, Rowley, then I urge you to do so. Black Mischief is one of the most amusing comic novels in the English language.

Speaking of The Tudors, there was a troubling feature in the Telegraph a couple of weeks ago saying that Jonathan Reece-Myers had been hospitalised after what appeared to be a suicide attempt. I have always been a huge fan of Mr Reece-Myers and find it utterly depressing that someone as pretty and talented should be so troubled. He has never been apologetic about a rumoured drink problem. But I rather like a man who wrestles with his demons.

I read this week that Daniel Radcliffe and Ewan McGregor have both gone on the wagon after falling for the charms of Dame Tequila. The Harry Potter star is only 21 I believe. As Tallulah Bankhead said of her own liking for gin and cocaine, ‘nobody likes a quitter’. Until next time…