Extended Family. August 2011.

Dear Rowley,

I do think slogan T-shirts should be discouraged, don’t you? I walked past a big-boned broad with a face like a robber’s dog chewing a wasp yesterday. Her T-shirt – stretched out across two zeppelins and as tight as a bongo – bore the legend ‘don’t hate me because I’m beautiful’. It might well have read ‘pity me because I’m self-deluded’. An ageing homosexual stoating down Old Compton Street last week was wearing a teeny crop top emblazoned with ‘gays go¬†wild’. Gays old enough to know better to shop in the children’s section of Primark more like…or PriMarni as it’s known to the trade.

It is always fun to eavesdrop isn’t it? Never a day goes by in London when I don’t overhear a line worthy of Alan Bennett. Skirting past Russell Square the other day, a couple from Birmingham were contemplating a great big pile of horse shit in the middle of the road. The man turns to his wife and says, ‘if a human did that he’d be arrested’. Excuse me? If a human did that he’s to be pitied not chastised. I remember many moons ago taking a potential date to see Matthew Bourne’s all-male Swan Lake. In full earshot of all the A-gays queueing for a libation, said chap says ‘is this the one about the ugly duckling?’

I could go on for days but I’ll spare you except for one more from the vaults of my darling grandmother Hilda Sherwood. While playing a Christmas quiz after far too much Valpoliparrot, we get the question ‘who was the elephant man?’ to which Nan replied ‘was it Sabu?’ Can’t make it up can you. Why did we get on to linguistic gymnastics? I think because after a rather manic week at the Savoy finishing the Maria Callas suite, I’ve had a few days of writing and drifting around Bloomsbury Square. When one’s mind is emptied, it has the space to absorb the silliness that everyday life has to offer.

Let’s face it, if you didn’t laugh you’d cry at the moment. While sweating away last night’s impurities in the sauna at the ¬†Holborn Health Spa this morning, I read in my paper that the cost of living was rising faster than Gypsy Rose Lee’s skirts hence the new popularity of Poundland amongst the middle classes. We’re all feeling the pinch, aren’t we Rowley? The difference for us is that we would no sooner shop in Poundland than we would don a hoodie, smash a window and steal a flat screen telly. Makes you weep to listen to the feral youth justifying mindless thuggery because they don’t feel ‘respected’. I’d recommend putting them in the stocks but that would, I fear, violate the little poppets’ human rights.

Now as you know, Morpheus and I have been strangers for about a year now. I wake with the regularity of a demented cuckoo clock on the hour every hour. This is a condition many of my tribe living in London suffer from. Then again, falling asleep with the lights blazing, late night telly on, an ashtray next to the bed and a half empty glass of red wine does not encourage sweet dreams. Lights off, sparkly water by the bed and the shipping forecast rocking one to sleep is clearly the way to go. Only took forty years to work that one out.

Anyway, in the absence of being social this week I thought I’d show you some of the tribe who I must see at least on a weekly basis and who are quite simply life enhancers. Mr Hitchcock is, as you know, the head cutter of Anderson & Sheppard. There’s rarely a week when I don’t pop into Anderson & Sheppard and never an occasion when there isn’t hot news from the cutting room. I recently had a sneak preview of the Anderson & Sheppard book made in association with Vanity Fair’s editor Graydon Carter. You know I am terribly proud of Savile Row: The Master Tailors of British Bespoke. But the A&S book is a magnificent monogram and one that every disciple of bespoke tailoring will kill to acquire.

I’m sending you a snap of my editor on The Rake, Christian B. Barker who is I think a leading light in the neo-con sartorial revolution. It’s a shot sent by Hugo Jacomet (on the left) who is one of France’s leading dandies. Hugo and Christian met on a classic car rally from Geneva to Milan that I was meant to go on but had to bail because of the book launch for Fashion at Royal Ascot. As long as men like Christian and Hugo and Christian are at large, standards will never slip.

My last happy snap is of Guy ‘Dashing Tweeds’ Hills and Huntsman’s head girl Poppy Charles. Both are dear friends and part of the Savile Row massive who helped to organise the London Cut exhibitions and last year’s Savile Row sheep field. One of my happiest recent memories was a road trip that Guy, Anda and I undertook in Pisa to attend Poppy’s wedding. I must dig out the shots of us posing round the pool at the reception. It was like a cross between a Slim Aarons photo shoot and Carry on Tuscany.

Isn’t it funny that you never regret an escapade. I remember being invited to a ball in Venice for the Millennium. At the time, funds were tight and I couldn’t attend. In retrospect, I should have sold anything (my jewels, my pictures, my services) to go in exchange for a life-long memory. Lesson learned.