Do forgive darling, I’ve been back from hols for four days and have been quite simply at full gallop since setting hoof on tarmac at Gatwick. While on Corfu, I had a call from my delectable agent Geraldine asking if I would do a live spot with Alan Titchmarsh for ITV about Dame Elizabeth Taylor’s posthumous jewellery sale at Christie’s in December. Would I be able to secure a few sparklers to ‘show and tell’ live on air? I always recall the words of my father when faced with a tall order. ‘Miracles may take 24-hours’. Never a truer word.
As the late, great Winston Churchill said, ‘you must put your head into the lion’s mouth if the performance is to be a success’. Within hours of touching down in London I was on the blower to all my nearest and dearest in the diamond business asking for a miracle to arrive on set, in time and with security for Alan T come noon on Thursday. I didn’t hold out much hope but that wasn’t accounting for the sheer will power of mates such as Joan Rolls who directs PR at Van Cleef & Arpels. Within hours of the request, she’d rustled-up a mystery set diamond and sapphire clip, a million pound yellow and white diamond necklace and a pair of diamond and ruby earrings that Dame Elizabeth would have married the ninth time to possess.
I’d also put out the SOS to Garrard, Bentley & Skinner and Hancock’s. The latter two are the finest antique jewellery dealers in London bar none and both offered beauties that I am sure the Alan Titchmarsh audience would slay a blood relative to see let alone own. In the end, we took delivery of Van Cleef’s booty plus a diamond and aquamarine parure from Hancock’s commissioned by Joan Crawford in 1936. It was an embarrassment of riches.
What I didn’t know was that I was sharing the stage with historic novelist Philippa Gregory (she of The Other Boleyn Girl) who would be able to put into context the Peregrina pearl acquired by Elizabeth Taylor with provenance dating back to the 16th century. I adore Philippa Gregory’s novels. She fills the gaping holes in Tudor history with plausible, enchanting theories that positively ring of truth. We got on like the proverbial and looked forward to our top spot on the Alan Titchmarsh show. Was it a success? Up to a point.
Mr Titchmarsh pressed me for prices of the diamonds on show as if they were a sack of spuds on Berwick Street market and tried to say a layman wouldn’t tell the difference between a six-carat yellow diamond from a bit of old tat from QVC. The diamond business is understandably reticent about pricing masterpieces for the great unwashed. I had to be diplomatic but felt like asking Mr Titchmarsh how much he banked per episode. Nobody likes personal questions live on air.
Still, I don’t complain (much). I spent the morning of the Titchmarsh show doing a pre-recorded interview for NBC about the Duchess of Cambridge and spent the afternoon after the recording at De Beers talking about a diamond book project I have been commissioned to write before Christmas. My favourite bit of any daytime TV chat show business is the post show green room drinks. We had Annie Lennox, Jermaine Jackson, some pop group called The Killing and Jedward (oh please my nerves) on the same show plus the newest Dragon’s Den millionaire Hilary Devey: she of the white bolero with rugby full-back shoulder pads.
Miss Devey joined Geraldine and I for a fag and a glass of wine in the garden behind ITV TV Centre after the show and I have to say she is quite the marvellously fragile diva. Imagine the love child of Joan Crawford and Christopher Lee and you have the idea of Miss Devey’s demeanour. More power to your shoulder pads, love. So what else is new? I had a gorgeous ‘coffee talk’ with my publisher Lucas on whose dimples I dote about the new Thames & Hudson book. You know we’ve been wrestling with the concept of Handmade in England for months and it hasn’t been coming together at all…and this with the Frankfurt Book Fair just around the corner.
Long story short, we’ve come up with an entirely new concept, my art director Pete has whipped-up new layouts and it looks like we’ve got a runner and rider for Frankfurt in October. I know I’m being cagy darling but until I’ve got the contents page and intro written I won’t feel as if the project is fit to fly. What I do know is that the new book proposal will complete the three graces that will be Untitled, Savile Row and Fashion at Royal Ascot. Lucas told me Fash at Asc has now sold out so Thames & Hudson are preparing for a reprint. Needless to say, I could have danced a jitterbug with joy at such good news. I am equally thrilled by my Oscar de la Renta feature in the October issue of The World of Interiors. Do buy a copy darling.
Did I tell you I’ve been booked to give a lecture at the Windsor Literary Festival on the 30th? Now I am quite happy to stare down the barrel of a TV camera but when faced with a crowd can become somewhat nervy and dry of throat. This is a fear I will have to conquer. T&H are going to help with the picture presentation and Glaxo Smith Kline will doubtless overcome the nerves. Must dash now ducks, I am off to a gallery opening with the boys from Shizaru on Mount Street. Love Corfu but there is no place like home. I even feel tempted to dash out and buy an ‘I Heart London’ T-shirt.