40 love! As Mr Major said at his first Cabinet meeting, ‘who’d have thought it eh?’ Having been on nodding acquaintance with the Grim Reaper at least three times to my knowledge, it is rather lovely to enter a fifth decade with a healthy head, heart and wallet. Still, doesn’t pay to gloat. That’s the minute God drops the piano on your head.
The switchboard was buzzing this morning with birthday messages. As I wrote to my friend Lee, I feel like Michelle Pfeiffer at the end of Stardust. Hence the before and after pictures. He replied that he always thought of me more like Faye Dunaway at the end of Mommie Dearest. Bloody cheek. I’ll make him swim forty laps of the pool for that. ‘If you’re lucky Christina, I’ll fill it with water’.
The celebratory fortnight began with dinner a deux at Sheekey’s with my darling Louisa McCarthy who arrived armed with a beribboned bottle of champagne and a rose. You know me, Rowley. I would rather paint my bottom blue and streak down Savile Row than have Happy Birthday sung in a public place. With impeccable class, Louisa ordered truffles with our coffee and the gorgeous Georges at Sheekey had piped Happy Birthday on the china in chocolate. Loved it.
Time does have a nasty habit of creeping up on you, doesn’t it darling? One minute you’re five years old and sitting cross legged with your school chums watching Mr Woods’ Punch & Judy show; laughing like a drain and looking forward to jelly and ice cream surrounded by your nearest and dearest. Before you know it, you wake up in Bloomsbury Towers aged 40 having spent the best part of the evening before staring down the barrel of a Champagne bottle and wondering whether, like Dr Who, one would if one could turn back time.
I find it is the oddest things that make one ache with nostalgia. It was always a Sherwood family joke that Nan Gandy had a seemingly endless stock of mawkish, tasteless birthday cards of the ilk with doves, clowns or small deer scampering across the cover with verses so saccharine sweet they would make Patience Strong reach for the sick bag. And yet what I wouldn’t give to have opened one this morning.
Still, to quote Salad Days, ‘remind me to remind you, we said we wouldn’t look back’. I spent the early morning in the pool, sauna and steam room and – glorious tintanabulations – I had it entirely to myself. Felt like Elizabeth Taylor darling. I have so far resisted acting like a mad old woman at a bus stop telling random strangers ‘I’m 87 today’. But I won’t rule it out.
Best birthday card this am came courtesy of Mrs T. It depicted a Victorian shooting party with the caption ‘It wasn’t quite the same. Chavs were a lot slower than foxes but at least no-one complained’. Louisa and I agreed when I was walking her from Sheekey’s to the station doing impressions of Celia Johnson in Brief Encounter that London by night is a game of dodge the drunken chav. Gin Lane isn’t even in it. If an Edwardian was transported to the West End today he would think it the Ninth Circle of Hell. As I always say, you’ve got to pick your streets.
Today I am making a concerted effort to put the cares of the day on hold. There are three elephants in the room however. The Perfect Gentleman: The Pursuit of Timeless Elegance in London has gone down rather well at the Frankfurt Book Fair and Thames & Hudson have given me a delivery date of December 31st. I also have to finish the texts for Dreams of Diamonds and The Louis Vuitton Guide to London 2013 by the year end. Why does Munch’s The Scream come to mind?
Thank the Lord for Rosy Runciman. She sent a gorgeous young man round from Sir Cam’s office with a 40th birthday bag of bliss: two cracking bottles of Chateauneuf, a DVD of Asquith’s Glyndebourne film On Such a Night and the new front runner for best card: an artist’s impression of Liza as Sally Bowles. I never thought I’d say this but it really is the thought that counts on big birthdays and Rosy has lifted my spirits immensely. As Mae West says, ‘a man in the house is worth two in the street’.
Love gifts, don’t you? Particularly very good bottles of Valpoliparrot and well-thought out movies. Better Half and I are shopping for the present after lunch at Wilton’s today. Much as I adore the diamond and emerald ring I snapped on my last visit to Hancocks in the Burlington Arcade – surely the finest antique jeweller in town – I don’t think I would like it half as much as a chic and discreet diamond and onyx Edwardian dress set. Fingers crossed…
Anyway Rowley, wish you were here to celebrate with me but know that’s not to be. The Sherwood Massive will raise a glass to you tomorrow as we carouse outside Ciao Bella. I think it’s going to be a long night. Perhaps we should take a leaf from those pesky pikeys outside St Paul’s Cathedral and bring our tents. Until next time…