The Wee Small Hours of the Morning. October 2011.

Dear Rowley,

Do you like the artist’s impression of me en repos in Bloomsbury Towers come midnight? Flu certainly makes a cha slump in a suitably languid semi-recombent posture in his central London garrett. Of course I jets. My sash chords are much larger than Thomas Chatterton’s. But I do adore that portrait, don’t you darling? As I put pen to paper, it is 3.16am. Insomnia is I think a blessing and a curse. It is a curse that as one hurtles towards 40 beauty sleep is paramount. But, then again, those who sleep the sleep of the just don’t have the benefit of QVC.

I could write a sonnet to QVC. This morning’s fabulous offer was a wonder of modern science called the ‘Slanket’. Imagine an envelope of fleece about four by six foot with sleeves and a handy pocket to park your tootsies. It comes in reversible colours. The Slankie is large enough to accommodate two small children, a large hot chocolate and a jacket potato as you snuggle up on the divan watching Downton Abbey. Surely too modest! Invest in a Slanket and you could fit the seven dwarves and a couple of large Salukies down there. Throw in a couple of bottles of Bolly and 20 St Moritz and that’s what I call a party.

In my younger days, I would have sallied forth into the night in search of amusing company in a suitably louche watering hole.  But now I find writing is the panacea that soothes the fevered brow and lures one into the arms of Morpheus. Music also helps one to drift off. Tchaikovsky ballets are the conduit to sweet dreams. Tonight I felt nostalgic and chose the original cast recording of Salad Days. Did you see the revival at the Riverside Studios this year? Royal Ascot’s adorable Gary England bought us tickets and I have to admit I was enchanted. What’s not to like about a score that rhymes ‘Ptolemy’ with ‘Follow Me’? Do iTunes it darling.

Perhaps it is the six-day countdown until my 40th birthday that is stealing my sleep. Personally, I never thought I’d make it. Now barring a natural disaster it looks like I will cross the line. I had a chat to my personal trainer today who told me that you can exercise your butt off and should you eat and drink the wrong things a six pack can develop but you’ll never see it for the reserves of fat. Well, kids, life’s a swindle. A terrible thought, don’t you think, having a hidden six pack? It’s rather like being the secret millionaire and not getting the TV show.

The birthday plans are gathering apace. Having been under the weather I have been rather ‘bah! humbug!’ about the whole brouhaha but when you’re one of my tribe a 40th is to gifts what a wedding is to Ivana Trump. One does have to bait the trap with sufficient events to allow one’s nearest and dearest to shower you with booty. So we’ve got a pre D-Day champagne night at Kettner’s and I’m taking better half to Wiltons for lunch on the 27th. No fool I. We buy the presents after the bubbles and crustacea.

The 28th is the Ciao Bella table al fresco for twelve of the hardcore Sherwood Massive. I am sure we will drink enough Valpoliparot to float Fire Island and out-laugh Pagliacci. A few days to recover then I’m taking a party of six to the Novello to see Crazy for You followed by a Joe Allen knees-up. That weekend better half and I are heading up to Derbyshire for the family Sunday lunch and the week after it’s a London dinner with BHs family. At this rate we could probably string it out until Christmas. Not, as Nan Sherwood would say, that I want any fuss…

News from my publisher yesterday morning. It seems The Perfect Gentleman has gone down like a chorus boy at the Frankfurt Book Fair so it will be all hands to the pump to get the damned thing written and art directed by January 1st. I’m thrilled because it looks like we might have foreign language editions. It always makes me thrill to imagine the Italian, French and Japanese translators try to get their heads around ‘flash basting’ or some such technical term.

A lovely email this week from a chap who came to hear my talk on  Fashion at Royal Ascot at Coworth Park last month at the Windsor Literary Festival. Unbeknown to me, he is an excellent photographer and took what I think are the loveliest portraits of Mrs T and I basking like salamanders in the formal gardens of Coworth. Memories are truly made of this. I particularly like our Abbey Road album cover shot stoating past the ornamental lake with our reflections in the beautiful briny. If Mrs T isn’t still with me 40 years hence I will demand a refund.

40 makes you think doesn’t it? I’d like to think it is Half Time. Then again, another 40 years at this pace and I’ll probably sew myself into a Slanket and surrender. Still, any big birthday is a rather good pause for thought to think about the ones lost half way through the woods as Stephen Sondheim would put it. It is also worth doing a head count of the people without whom life would not be worth living. I always think if friends and family who you adore exceed your age then you’re doing just fine. Of course after 40 you can knock ten off per decade due to the inevitable breakages.

On that note Rowley it’s time to  rest my weary and slunk into my Slankie. Tomorrow is bosom buddy Lee’s D-day. He’s 40 and I’ve been with him for 20. As Dolly Rawlins would say, ‘I’d do ten for you’. In your case, add a nought darling.