Ho-Bleedin-Ho. December 2011.

Dear Rowley,

If you haven’t seen My Week With Marilyn yet I do urge you to treat yourself for Christmas. The script is a little thin but for charm it deserves an Oscar. My friend Tim and I snuck off last night to a screening which was marginally spoilt by a credit card altercation at the Odeon Covent Garden. We’ve all been there haven’t we? My card must have declined four times as the queue behind us twitched like a chorus line of disaffected penguins.

Being unjustly exposed as insolvent reminded me of that scene in The Three Musketeers when Milady (as played by Faye Dunaway) wrestles with D’Artagnan and her peignoir is torn revealing the fleur-de-lys -the  mark of a whore – branded on her shoulder. If I’d had a dagger dipped in acid strapped to my garter, I would have gladly plunged it into the hand of the boy in the box office.

So shame-making when the computer says no and you can swear on the Holy Book that you’ve got sufficient shekels banked at HSBC to cover two seats in the back row and a bucket of popcorn. Anyway, all was well but I do disapprove of free seating. It turns civilised people into extras from The Towering Inferno trampling over OAPs and small children in the rush to reach the exit. Our viewing was distinctly restricted as we were front row far right whereby whatever was happening on the left of the screen was but a dim and distant vista.

Sometimes you have to admit that the Gods have predestined your day and frustration becomes the mother of invention. I finally submitted to Christmas much in the spirit of a kidnap victim in Kabul chained to a radiator who falls in love with his captor. There’s only so many times your lip can curl on hearing the first eight bars of Jingle Bells or your heart sink to see the Christmas lights on Regent Street are sponsored by Disney’s Arthur Christmas: hardly a candidate to knock It’s A Wonderful Life off the list of all-time Christmas classics. Comes a time when one has to give in to it, stoat down to Holborn Circus to buy a tree and drag it like a dead elk back to Bloomsbury Towers for gutting and dressing.

Last year I decided to deck the halls of Bloomsbury Towers with a sparkly tree in what is known as the ‘common parts’ of the townhouse…as if there could possibly be such a thing. Anyway, this year the Bedford Estates has conspired to make our hall lights a 24-7 operation so day or night we are greeted with searing neon light that would give even the smoothest complexion the hue of a cold case corpse. So I’ve opted instead for a modest display of fairy lights and holly berry wreath in the stairwell. This has turned out to be a boon as it serves as a landing strip when I tipsily totter up to bedfordshire after a night in the fleshpots of Mayfair.

Lighting is so important, don’t you find? Dietrich got it so right that the man on a movie set you want on side is the stud with the spotlights. I was filming in Carlton House Terrace a few days ago and didn’t think I was looking my best. Well, by the time the lighting genius had done his work I had pores as small as Garbo’s. As my beloved art director Pete Dawson at Thames & Hudson said after much fishing for compliments on my part, ‘who cares about 40 if you feel like 69?’ Couldn’t agree more.

Speaking of T&H, I finished all the historic chapters for The Perfect Gentleman this week. They’ve gone to editor Juicy Jennie Condell for her to work magic and make superfluous waffle disappear. In publishing, a good editor and art director are the equivalents of genius lighting guys. They quite simply make you look better. We all went for our annual lobster and fizz Christmas dinner at Sheekey’s Oyster Bar on Tuesday night and succeeded in drinking enough to float Fire Island and indulged in bawdy talk that would make a hooker blush.

Why I wonder does Christmas urge people to get all their affairs in order as if they were going to be shot at dawn come December the 25th? I feel like saying,’calm down dears, it’s just a commercial’. God willing, we’ll all wake up on Boxing Day and life will go on. I broke my record this year in completing all the Christmas shopping in one morning between 10am and noon. It’s not quite an austerity Christmas but better half and I have decided to scale back on giving gifts that would make the Gods of Mammon beam with pride. Europe is quite clearly as broke as Bob Cratchett and mindless consumerism isn’t perhaps appropriate this year.

Can’t switch on an appliance without hearing that today is crunch time for the Euro. The necessity to save it reminds me of Noel Coward’s immortal line ‘why must the show go on?’ Saving the Euro is rather like strangling all the chicks in the nest and voting to save the cuckoo. Mr Cameron was distinctly cagy about defending Britain’s rights despite the two headed Hydra ‘Merkosy’ riding roughshod over democracy and rewriting the rule book. It is at times like this when we have to remember it was Mrs Thatcher not Amy Winehouse who first made famous the line ‘No! No! No!’ Favourite new phrase, it’s enough to make you toss in your wig…