Where do I go to surrender? We’re in the final weeks of writing, editing and laying out my new Thames & Hudson opus The Perfect Gentleman and it has reached the stage when one becomes a feral beast who can concentrate on nothing but the business in hand and should really be kept in a zoo rather than be allowed out to terrorise London when it’s feeding time. The smallest things set me off such as the shoals of Chinese students who invade my local Waitrose come term time and seem to have no concept of spacial awareness. In their stampede towards the deli counter I seriously thought I was having a flashback to the Boxer Rebellion. Britain hasn’t experienced such hostility from the Orient since the Opium Wars.
Mind you, I don’t discriminate. The French tart who barged past me tonight as I was foraging for organic chicken in Sainsbury’s was no better than she ought to be. Said lady was wearing a pair of spray-on hipster jeans exposing just enough G-string to give me a rollocking good target. I gave her a terrific prod right between the bum cheeks with my basket while mentally humming Rule Britannia and thinking ‘put that in your pipe and smoke it’. Another particular favourite of mine came from the novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil as voiced by the Lady Chablis. ‘You got issues? Here’s a tissue’.
So as you can see Sherwood on deadline is not really fit for public consumption. I felt desperate for my art director Pete Dawson and editor Jennie Condell last Friday who were doing their best to work with a feral beast who was sleep deprived, hung over and on the verge of doing a swallow dive off Waterloo Bridge. It’s not that the book is looking anything other than magnificent. It will be a pretty thing when we’re cooing over the cot at the book launch. But the delivery has been anything but an easy birth. But do you know who has seen me through the desperate hours of writing into the wee small hours? Madonna.
I’ve got a bee in my bonnet about Madonna. Why isn’t the media more respectful to a woman who has quite literally never missed a beat in over thirty years leading the music business? I have grown up with her music: dashing down to the local HMV in Sheffield to buy her first singles, listening to Like A Virgin when I still was one (just) and dancing to In To the Groove in a hilltop nightclub outside Sheffield called Fanny’s when I was 14. I’ve Vogued with that woman in London gay bars, seen her perform at a private Camden Town concert for Dolce & Gabbana when she released Music and danced my last dance with my dear friend Judy Bennett when she bought us tickets for the Confessions tour.
In short, Madonna has written the soundtrack to my life. So – bearing in mind my current take no prisoners attitude – I’m quite ready to hunt down her critics with dogs before you can say La Isla Bonita. You’d think people would cut a woman of such talent some slack should she choose to experiment in film. Quite frankly, if Evita was the only film she ever made it would be enough to justify her belief that she had something to contribute to celluloid. There wasn’t another actress or singer who could have acquitted herself as well playing Eva Peron. End of.
I have yet to see W.E. The film may be flawed or not but it should command equal respect as that other fashion-led film A Single Man directed by Tom Ford. Madonna has been quoted as saying that she’s bored of every English newspaper having her age permanently typeset. This I think she is justified in having a beef about. The lady has earned her spurs so many times over that it seems churlish to point out that Madonna is in her fifties. So what? If she chose to retire tomorrow Madonna would still have secured her position as one of the most important women to have contributed to 20th and 21st century culture.
Madonna is not an idol I would like to encounter. I am ‘friends of friends’ as t’were and have news from the coal face on a relatively regular basis. Writing a book with a grand historical sweep like The Perfect Gentleman makes me all the more aware that history is kind to people who actually do things and shape the age in which they inhabit. This Madonna has done so honit soit qui mal y pense.
So you discover me at midnight on a Saturday facing another three sections of The Perfect Gentleman when I’d much rather be sipping cocktails with one at Kettner’s. There is definitely something wrong with this picture. Surely being the captain of one’s own ship should allow for a little amusement. Then again, look what happened to Captain Coward who sank the Italian cruise liner off the coast of Giglio, Funnily enough, I visited the island of Giglio when at a house party with my dear friend Columbine Strickland in the late 80s. I remember laying on a rock just off the coastline and thinking this is a place I would be happy to expire. Funny how circumstances make you think twice…