Where have I been all your life? Well, truth to tell after finishing off The Perfect Gentleman I’ve gone from 5th to 1st gear. Bliss, isn’t it? Of course having time on one’s hands allows the devil to make work apropos of which I spent Easter at Better Half’s relations. Come Easter morn there was a three line whip to frogmarch the entire house party to the Sunday service. Whenever I enter a church I think of Charles Laughton’s famous line in Witness for the Prosecution when Marlene Dietrich is in the dock: ‘you’ve told so many lies, Fraulein Helm, that I’m surprised the Bible doesn’t leap out of your hands…In Flames!’
The good book didn’t quite immolate when I took a pew at Puttenham church but there was definitely a whiff of sulphur. Don’t know about you, but whenever a priest says ‘we will now sing hymn number…’ I always want to break into eight bars of I Want to be Evil. Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely adore – adore! – a sung eucharist at St George’s Mayfair with a full choir followed by a thundering sermon by the Bishop of London. But St George’s is a West End showstopper and makes every other church feel like amateur dramatics. Hard to know what to believe, no? I always think reincarnation is an attractive option. If at first you don’t succeed…
What news on the Rialto? Well, for starters there were no Fabergé eggs left by the Easter Bunny. To compound the crushing disappointment, I re-read Erickson’s The Last Tsarina to remind myself that those who receive bejewelled Imperial Easter eggs one minute can end up shot in the Urals the next. One of my favourite authors, Joe Keenan, wrote a brilliant description of a woman so rich ‘she ovulates Fabergé eggs’.
On Tuesday next Andy B and I go to Thames & Hudson to look at the first page proofs for The Perfect Gent. It is always gratifying to see the images chosen and art directed to scale and in colour. I had dinner – or rather two bottles of wine and a quail’s egg – with my publisher Lucas at a terrific new place on Endell Street called The 10 Cases a couple of weeks ago to talk about what next. It’s a toss up between proposing a new idea that is a million miles from men’s style or signing to do the Savoy book for Brett and Rizzoli.
I haven’t been living entirely for pleasure as Lady Bracknell would have it (frequently). The project to catalogue Henry Poole & Co’s ledgers has taken a new direction apropos I duck into the archive every Tuesday as if bobbing for apples and come up with an historic name, write his biography and trace his story with Poole’s. Next week’s subject (to be posted online at the Poole’s Hall of Fame) is Lord Rosebery: a man who declared in his youth that he fully intended to marry an heiress, become Prime Minister and win the Derby…all of which he achieved. We have Lord Rosebery’s racing silks pattern in the Poole’s archive with a wisp of silk as glossy as if it were woven yesterday.
Last week I was given the opportunity to go back to Titanic – or Atlantic as it happened – when Jeremy King gave me a hard hat tour of his new restaurant-bar-cabaret Brasserie Zedel in the old Art Deco ballroom beneath what was the Regent’s Palace Hotel. In the early 1990s, it was known as the Atlantic Bar & Grill as owned by Mr Peyton and was quite simply the most glamorous boîte in London. At the time, I was working as a cocktail waiter in a very salubrious watering hole called The Yard. After closing, we’d pool our tips and high tail it to the Atlantic where we knew the doorman so were waved past the velvet rope.
Walking down the sweeping staircase, past the cigarette kiosk and into the ballroom one felt as jolly super as Gary Cooper. It was a great privilege to go back to the ballroom and see Zedel rising up from the depths of the old Atlantic. I’m going to make a prediction. When Zedel opens at the end of June, it is going to rock London by the heels. As for the cabaret bar, well let’s just say I’ll be going like Elsie. Speaking of cabaret, the Savoy is introducing Burlesque on a Sunday night in the Beaufort Bar. That’s just what Londoners need on a Sunday evening: hits, glitz and tits.
Did I tell y0u I started working on the novel that’s been careering round in my mind for the last year shrieking ‘write me, write me’. Imagine Mapp & Lucia meets Evil Under the Sun and you’ve got the idea. It isn’t autobiographical but does feature some thinly veiled pen portraits of people who have crossed my path over the past twenty years in London. I can already hear the libel writs thumping on my welcome mat like lemmings. What I love about E. F. Benson is his affection for his characters such as Miss Mapp and Lucia despite – or because of – their flaws. That’s the tone I hope to emulate.
Having threatened clients with the kidnapping of their children/pets, I’ve hustled sufficient drachma to book our house in Corfu for September. La Farmer and Mr Bowering are joining us as might Mr Leane and Miss Watt. It’ll be like Carry On Up The Acropolis. Boo hiss that we’ve got six months until take off but the quadrangle behind Bloomsbury Towers always gives me a spring consolation prize when the trees start to leaf and the view from my desk quite simply lifts the spirits and melts the heart. Until next time…