Going Down With All Hands. April 2012.

Dear Rowley,

Have you noticed the advertisement campaign on behalf of Stonewall on the side of countless London busses at present? The slogan – in bright red letters a foot high –  reads ‘Some people are gay. Get over it’. Is it just me or has homosexuality gone from the love that dare not speak it’s name to the love that can’t draw breath? Apart from in the odd radicalised mosque or sink estate, I think London is pretty laid back about the gays. The only people we hurl abuse at in the street these days are tourists, bankers and cyclists.

This puts me in mind of an amusing episode with La Farmer as we were stoating towards the Royal Geographic Society to hear a lecture by Mark Shand about Indian elephants. All of a sudden we were engulfed by a tsunami of pre-pubescent Italian tourists shrieking ‘Vamos! Vamos!’ at the top of their lungs as they ran away from us. ‘I told you red wasn’t your colour’, says I to Susan. That said, she paid me back in spades the other day at a meeting with the delightful Maurice Mullen who has quite the most tightly furled brolly I’ve ever had the privilege to see. When I asked if Maurice had my number, La Farmer skipped a beat and said ‘we’ve all got your number, dearie’. Priceless.

In the spirit of Stonewall’s ‘Some people are gay. Get over it’ campaign, I’m thinking of funding my own London bus advertisements in response to one of the burning issues of the day, namely, the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. Don’t you think the commemorative TV shows, magazine articles, radio plays and reruns of movies are ever so slightly OTT? My ad campaign will read ‘It sank. Get over it’.

Now I know the glub glub of RMS Titanic in 1912 is a metaphor for the end of British imperialist ambitions, the class system and all that. Personally, I only remember 1912 as the birth year of my beloved Grandmother Sherwood who was as unsinkable as Molly Brown. But to the rest of the world 1912 signifies a moment of such doomed majesty, hubris and tragedy that there isn’t a dry seat in the house every time BBC shows a rerun of A Night To Remember or Titanic. Personally, I’d rather watch Shelley Winters in The Poseidon Adventure any day.

So what have the culture wonks provided for our delectation to commemorate the sinking of the Titanic? A Radio 4 documentary voiced by Jeanette Winterson who was chosen presumably because she has a thick northern accent that could pour suitable scorn on the people in first class because they had the temerity to survive a natural disaster. We’ve also been treated to a BBC1 doc voiced by Len Goodman of Strictly Come Dancing fame because he used to work in a shipyard before donning his tap shoes and has a cheeky Cockney lilt that can convey sufficient class bias and sentimentality.  Will a posho ever voice a BBC documentary again?

The iceberg on the cake was Julian Fellowes’s ITV dramatisation of the sinking. The first episode was like a government health warning about the dangers of being a pernicious aristo who cares only for her jewels in the Titanic strong box and tramples over hard working, decent folk, servants, children and pets to get to the lifeboats. It was pure panto and the acting so hammy you’d have to have a heart of stone not to laugh as the leading characters drown one by one in the briny.

I would hazard a guess that the reality on board the unfortunate vessel was that people behaved entirely in character regardless of class. Vanderbilts and Astors went down with the ship as well as Irish navvies and Scottish maid servants. The highest demographic of casualty was the crew. There’s food for thought for the class warriors. I’d like to think I would have been with J.J.  Astor who donned white tie, poured a brandy and waited for fate to take its course. But I suspect I would have tied my braces around Leonardo di Caprio and let him drown as I clung to a stateroom door bobbing in the ocean.

Speaking of going down with all hands, did you hear that the Royal Ascot TV coverage was moving from the BBC to Channel 4 next year? As you know, I was a lifer with the BBC at Ascot and clocked up eight years as fashion correspondent despite skipping a beat last year. I am sad that the crack team including Old Mother Balding, Willie, Rishi and Suzi Perry won’t be riding again in 2013. Royal Ascot should be a BBC flagship sports broadcast.

Being pragmatic I am proud of my contribution to Royal Ascot over the years. The Twitterverse – for what it’s worth – may say all sorts of things about elitism but Ascot has now issued guidelines for dress that I’ve been endorsing for ever. If I have been the cause of less exposed tattoos, navels, bra straps, piercings and fat bingo wings at the Royal Meeting then I’m a happy man. Until next time…