Dear Rowley, Did I tell you they’ve opened a new Cordon Bleu school on Bloomsbury Square? The cafe is absolutely to die and manned by Gallic cuties who can do things with saxifrage that makes one’s eyes stand out on stalks. Mind y0u, my heart still belongs to the gorgeous group who run our local Pret a Manger on Southampton Row. They’re always a total up greeting regulars with a ‘hello darling’ and a ‘flat that’s white’. Bloomsbury is very much a family affair. It’s always a highlight of my week to see Gail at Capri (the dry cleaner, not the island) for our weekly laugh and chaff.
Speaking of firecrackers, aren’t you just thrilled by the progress of the Olympic torch around England? No, can’t say I am either. You’d had to have a heart of stone not to laugh your ass off when Princess Anne, David Beckham and Lord Coe received the eternal flame in Athens only for the Gods to open the heavens and shower them all with rain. Apparently the flame isn’t supposed to go out. So how did they fly it to England on British Airways? Ordinary chaps like you and I can’t even get a nail file, bottle of gin or flacon of Shalimar past security.
It’s terribly mean to be peevish about the Olympics but I do harbour a suspicion that London is expected to grind to a halt for a month while the athletes run the egg and spoon race and so forth. It amazes me how much money has been spent prettifying London in time for the Olympics. Leicester Square now looks rather lovely with fabulous new planting and fountains playing at its heart. Even Bloomsbury Square has been repaved because we’re on the route of the Olympic media hub. But I do have a suspicion that when it’s all over, we’ll discover there aren’t any more shekels in the pot to keep up the good work.
The Beijing Olympics coincided with a year of insomnia for me so I did rather get into the spirit of the thing; waking up at three in the morning to see that strapping young British lad throw his legs ever higher and wider on the pommel horse . It’s always been my belief that watching someone at the top of their game doing anything at all is worth attention and applause. Or rather I did think that until Armani or Hackett or some such invited me to an FA Cup final at Wembley a few years ago. As La Farmer would say, bored me to sobs. I loathe – loathe! – football; finding it neither skilful nor engaging in the slightest. Leaving Wembley after the match surrounded by sweating, gurning, cheering monkeys, I felt not dissimilar to Anastasia fleeing the Bolsheviks in the forests surrounding Ekaterinburg.
And you’re back in the room. Highlight of the social year was Lara’s and my annual day at the Chelsea Flower Show courtesy of Better Half. As you’ll recall I went to Lara’s wedding reception at the Chelsea Physic Garden a couple of weekends ago so now she’s Lara Prince. But I think, like great actresses, she will keep her stage name Miss Mingay. Anyway, Lara and I lunched in Chelsea then walked to the Flower Show in what proved to be the first day of high summer in London. They were fainting in the aisles and that’s not an exaggeration. What was heaven at Chelsea this year apart from Mrs Prince’s company? I always adore the Laurent Perrier garden and must say I’m in agreement with the current fashion for meadow planting rather than formal gardening that clearly takes a staff of twenty to upkeep.
Chelsea is spectacular and aspirational but I think the Royal Horticultural Society understand that it is also inspirational. People come – and boy do they come – by the thousands to be inspired by the greatest creatives in the horticultural world. I wasn’t a fan of the ridiculous hanging gardens of Babylon affair that towered over the show gardens: the point being? This being a heatwave over London, Mrs Prince and I decided we were in desperate need of a glass of Laurent Perrier in the shade so decamped to an open air balcony bar overlooking the bandstand where we had a few sips and enjoyed the uniquely British spectacle of old tuskers brazening out the weather in navy blazers and flannel trousers sipping Pimms and listening to the band play a medley of Shirley Bassey’s greatest hits. We couldn’t have liked it more.
I think Chelsea is one of the most idiosyncratic and unintentionally elegant events of what used to be called the Season. Much to tell about my cabaret project for Brasserie Zedel. Today, I’m meeting the fabulous Issy van Randwycke and Mari Wilson to show them the cabaret space on a site visit. This will only be the second time that I’ve seen what was my favourite nightclub in London: the Atlantic Bar & Grill. That whole quarter behind Piccadilly is looking incredibly glamorous now. Whole Foods have opened a vast supermarket that looks like a Busby Berkeley tribute to organic food. Of course I’m a Sheekey’s Oyster Bar boy who would rather spend £15 on half a dozen oysters and a glass of champagne than go supermarket shopping any day of the week. Until next time…