Art or Bust. August 2012.

Dear Rowley,

Well, I’m sitting on the balcony of the Albert Ier in Nice on the last night on the Riviera for now watching the sun set and listening to Sarah Vaughan’s I Love Brazil album on the MacBook Air. This is an album with many fond memories. It was given to me by my ex-best friend Charlotte Schepke who I remember fondly apart from the break-up drinks at the Savoy many moons ago. Isn’t it funny that you can watch The Killing of Sister George with someone sipping grappa one month and the next she walks past you on Old Compton Street on your birthday. This was aeons ago. I got over it.

It was also a favourite album of my New York ex Joseph Garland with whom I shared an apartment in Greenwich Village many moons ago with a poodle called Yogi. We once took a holiday in Miami at the Eden Roc hotel and Joseph took Yogi. It was in the Rose Marie Bravo years of Burberry’s revival and I was something of a house pet. Rose Marie and Chris Bailey gave me tonnes of schmutter as thank you gifts for writing about the Burberry check in various British national newspapers.

Anyway, you discover our hero on the beach in Miami wearing tight Burberry House Check shorts with a Burberry check shoulder bag and a poodle on a leash. Nothing camp about that. I had a mad time in Miami. It wasn’t really my kind of town but the vintage shops and the Palazzo Versace were high points as was a gay nightclub where I was asked for ID. I was in my thirties at the time. So many ghosts Rowley not least your own.

One, two, three and you’re back in the room. Apparently the Artist went to see a spiritualist friend last year who said a dark haired man with connections to Chatsworth House would come into his life and need nurturing and protecting. She should be burnt as a witch. Pass the ducking stool, Marjorie. My only connections to Chatsworth is that my parents moved into a village nearby called Beeley when I was 14 and I spent many a happy hour sketching in the gardens while at Lady Manners school.

I do have a further connection to Chatsworth in my new life as a writer of books. While working at the Savoy on the Museum Room, I was aided and abetted by the divine Katy Thomas – Mrs T – who I love to bits. Mrs T is the present Duchess of Devonshire’s niece. We had a lovely lunch at Chatsworth a couple of years ago when they were holding an attic sale with Sotheby’s. The highpoint was a discussion about Evelyn Waugh and Madresfield House. I happened to mention Waugh and the Duke said, ‘First or Second?’ to which Mrs T replied ‘Evelyn’. My abiding memory was mixing Mrs T a Bloody Mary at the drinks table on the balcony overlooking Chatsworth’s chapel.

My recent activities have not allowed me to work with Mrs T recently though she did sterling work on the Louis Vuitton Guide to London 2013. We always make time for lovely lunches at Sheekey’s Oyster Bar and always cut a dash on our usual bar stools. The minute we pull back the curtains to the Oyster Bar, the Champagne corks pop and the oysters are shucked and ready to slurp. Love Mrs T, don’t you? I know you did. She went to the Jubolympics don’t you know. Somebody was clearly working for her.

So it’s goodbye to Nice tomorrow and hello to the train journey to Paris and then on to St Pancras. I love the train journey almost as much as the holiday. The Artist has just popped out to sketch on the Boulevard des Anglais and promises to return with a case of Prosecco and some foie gras ‘for the journey’ (natch!) He made a lovely sketch of me on a sun lounger at the Plage Ruhl Beach Club reading Nancy Mitford’s letters to and from Heywood Hill. Laugh? If only I could touch a tenth of Mrs Rodd’s genius penwomanship. I recently re-read Don’t Tell Alfred that is based in the British Ambassador’s Residence in Paris where we mounted The London Cut in 2007.

The light in Nice is simply exquisite. It is soft and grey-blue-pink as the sun goes down. As night falls, Nice gets naughty. We eschew the fleshpots in favour of the fairground carousel in the square, single course suppers with lashings of Prosecco and late night lounging at the Casino Rhul where ham sandwiches and Prosecco are in no little supply. As Sondheim would have it, ‘heigh ho the glamorous life’.

On my return to London there is much business to be done catching-up on all my Rake deadlines, dropping in on Henry Poole & Co and resuming the fun and games at No 17 Clifford Street with Anderson & Sheppard. I do miss the gang so not least Audie, Emily, Andre, Connor and of course Anda who I believe might be in the Basque country at present.

Wouldn’t you just die without Sarah Vaughan? I will also add the caveat that nightly at cocktail hour in the hotel Albert Ier, I play the Artist Dorothy Loudon’s rendition of Easy Street on YouTube. Do take a peek if you want cheering up. Loudon is a legend. We wasted an hour on YouTube last night watching Regina Fong doing her Alma’s Caff routine at Gay Pride in the 90s that I was fortunate enough to attend and a marvellous appearance by Ten Tonne Tessie O’Shay at The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club hosted by Bernard Manning.

Tessie sings When the Saints Go Marching In and Nice One Cyril. This put me in mind of Titti La Camp’s performance at the Regina Fong memorial concert where she lip synchs to Thora Hird on Praise Be. YouTube it darling. There’s more, sweetie, there’s lots more…