Frockage. August 2012.

Dear Rowley,

I fear we are rather out of synch with my photographs. I told you all about the Costume Gallery at the Bowes Museum in my last letter and only now am I sending you my snaps. Vanity, I assure you, in wishing to send pictures of Dame Sherwood at the chateau of North Yorkshire with my previous dispatches. Anyway, you can now see the full glory of the costume curation at the Bowes.

My favourite piece is actually a recreation of Josephine Bowes’ pink Worth crinoline made by a genius costume designer who made all the frockage for The Tudors and The Borgias. The dress is an exact copy of one worn by Josephine in a portrait at the Bowes. It is an unusual portrait. The dress is in the style Worth created for the Empress Eugenie. But the jewels she wears in the portrait are incongruous. She wears loops of pearls set around an off the shoulder neckline with a sapphire brooch, a velvet choker set with diamonds a la Marie Antoinette and a curiously theatrical jewelled Byzantine belt set with semi-precious stones.

My first comment on encountering the Worth crinoline on a mannequin was how on earth a chap was supposed to dance with a lady wearing the crinoline. The answer is in the spring-like light crinoline cage beneath constructed with fluid wires and curtain tape. The entire piece is hand stitched with beautiful couture stitches: a masterpiece.

As you might have guessed, I am rounding off a month of recuperation from the old migraine/sinus trouble that has made recent weeks hell with another quick dash to the French Riviera in the company of the Artist who has seen me through some rather dark days of late. We’d had such a lovely time in July that when he suggested we hit the Train Bleu again from the Gare de Lyon, I leapt at the chance. It isn’t cheap in Niece but the Promenade des Anglais has become something of a home-from-home as has the glamorous Plage Ruhl beach club where we are now treated like family by the beach boys in yachting caps and whites who serve coups de champagne with raspberries bobbing in the bubbles.

I have always lived to work as have you not realising that the whole point is to earn sufficient money for the truly fun stuff. Noël Coward had it so right: put on the show then get on a boat, train or plane and sail away, sail away, sail away. Even four days in the Riviera sunshine perks one up considerably as does riding a carousel horse at midnight, hitting the casino for a late night supper of ham sandwiches washed down with encore de Prosecco and dining at backstreet restaurants that serve simply the best French and Italian food; we being so close to the border as t’were.

We booked a different hotel this time: the Albert 1ier and because we wanted smoking rooms were given bedrooms with balconies on the 6th floor overlooking the pleasure gardens, the Promenade des Angalis and the beach. It’s like Private Lives of an evening meeting on a balcony with real stone balustrades and leaning over to comment on the flatness of Norfolk. Nice is now up there with Corfu and Buenos Aires as one of my top three cities in the world though it’s a close call with my connections to Florence and of course London.

Didn’t you adore the Olympics Closing Ceremony? It was as nutty as Bedlam on changeover day and featured stellar performances from Granny Lennox, the Spice Girls, Darcy Bussell and even wee Georgie Michael who prized himself away from the gentlemen’s loos sufficiently long enough to promote his new single in front of billions of people. He’s getting a bit blowsy these days don’t you think? If they ever rerecorded Dead Ringer For Love he’d have to be Meat Loaf rather than Cher.

Now the interesting thing about making new friends such as the Artist is that they are genuinely interested in all your stories, your reminiscences, your triumphs and your woes. Understandably, people who have known ONE for a life time tire a little of the glitter and the gold as they do of the troubles and strife. So it was pure bliss to lie on a sun lounger at the Plage Ruhl beach club reading Nancy Mitford’s letters to Heywood Hill and read out the innumerable funnies.

I have form with Heywood Hill. The MD Nicky Dunne – on whose dimples I dote – offered the Curzon Street bookshop where Mrs Rodd worked during the war – for the launch of Fashion at Royal Ascot: Three Centuries of Thoroughbred Style co-hosted by Thames & Hudson and the Duke of Dev who looms large in his Aunt’s letters. So back to Nancy’s letters to Heywood Hill. Commenting on a terribly pretentious and grand hypochondriac friend, she tells Hill that he claims to be descended from Robert the Bruce. Nancy suspects it more likely he was descended from the spider.

Apropos of new friends being interested in ONE, I had a lovely time reminiscing about my beloved Grandmother Sherwood who was a great foodie: in other words she lived for Yorkshire pudding and vehemently insisted ‘don’t bury me with ham!’ At Christmas time my Auntie Lynda would host a party at home and cook a pressed tongue. Nan Sherwood would say with a gleam in her eye, ‘oh I do love a bit of Lynda’s tongue, don’t you?’

Well, tomorrow it’s back to Paris then London after another lovely sojourn in Nice. I will miss it so much but, then again, we can always come back. Until next time…