Rather a lot to catch up on since the escapade to Newcastle upon Tyne so apologies for the radio silence. Were you finally seduced by the Team GB (why not Great British Team?) gold rush at the Olympics. I must admit a tear came to my eye when Sir Chris Hoy won his gold medals. I recall interviewing him at a Royal Ascot past for the BBC and Suzi had to pass me the sal volatile when he told us off camera he couldn’t cross his legs because his thighs were so chunky monkey.
I must admit to a slight thawing about the Olympics and thoroughly look forward to the Closing Ceremony directed by Sir Stephen Daldry. Richard Littlejohn in our paper (Daily Mail) came up with a brilliant fantasy PC Closing Ceremony whereby a giant map of the British Isles would be planted in turf in the middle of the Olympic Stadium. At the climax of the show, the Royal Philharmonic would strike up with Iminim a Loo and thousands of asylum seekers would flood the arena and a shower of benefit money would rain down on them. Too funny.
So you left me in Newcastle at a bar called Easy Street doing the Time Warp with a fiftysomething Geordie mother and her brood. A great time was had by all. But on to more salubrious subjects and the reason for our visit. Keith ‘head of Ceremonial Tailoring’ Levett and I were in Northumberland on Henry Poole & Co business. We had been approached by one of the curators at the Bowes Museum to work with her on a major Henry Poole retrospective in the Costume Galleries of the museum.
Have you been to the Bowes? Actually it is in North Yorkshire in the village of Barnards Castle. The museum is built in high Renaissance French chateau style and was the dream of John Bowes – an illegitimate scion of the late Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother’s family – and his French actress/soubrette wife Josephine. The couple resolved to build this vast palace in the 1860s to house their collection of paintings, furniture, porcelain, automatons and objects d’art. It was never inhabited.
Well, we took a taxi to the Bowes and breath left body on driving up the sweeping approach to the chateau. The grounds are laid out in formal French par terre fashion and the house is surrounded by a chapel where Josephine is buried, tennis courts and a bowling green. Thanks to lottery money and friends of the Bowes, the museum is looking immaculate. The costume galleries made the Victoria & Albert museum look like the third world. The permanent exhibition includes bodices and evening slippers belonging to the Empress Eugenie (who Josephine idolised), the most fabulous lace collection, immaculate Second Empire ball gowns and a Lucille wedding dress from 1912.
You recall the story of Lady Duff Gordon (Lucille)? She was on board RMS Titanic when it sank and left the ship on the first lifeboat manned only with a handful of sailors and she and her husband as the only passengers. The society couple were prosecuted on their return to England for bribing the sailors to strand fellow passengers and row away from the sinking ship as swiftly as possible. They were acquitted. Anyway, this wedding dress on display at the Bowes was started before Titanic sank and finished when Lady Duff Gordon returned safely to dry land.
Suffice to say, Keith and I were suitably impressed by the Bowes and we have a provisional date of May to August next year for the exhibition. I think this is possibly too swift and we need a year to plan but I already have ideas. 2013 is the anniversary of The Queen’s Coronation and Poole’s is the only Savile Row tailor left to have a dedicated livery department. Ede & Ravenscroft do ceremonial work but from Chancery Lane not the Row. We could do a wonderful display of Henry Poole & Co Coronation robes and liveries in honour of The Queen’s Coronation.
We could also tell the tale of the first dinner jacket cut for King Edward VII when Prince of Wales for private dinners at Sandringham. We have the ledger page order and it records a blue silk short dining coat. It was Keith’s brilliant idea to go to the 18th century silk weavers Stephen Walters in Suffolk and look at their pattern books from 1865 and have a silk woven to remake the dinner jacket. We have lots more ideas for the exhibit that I will relay as and when they come to fruition.
What else is new? Thursday saw me back at No 17 Clifford Street with Anderson & Sheppard being the fit model for trouser samples. It is amazing what you learn when you do the try on. Our trews might need slimming considerably though I think the silhouettes are strong, the colours bold and the cloths beautiful. I have not put on a garment at No 17 that I don’t think sublime. But I don’t want to jinx the project by over selling it. There’s a preview party in September when Better Half, La Farmer, Mr Bowering and I are in Corfu co-hosted by Bryan Ferry and The Rake. Pity we’ll miss it but I will hopefully be sinking a bottle of Prosecco in Taverna Agni on the night in question, your honour.
I’m out of town this weekend but return to lots of graft. I need to catch-up on my writing after the months of migraine/sinus battles. Mercifully I think we’re winning. At the risk of sounding like Mrs Cohen at Coffee Talk, I’ve got the medication down to a handful of Aspirins every few hours and apparently Aspirin cuts the cancer risk when taken daily by 60%. As I said, we have the power to rebuild him…