There are evenings that confirm that I don’t wish to live anywhere other than Central London. True, the rent on Bloomsbury Towers is taxing, the weather is execrable and the shoals of Chinese tourists rather a swim upstream as one battles towards Mayfair but I happen to love London. In the words of Sinatra, it’s my kind of town.
Last night wasn’t cold enough for the mink collared overcoat so I risked the Anderson & Sheppard grey flannel in the rain to arrive at appointment number one: Hatchards’ annual author’s Christmas signing evening in Piccadilly. Don’t know about you, but I always feel slightly distingueé when a new book is published. Events such as a Hatchards book signing are a metaphorical pop of a cork that makes it all magical again.
I was billetted on the second floor for the signing and found myself sharing a table with Annie ‘Tottering By Gently’ Tempest and Henrietta Spencer-Churchill. Trust me to put foot almost in mouth declaring how sorry I was to miss the Channel 4 documentary about Blenheim Palace showing that evening. ‘I’m not’, says Henrietta who is the present Duke of Marlborough’s daughter. Anyway, Henrietta was a terribly good sport and we had rather a jolly evening. I asked if she could ask Blenheim’s curators whether they have any Henry Poole & Co uniforms or liveries in the attic. You never know said the widow…
Annie Tempest was a hoot, Rowley, a hoot! You know her weekly Tottering By Gently cartoons in Country Life. She is one of Britain’s great social commentators dissecting upper middle class England with her sagas of Lord and Lady Tottering and their black labrador Slobber.
We had a high old time inking signatures though Annie has a head start with dozens of Tottering books under her belt. I must have signed over 100 Perfect Gentlemen and Hatchards did me proud – as always – with a display copy in the window and a gorgeous in-store display with TPG presented in a gilt picture frame next to books about Kate Moss and Alexander McQueen.
After Hatchards, I high tailed it across Piccadilly to the Burlington Arcade’s Christmas lights party. There is something truly magical about the world’s first covered shopping arcade – built in 1819 – when it is in party mode. The Christmas decs were rather lovely but swagged with black cloth looking for all the world as if we were in mourning for Queen Victoria. But the Arcade knows how to throw a party; commandeering a bevy of Charleston-dancing flappers, bell boys and girls to entertain and stilt-walking lovelies in what looked like Vivienne Westwood’s new collection.
The Prosecco flowed all night, the music seduced and I had a ringside seat in Sheila and Gary’s jewellery shop Wright & Teague. Such fun as Patricia Hodge would have it (frequently). I bumped into the Arcade’s PR supremo Ellen Lewis who whispered that we could indeed host a London Perfect Gent launch there in the near future. Wouldn’t that be grand?
From the Burlington Arcade, it was a dash in the rain to Covent Garden for Julian Vogel’s party at the Film Museum to celebrate 25 years of his fashion PR company Modus. As I wrote in my thank you card, it was so nice to see so many old faces, meet so many new faces and examine so many old friends with new faces. The cocktails were to die as was the DJ who whipped up a storm culminating in Scott ‘Bespoke Banter’ Wimsett rocking out to Gangnam Style. Can that boy Foxtrot.
Best news of the year bar none is that my darling partner in crime from BBC fashion at Royal Ascot Suzi Perry is going to be in Paris next week for the Ralph Lauren Perfect Gent party. Hugo ‘Parisian Gentleman’ Jacomet has played a blinder and we’re a sell-out crowd. Sad that Suzy Menkes is in Singapore but we’ve got lots of friends and family in town to raise a glass.
The friend Suzi is bringing was a headliner at the Moulin Rouge so we might be able to book a table in Montmatre for the late show after the Ralph party. I’m so looking forward to spending a few days in Paris. I’ll be catching-up with the Louis Vuitton Guide to London editors at the Cafe Flore, dropping in on the remarkable Madame de Plinval at the Chaumet Tiara Museum on the Place Vendome and revisiting old haunts with the gang. La Farmer and Mr Bowering will be ‘in the house’ as will my remarkable art director and editor Pete Dawson and Jennie Condell.
Apologies that the pictures from last night are a little blurred. I swear I was on water for the lion’s share of the Hatchards event even though I more than compensated at the Burlington Arcade. I blame the cocktail waitress with the mink trimmed waistcoat entirely. While researching a Rake feature, I came across a portrait I adore. It is of Belgian art critic and flaneur Octavius Maus and it is painted by Theo van Rysselberghe. Don’t you adore the cornflower blue coat and matching silk plush top hat?
Today found me writing a feature for the Vuitton Guide to London. It was a city walk in the footsteps of George ‘Beau’ Brummell. You know I walk everywhere in London so it’s a breeze giving verbal guided tours of historic Mayfair, Piccadilly and St. James’s. I often joke with Inga – my glamorous right hand woman at Henry Poole & Co – that I’ll end my days on my uppers dressed in a tatty Beau Brummell costume giving guided tours of Savile Row. This week gives me hope that those days are a long long way off. Until next time…