Back in Business. December 2012.

Dear Rowley,

Are you superstitious? I certainly am. It’s not coincidental that we’ve had the wettest year since Noah slipped on his Barbour and those nearest and dearest to me have found 2012 something of a maelstrom both professionally and personally. It’s not terribly easy to put on a happy face every morning when you wake up, draw back the curtains and are faced with The Poseidon Adventure outside your window. I had a classic Miranda moment this week when the No 38 bus somehow managed to plough through a puddle the size of Lake Titicaca on Shaftsbury Avenue and leave me sopping wet and scowling like a cat in the rain.

But the gypsy in me seems to suggest that the tide is turning just in time for January 2013. It was announced this week that my lovely Suzi Perry has been signed-up by the BBC as the face of Formula 1. This is one of the most coveted presenting jobs on the BBC Sport  calendar and I think Suzi is the dream appointment. She’s got knowledge, she’s got humour, she’s an absolute dish and has the respect of the motorsports industry and  the viewers.

As you know, sport isn’t exactly my forte. I’ll go so far as to say an old school master of mine once said I was the only boy at Birkdale school who could walk off a rugby pitch more pristine than when he walked on it. But over the years of co-presenting the fashion for the BBC at Ascot with Suzi I’ve become something of a follower of her alter ego the lady in black leather. I’ve attended sports awards and dinners with Miss P and can only liken Suzi’s status amongst petrol heads with Prince Philip and the South Pacific islanders of Vanatu who worship him as a god. Of course she’s got va-va-voom but it’s the expert knowledge that places her head and shoulders above the rest.

Television is very much a game of snakes and ladders for the talent. For the commissioning editors it is the reverse and extremely risk averse. This goes some way to explaining that short of dragging-up as Carol Kirkwood in an egg yolk yellow mac and reading the weather report on BBC Breakfast Stephen Fry seems to be appearing on the hour across every TV channel and radio station until Pancake Tuesday.

Doubtless after his success as winner of Strictly Come Dancing 2012, Olympic gymnast Louis Smith will be the next ubiquitous face on British television. Despite bearing an uncanny resemblance to the cartoon skunk Pepe le Pew, Louis does appear to be a rather sweet boy. I don’t think there was any doubt in the producers’ minds that Louis was going to romp it in the public vote despite  being out-shimmied by the divine Denise van Outen and outclassed by the lovely Kimberley Walsh who, understandably, couldn’t dance topless as Louis did for his show dance.

Strictly has been a little ray of sunshine in a winter that’s not exactly been a barrel of laughs though it has had its moments. The Artist and I had a very jolly evening at the Jermyn Street theatre watching the London premier of off-Broadway hit musical Boy Meets Boy. It’s a rather sweet love story that begins at the Savoy hotel in 1936 at the height of the Abdication Crisis and is rather reminiscent of Gershwin’s Crazy for You cut with a dash of Victor Victoria. It deserves another run at the box office in the New Year as the Riverside Studio’s revival of Salad Days has over Christmas and New Year.

I adore Salad Days, don’t you Rowley? The score is as effervescent as a Sterident tablet and the stereotypes of upper class England in the 1920s utterly reassuring. Speaking of flappers, did you see Prada’s Christmas window on Old Bond Street? It is dressed with two of the most dazzling flapper dresses in silver and jet. Interesting that Mrs Prada reworked a number of archive pieces to dress Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan for the remake of The Great Gatsby. Rather smart of director Baz Luhrmann’s wife Catherine Martin to see the 20s through a prism of vintage Prada.

Architect David Chipperfield had much the same vision for the Café Royal; the Belle Epoque palace of pleasures on Regent Street that reopened this month as a luxury hotel.  I was fortunate enough to take a peek this week while researching the Louis Vuitton Guide to London and have to say the marriage between the Café’s historic interiors – the gilded Grill Room, the Pompadour salon with its painted Rococo ceiling, the oak-paneled Tudor room – and the contemporary public spaces and suites is harmonious.

Imagine acres of Portland stone and Carrara marble bathed in the warmest of light that allows the elements of historic decoration discovered in the refurbishment the space to breathe. A false ceiling in the Regent Street grand entrance hall was knocked away to reveal stained glass portraits of the Emperor Napoleon and his second Empress Marie-Louise. The re-gilded caryatids and mirrored glass in the Grill Room whispers of the era when the Prince of Wales entertained Mrs Langtry and Oscar Wilde made love to Bosie Douglas. But the stage is set with contemporary furniture waiting for a new generation of artists and aristocrats to tell new stories of decadent nights in the Café Royal. In short I adored it. Until next time…