A Big Blue Cock. August 2013.

Dear Rowley,

Just as the newspapers have a silly season when the travel plans of gay Guardian journalists and the scheming of avaricious tarts seeking a slice of Simon Cowell’s fortune by way of a surprise pregnancy dominate the front pages, so too London takes on an entirely new character during the month of August. The West End becomes flooded with tourists of the unwashed, bovine type who get under your feet and offend the eye and all sensible natives flee to Patmos, Corfu, Tuscany, Cornwall or all the aforementioned if you are Prime Minister Cameron.

This year we’ve delayed the escape to Corfu so I’ve had the pleasure of London in August observing the tourist invasion as ugly and intimidating as an army or Tolkien’s Orcs. Lesson number one: the Chinese have no spacial awareness. They couldn’t be more disoriented if you blindfolded them at Heathrow passport control, spun them round and pushed them flailing towards the West End. I’ve struggled to find a reason for their tendency to barge past one or, worse, come to a standstill nose-to-nose with you without a blink or an apology and could only get as far as the Boxer Rebellion.

I do admit the flash of green eyes when I see the Chinese contingent on Old Bond Street struggling under the weight of Louis Vuitton, Prada, Gucci and Chanel carrier bags waving their tax exemption forms like Willy Wonka’s golden tickets. Then I remembered that for every gorgeous Tina Chow there’s a million Madame Maos.

Last week Mrs T and I took our usual seats at the counter at J. Sheekey’s for a pow-wow, a whole crab and a gargle or two. We ended the afternoon at a table outside with mint tea and a packet of St. Moritz to watch the world go by. Well, when we saw one Scotsman reel past in a kilt we made the usual quips and moved on.  By the time we’d counted our 40th Scotsman we did pause for thought. As we later learned, while we were sipping tea like two Dowagers outside Sheekey’s, an army of Scotsman not seen since Culloden had invaded Trafalgar Square to celebrate the football grudge match against England (they lost).

Well, the Scotsmen desecrated the fountains, mounted the lions surrounding Nelson’s Column, drank like navvies, stripped to the waist and lifted their kilts at the passing traffic at every given opportunity. Had we known, Mrs T and I would have paid the bill and ran like Braveheart down Charing Cross Road to join the fun. Speaking of Trafalgar Square, have you seen the big blue cock on the fourth plinth? I’m sure there were several last week when the Scotsmen were in town but I’m talking about the sculpture. Fun isn’t it?

Speaking of poultry, another new phenomenon we see on the London streets in August is the Hen Party. I think this might be the first of an occasional series of letters and photographs entitled ‘Bring on the Bridesmaids’. Hen parties are nothing new (I’ve been on several myself)  but I think the tradition of dressing-up and marauding round London like pissed pack animals certainly is. I couldn’t help but take a snap of a group of hens in 80s fancy dress limbering-up last week on Southampton Row; doubtless anticipating an evening when blood, guts and god knows what else were clearly going to be spilt.

Whenever I see ‘the youth’ in 80s fancy dress I always want to tap them on the shoulder and say ‘it wasn’t quite like that, you know’. But what’s the point when you’d only get an insult borne on the winds of Alcopop breath for your troubles? Anyway, the big fat biffers photographed were actually rather restrained compared to some of the hen parties I have had the misfortune to encounter in Bloomsbury. The worst I ever saw were a hoard of Gadarene swine thundering down Oxford Street on high-heeled trotters wearing tatty net angel’s wings, tinsel halos and fake plastic boobs…or at least I hope they were plastic. I haven’t seen a bare-breasted lady in public in London since the proprietrix of Maison Bertaux  tore down Old Compton Street nipples to the wind brandishing a Tricolore flag on Bastille Day.

For all my curmudgeonly banter about the ghastliness of London I am pleased to report that street life does still have its charms. As you know Rowley I don’t usually like repeating compliments about myself because it is just plain obnoxious. But I have to tell you about two comments that made me smile this week. Shopping in the Bloomsbury Waitrose and feeling rather cross, I was utterly disarmed when a young, fly black guy said ‘how come you always look so spiffy?’ I love the word ‘spiffy’ and took it as a huge compliment. On a hot day yesterday I felt like pulling the white flannel Ede & Ravenscroft Oxford bags out of the wardrobe to wear with a navy blazer and white Fred Perry plimsolls. Dashing through Soho, a cyclist stopped to let me cross the road and said ‘very smart, sir. Good effort’. I tell you, I’d rather get a compliment like that than be in GQ’s Best Dressed List. Good job really…