The Perfect Year. January 2014.

Dear Rowley,

I do enjoy Dogging, don’t you? I refer of course to the deliciously foul and filthy song of the same name that inevitably stops any Fascinating Aida show. As a pre-New Year’s Eve treat Simon treated La Farmer, Mr Bowering and I to Fascinating Aida at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. Dillie, Adele and Liza were on fine form and gave us the classics such as Cheap Flights and treated us to a new encore charmingly titled Try Not To Be A C*** Over Christmas’. Bearing in mind there were more silver heads in the audience than on a Viking River Cruise, it’s interesting that the wickedest words get the biggest laughs.

Do you like the smoking illustration? A charming graphic artist called Yoann Durand sent it to me. If only I had legs as long, my suits would look so much the better. The cigarette portrait was taken by the talented Justin Creedy Smith who was principal photographer for Royal St James’s. I recall when I first started smoking aged fourteen I thought it made me look grown-up and glamorous. Still do as it happens though I’m slowly but surely losing the taste for tobacco. There’s nothing glamorous about huddling in London doorways in the pouring rain puffing on a gasper. It’s hardly Bette Davis and Paul Henreid in Now Voyager is it?

Have you made any New Year’s resolutions darling? I think we should all be nice to our children, pets and people who work in shops. London would be a much nicer, kinder place don’t you think? If there’s anything I’d wish for in 2014 it is prolonged serenity. To quote an ungrammatical Tina Turner lyric, ‘I Don’t Wanna Fight No Mo’. In 2013 I wasted far too much energy fighting for things that really weren’t that important. I remember darling Bretty during the Savoy years telling me to pick my battles. He’s quite right you know. There’s a feud on Savile Row that it has taken a good year to walk away from and realise the person in question isn’t worth the salt in my tears.

Who’d have thought that when I wrote Savile Row: The Master Tailors of British Bespoke in 2010 it would so swiftly become a historic document? Equally who’d have thought that I’d be asked to curate another London Cut exhibition in the British Ambassador’s Residence in Washington. It is five years since the last London Cut in Tokyo. Now whether this will actually happen or not in 2014 is entirely up to the board of Savile Row Bespoke. I’ll be happy if it happens and contented if it doesn’t.

So what else is new for 2014? I’m thoroughly enjoying working with my dear friend Elisabetta Canali on Project 200. We’ve known each other for well over a decade. When Canali showed at Pitti Uomo it was tradition for my first appointment to be with Elisabetta. She’s a wonderful woman. As soon as the embargo is lifted I’ll tell you all about the secret squirrel project. Suffice to say it involves interviewing handsome, talented men in creative industries on camera.

It also looks like we’ll kick off a new Thames & Hudson book and hopefully have Royal St James’s in the bookshops before the summertime. I don’t want to jinx it but I do have rather a good feeling about 2014. That’s usually the moment when somebody drops a baby grand piano on your head but I think a little optimism is appropriate on New Year’s Day. There’s an awful lot to improve on after last year. The first half of 2013 was quite simply ghastly: no money, bad writing, horrendous weather and a feeling of being besieged by former friends and colleagues. In short it was an annus horribilis.

This resulted in only the second profound period of depression of my life. As you well know Rowley, I’ve been a card-carrying Hypomanic since my early twenties. The symptoms – grandiose behaviour, reckless spending, a voracious libido, a giddy feeling of overexcitement and a distinct lack of good judgement – sounds rather marvellous. But I liken Hypomania to The Red Shoes. What begins as high spirits soon spins out of control. One has to constantly be on guard and assess whether feelings of elation are tipping over into mania. But this one lives with. For creative people the highs are just wonderful if you can keep a lid on them.

Anyway, enough of On The Psychiatrist’s Couch. All I’m saying is that last year nearly finished me off. I felt rather defeated and do you know what got me through it? No, Rowley, not Bombay Sapphire. It was work. I agree with P. D. James that writer’s block is really a euphemism for depression. It takes big discipline to sit yourself at the laptop every day and just try when the words aren’t coming. It reminded me of an Elaine Stritch anecdote about her first stage performance after giving up a lifelong love affair with booze. While Elaine was waiting in the wings, Michael Feinstein came up to her and said ‘You’ll stop shows again Elaine but not tonight. Just get through it’. That was my writing in the first half of 2013.

It is something of a relief that I feel happy – not high, not elated just happy – on the first day of 2014. I’ve been doing what I always said I would never do and that’s engaging on Twitter. I adore Twitter. There’s the heaven of watching Death on the Nile and The Sound of Music while Tweeting words and pictures that make people smile or think. I thought Twitter was a puerile waste of time but there are some terrific people out there and I’m enjoying it. Anyway, Happy New Year darling. I think we’re both owed a good one.