Chapeaux. March 2014.

Dear Rowley,

Just watching the Cheltenham Festival on Channel 4 after lunch in the courtyard. You have to doff your cap to Clare Balding. She is a superlative racing correspondent and Rishi is no slouch either. I do love jump racing. It is so thrilling to watch. No, I haven’t placed a bet this time. But I do have a pretty good record at Royal Ascot betting big money on one race. Lillie Langtry earned me £300 a few years ago and I turned over £560 at my last Royal. Get in!

My thoughts turned to Royal Ascot and my BBC Fashion Correspondent partner-in-crime Miss Perry the other night. I haven’t been ‘up West’ of an evening for a little while so was quietly pleased to walk into Mayfair in advance of the Terence Higgins Trust auction at Christie’s King Street. First stop was St George’s Mayfair otherwise known as St George’s Hangover Square as it is known to the congregation. Roddy was officiating at a Lent service so I sat and listened and felt better for it. Roddy then bounded up and I told him about ‘the troubles’. I think we will talk further.

From St George’s I took a detour to Duke’s Bar to see Alessandro and lift a Dubonnet & Gin. The bar was packed but Ale gave me the window seat table for four and left me to my own devices after a pow-wow. I’m thinking about going back to Florence this Spring and Ale knows a lot of people at home so I might have some steers to get me a room at the Villa San Michele in the hills of Fiesole. I will also ring the Contessa – Sibilla della Gherardesca – and see if I can’t get an attic room in a palazzo somewhere in town for a few days. Florence is my second home. I love it so very much.

Why did thoughts turn to Ascot? The answer is that I did pop in to the Terence Higgins Trust auction and had an air kiss and a catch-up with Roja Dove but decided to leave when I called Scott ‘Bespoke Banter’ Wimsett who told me he was en route to a tribute to Stephen Jones at Banqueting House and would I like to join?

Stephen is a great favourite at Royal Ascot and always gave the best and most sparkly interviews to camera. He was a staunch supporter when I was axed and refused to be interviewed by the pygmy who replaced me. Stephen is a generous man. He is in short a sweetie. When Scott and I swept into the Banqueting House he gave us a terrific twinkly smile and we caught up on all the news. Then glorious tintanabulations in walked Suzy Menkes.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again. Suzy is the best editor I have ever had. I admire her and her writing so, so much. She’s now got a new gig as fashion editor at large for all Condé Nast titles worldwide bar the US. How cool is that? The International Herald Tribune  was never the same after the rebranding as the International New York Times and don’t we all know it. The FT fashion ed Vanessa Friedman is her replacement. That could be the start of a beautiful friendship. They deserve each other.

But back to Suzy. She really is a marvel: a woman who loves and lives for fashion. She writes like a dream and seems to thrive on the endless travel that would drive me loop the effing loop…and did! So who came to the party apart from Scotty and I? La Farmer made an entrance as did Virginia Bates who I do find is a sunshine in my life. Hilary Alexander was there wearing national costume though I’m not entirely sure which nation. It involved a jewelled skull cap that made the lady look not dissimilar to a meerkat in drag.

I like Hilary. She’s a game old bird and a supreme journalist. If there’s a story to be got she bloody well gets it. She’s also thriving post Telegraph. Fools to let her go. Ditto Lucia van der Post who I sincerely hope has screwed the FT for a pot of money to employ her back as a luxury columnist. Whenever I see Lucia, all I can think of to think is ‘go it old girl!’ Now Miss Friedman has left the FT building perhaps I might write for them again. Or perhaps not.

What else is new? I’ve been asked to host a tour of Savile Row for their main sponsors Chivas Regal. I believe it is for UK fashion journalists many of whom I know and dislike intensely. If I were the mags and newspapers I would send the kids who might learn something and not think they know it all. I don’t want to lecture my peers (hah!) on the Row and neither do I wish to visit some of those bespoke tailors’ shops. There are more than a few doors I will never darken again.

Any road up, Stephen’s hearty congratulation evening made me think about Suzi and miss her all the more particularly when I am in Scott’s company. But she’s currently in Melbourne with the F1 (or the eff off as I like to refer to it) so our reunion will have to wait. But more power to your elbow love. And well done old mother Balding for another super C4 racing broadcast.