Dudley House. February 2015.

Dear Rowley,

Schadenfreude is an emotion one should savour like a Fortnum & Mason pink champagne truffle. I can’t tell you the joy of hearing Google Vice President Dr Vinton Cerf warning this week of a fast approaching black hole that will consume all electronically stored data.

Apparently every time technology leaps and we all follow, nobody bothers with the maintenance of the old tech hence all Apple devices could in time be as useless as a box full of cassette tapes mouldering in a loft. According to Dr Cerf the cast iron guaranteed safest way of preserving data is – drumroll please – paper!  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the most efficient, user friendly, infallible manner of preserving human thought and learning is the one that goes back to the dawn of civilisation.

So the next time some piss-ant fashion blogger tells me that books are dead and the future lies exclusively with digital media I will picture their inconsequential stream-of-consciousness thoughts disappearing into the digital void like bubble bath down a plughole. Anybody who doesn’t recognise that a book is a thing of great beauty, longevity and practicality lacks soul and sense.

As you know darling I rather like Twitter but what I do find nauseating is the big beast luxury goods brands addressing social media as if they were sixteen year old girls. The obsession of speaking like and to the tweens and teens has got to the point where Logan’s Run appears to have come true. Cue anyone under 30 to reach for Google.

Social media works to a hormonal teenage body clock and attention span. I suspect this is why we seem to be in a permanent spin cycle of Fashion Weeks these days. We’ve got Prêt, men’s, cruise and pre-collection coming out of New York, Milan, London and Paris. Add a couple of couture collections for Paris then fill any gaps with red carpet runways for music, film or TV awards. You’d need to have a brain like Alan Turing to keep track.

The joke is the more fashion shows, awards and film premieres are fed to social media the less impact any single look will have. I can’t remember whether Jennifer Lawrence or Lupita N’Yongo wore Dior, vintage Halston or a wimple at last year’s Oscars. Who knew but more to the point who cares?

Social media has created a black hole that will never be sated however much ‘content’ (shudder) is thrown into its yawning maw. At this rate we’ll have poor Lupita stripping off like a Matryoshka doll on the red carpet just to make sure she gets plenty of likes from the teenage audience live streaming her.

Of course the obvious feint is do away with clothing altogether. Last week we were treated to Helena Bonham Carter, newly single, behaving with dignity, modesty and reserve by posing nude with a large tuna grasped firmly between her tits.  Apparently it was a campaign for sustainable fishing so the next time you see me popping to the Burlington Arcade wearing nowt but a hula hula skirt made entirely of kippers you will know why.

Didn’t we all offer a collective raspberry of weary disdain to hear that HSBC (my bank as it happens) have been actively encouraging their wealthiest account holders to dodge more tax than the late Leona Helmsley? You remember Leona ‘queen of mean’ Helmsley don’t you Rowley? The poisonous old felon was infamous for stating that ‘only little people pay taxes’  before she was sentenced to jail.

‘Only little people pay taxes’ is the speech bubble I envisage above the heads of the 67 – count ‘em – 67 billionaires who now choose to live in London whenever one of them appears in the British newspapers oiling up to minor royals, schmoozing shady characters such as Bill Clinton and Tony Blair and paying hip-hop stars millions to sing at their birthday parties. Yes we mean you Caring and Green: a 70s skiffle band waiting to happen.

Speaking of privilege, if London sees another photograph of Princess Beatrice with a ski or a beach towel I think the ‘little people’ might be tempted to storm St James’s Palace and march her to the nearest employment agency. Perhaps that’s the answer. Don’t be photographed. On the 350-days of the year when she’s invisible how do we know whether the Duchess of Cambridge is at Amner Hall, Peter Jones or Basil’s Bar?

Closed doors were much on my mind after reading the Vanity Fair feature about Dudley House, the Park Lane mansion that belongs to Qatari rulers the Al-Thani family.  I’ve been fascinated by Dudley House since I was a teenager having seen vintage photographs of its salons in Country Life and in later life walked past the front door countless times wondering why such a grand house didn’t have a walled courtyard. Maybe it did.

Apart from the Qatari royal crest now above the portico you’d never know that Dudley House has been restored to its former glory by the Al-Thani clan who have acquired a vast collection of Old Masters and now entertain dining on gold plate with one servant to every guest in a manner not seen since King Edward VII dined at Londonderry, Grosvenor or Dorchester House all now demolished.

Apparently HM The Queen has dined at Dudley House frequently. The Al-Thani family have been her guests at Windsor Castle for Royal Ascot Week and now sponsor the Royal Meeting. Whether spending personal or sovereign wealth, the Qatari royal family are buying London real estate as if they were paying Monopoly style. One hopes the restoration of Dudley House confirms that the Qatari royal family are not amongst the group of billionaires gravitating towards the British royals that Prince Charles’s staff call ‘Bond villains’. Time will tell.