Books Etc. September 2015.

Dear Rowley,

I must have run the gamut of deadly sins in my time but one that I’ve finally conquered is envy. Being covetous of what others have is the road to Bedlam. Sometimes I find myself lusting after a Queen Anne rectory in Country Life before I make friends with the truth and accept I would curl up and die if I didn’t live in a London postcode with a one in it.

I’ve often looked at glamorous couples in the picture post magazines with their pools, dressing rooms and (kid you not) gift wrapping rooms. Fortunately I am old enough and ugly enough to understand that beneath the facade these people are probably getting through the miseries of their lives with adult colouring books, therapy and Xanax.

We all put our best foot forward hoping that nobody but our nearest and dearest actually knows that we’re unravelling faster than a bag of knitting ‘off stage’. I had a crisis of confidence about Bloomsbury Square last year thinking ‘is that all there is?’ The answer, of course, is ‘yes and you ought to be grateful’. London continues to enchant me. For good or ill, I can get whatever I want within five minutes of leaving the house.

I’m at that age now where you think about dotage. What could be better than stepping out and being within arms or legs reach of the Royal Opera House, J. Sheekey’s Oyster Bar, the British Museum and UCL? As long as I have lead in my pencil and hope in my heart I am going to stay right here in Bloomsbury Towers. It is admittedly small but how much room do you need when you live in London?

People who live – not work – in London are very particular. We aren’t all of the billionaire belt and we’re certainly not those hard, urban types you find in New York. My locals and neighbours are eccentric, amusing and intelligent people who know how to drink London down to the last drop. We know all the dodges and the tricks to maintain a marvellous life without bankrupting ourselves.

The more I think about it the less I actually need. I found myself in Hackett over the weekend flirting with an almond-eyed Lebanese chap who admired my pocket watch (not a euphemism). He asked if he could help me with anything and I found myself saying ‘I have enough clothes’.

You know what? I do have enough clothes. I’ve got my uniform of Savile Row and Uniqlo and I’m happy with what I’m wearing right now. I certainly don’t want ‘fashion’. Fashion is a vampire. It feeds on insecurity. It promises a better life if you buy into it. It is a con. Adults know what they like and want to wear so don’t really need a cabal of designers and editors to tell us where we’re going wrong.

I was particularly irritated by a GQ article about how ‘real men’ can wear pink. Excuse me? Real men? Does that mean heterosexual or does it mean as opposed to surreal men? Fashion to me is facile and has a very limited vocabulary: ‘think pink’, ‘go beige’, ‘new 80s revival’. It is absolute nonsense because only those in the business will  not admit that it’s been done. Everything has been done. Now all that’s left is to get it wrong in the pursuit of originality.

If I see one more woman in the West End walk past me with pale pink or baby blue hair I will scream. When I was a youth only old ladies had blue or purple rinses. Now it seems to be a trend. There’s a reason that blonde, brunette, ginger and grey sufficed for thousands of years: they all look lovely. Candy coloured hair is just another nonsense of the modern age along with tattoos, piercings and ear plugs that stretch the skin like a native.

What was I going to talk about today? Oh, yes, bookish banter. As you know ad nauseam my Discriminating Guide to London is being published in the UK on the 21st of September. It is unleashed on America in March 2016. The plans for the party had me thinking back to previous launches and signings. Signings are the cherry on the cake for me. The work is done and the adulation is due.

My Savile Row book was launched at the Savoy. It was a huge party and terrific fun. Fashion at Royal Ascot was hosted by Heywood Hill and the Duke of Devonshire. The guide will be given its hurrah at Spencer Hart opposite Claridge’s on Brook Street. I do hope you can come. I love my book launches but hate speaking at them … point of fact I am usually incapable of speech after 9pm.

I do have a major thank-you to say to Hatchards – the only bookshop in the West End – who have supported all of my books and invited me to sign on numerous occasions. I’ve also been a guest at their Authors of the Year party and their Christmas signing. I believe I am signing again for the guide and that gives me much pleasure and pride.

Being homosexual, I am routinely asked these days whether I would like children. Grilled or fried? My books are my children. They cost an awful lot less in school fees and anguish plus the fact a book doesn’t give one sass and heartbreak. Doesn’t it make you insanely mad when you hear about benefits cheats who have half a dozen children and feign outrage that the state won’t pay for them? One answer. Cross your legs and don’t have them if you can’t afford it.

I’d like half a dozen Afghan hounds but resist because the house is too small and my life is too selfish. Can’t people do similar with the urge to procreate? On that note the bad witch at the christening will sign off. Until next time…