Sex. September 2015.

Dear Rowley,

One of the benefits of no longer being a spring chicken is learning to accept people’s differences without judging (much) or wishing to impose one’s own point of view. Another is – how does one put this delicately? –  farting. Though I am stealing Lily Savage’s material here, whenever you drop a booty bomb on the bus or in the synagogue, you just don’t care, do you? Blame it on the nearest animal or small child and walk away with dignity, head held high.

Now darling I’ve been bombarding you with letters of late. No, I’m not in the slammer sharing a cell with an eighteen stone cage fighter called Shirley. I’m in between projects having almost finished the Turnbull & Asser book and not yet started Poole’s or Project Sparkle for Thames & Hudson. I rather like being a dilettante for a couple of weeks but, as of Monday, I shall be starting to catalogue and curate the Henry Poole & Co collection because the new archive room will be finished. It is handsome. I am thrilled.

I rarely talk about my sex life because, like most of us, I am much more interested in other people’s. Well, frankly there hasn’t been an awful lot to talk about this year now that I have joined the First Wives Club. Funnily enough for someone who has always considered sex rather a hobby of mine, I haven’t missed it much. In the age of Tinder, Grindr and the rest one can order-up sex in London as easily as an Uber cab. This is not healthy.

I did have a crack at Grindr many moons ago and came to the conclusion that it was the road to hell. It is for those who are glutenous for lust. London’s like a Carry-On film with all these boys and girls scurrying round London in search of a bit of oom-pa-pa before going on to the second course elsewhere.

Personally, I find sex the least interesting aspect of a relationship. There’s more love in a soft boiled egg and buttered soldiers served in bed than a quickie and, frankly, the egg usually takes longer to prepare. For something that makes fools of us all and offers such fleeting satisfaction, sex does seem to preoccupy us an awful lot.

I recall a flatmate of mine many, many moons ago saying ‘you can find all the love you need at the bottom of a Pol Roger bottle’. Do you know, I think he might have a point. Give me a bottle of fizz, an iPod and a long night in I’m as happy as a clam and merry as a grig. Unless the black dog bites, I am invariably self-sufficient on my own and perfectly happy. I suppose the life of a writer demands a degree of isolation.

This is not to say I test the theory too often. Without friends and family, life would be absolutely meaningless. Fortunately I have a pretty decent deck of both who are life’s radiators rather than drains. But I can say with all sincerity that if I have a sunny Saturday or Sunday in London and no plans I do feel quietly thrilled. A recent trick that I never could do in the past is to belly-up to a smart hotel bar, order a Margarita and watch the world go by. My new favourite is The Library Bar at The Lanesborough.

Now, what else is new on the Rialto? We had a visit from the archivist at Goodwood earlier today at Henry Poole. The query concerned hunting coats and gilt buttons bearing the crest of the Dukes of Lennox and Richmond. Having worked with Poole’s for so long, I tend to take the archive collection for granted. It is only when seen through the eyes of a visitor that I appreciate the magnitude and importance of the collection.

My favourite find was a ledger entry from the 1870s for the Dowager Duchess of Richmond. The Dowager ordered a fancy vest for the Prince of Wales (King Edward VII). Quick as a flash, the archivist said that the Prince of Wales visited Goodwood House in the year the vest was ordered and that there was a photograph of Bertie and the Dowager at a ball held in his honour.

I’m also researching the 8th Duke of Devonshire for the archivist at Chatsworth. While trawling the ledgers, I found a ledger entry for the Duke’s wife Louisa van Alten – the ‘double Duchess’ – who married the Dukes of Manchester and Devonshire in succession. She too ordered a fancy vest for the Prince of Wales so it seems that the society dames made a habit of ordering Bertie Henry Poole waistcoats.

Off to see the lovely Sam Loxton’s Lucas Rarities stand at LAPADA this afternoon in Berkeley Square. I always like a varda at LAPADA and they do do it so very well. En route I will have a little look in Waterstones Piccadilly and Hatchards to see how the Discriminating Guide to London  is selling. I had a charming note from Jeremy ‘The Wolseley’ King to say he thought the book was a triumph and that he was going to order copies for every room and suite in his Mayfair hotel The Beaumont.

I always feel more alive when I have a book to promote. There is something so satisfying having the physical object in my music case and I don’t need to tell you that I whip it out like a Jehovah’s Witness at any given opportunity. Speaking of the Jehovah’s, I got a pull on my bell a couple of weeks ago and opened the door to see the most handsome man I’ve encountered in a long time standing there beaming ear-to-ear.

Well, turns out he was a Jehovah’s Witness and he’d come to convert me. It took all the strength in every fibre of my being not to say ‘where do I sign?’ Until next time…