The party planning for the launch of James Sherwood’s Discriminating Guide to London has reached fever pitch with Miss Chandni and I working as a tag team. We were so late with the stiffies that I decided to e-vite a hundred of my closest friends and family. So far we’ve had a bucket ‘o ’yes’ with the sad exception of my favourite leading ladies: Mrs T, Louisa McCarthy, Miss Mingay and Suzi Perry who will be F1-ing in Mexico on the 27th.
Though the ladies will be missed, the evening is shaping-up to be less a book signing and more This is Your Life. I recall giving a speech at another book launch and saying to the foregathered ‘this is how the congregation will look at my memorial service at St George’s, Mayfair’. I love a good party, don’t you? Especially when it is to celebrate one’s work. My Discriminating Guide was not an easy write and I was going through the ringer at the time.
Don’t you loathe people who tell you they’ve been to dark places? I feel like snapping, ‘where, Croydon? The Belgian Congo?’ You and I have indeed sat shiva at some very dark nights of the soul and still came up smiling. I’m all for resurrection, aren’t you?
You might have noticed that Letters from Bloomsbury Square has been turning into the Sex & the Single Girl column of late. Do you remember the great Helen Gurley-Brown? She founded Cosmopolitan magazine in the US and was a major inspiration for Candice Bushnell’s Sex & the City. One of Miss Gurley-Brown’s legendary protégées, Marcelle D’Argy Smith, was one of my early mentors. I won work experience with Marcelle when she was editing Cosmo in the UK and ended-up camping-out on the fashion desk every school holiday for two years.
Marcelle is one of those gloriously sexy, intelligent women who defined ‘own-terms’ glamorous feminism in the 80s and 90s. She makes the editors today who bitch, bitch, bitch about not having it all sound like lightweights who couldn’t make lifestyle choices. I can tell you now there wasn’t an editor at Condé Nast or Nat Mags who dared to have a baby for fear of losing top dog status. Nor would she want to. Now we’ve got Elle editor Lorraine Candy with about four offspring and as many years off on maternity leave as a consequence. She pens a newspaper column called ‘I don’t know how she does it’. I do: staff and an employment culture entirely at the mercy of fertile women.
As it happens Marcelle was a marvellous mother to everyone on the Cosmo masthead myself included. I recall walking Marcelle to a party and having a sleepover at her apartment in Lancaster Gate. In the morning, she cooked me the best eggs and bacon I have ever tasted. I know Marcelle found my adventures as a young man on the scene in London hilarious. She cried with laughter when I showed her a sheer black all-in-one shorts/vest number bought to wear at a Kinky Gerlinky ball at the Leicester Square Empire. I’d covered my modesty in pink silk roses knicked from the Country Living props cupboard.
Apropos Sex & the Single Girl, I am going to share one more salty story about my recent First Wives’ Club escapades in London and then we’ll draw a veil. A friend of mine with benefits called the other day and asked if I wanted to spend Sunday at his apartment. I said ‘sure’ and he said he’d invited a few more chaps. Well, I took myself off to the pool and turned-up in my gym kit only to find a Bacchanal in full swing that would make the Emperor Nero blush.
I’m with Kitty – a character written for Patricia Routledge by the great Victoria Wood – on unexpected situations. We both think ‘what would the Queen Mum do?’ So I mixed myself a G&T in the kitchen, perched on a chair in the lounge and said to nobody in particular ‘we shall have fog by teatime’. Anyway, our host was swooping round with a phial of Viagra. Now you know me, Rowley, I don’t really have need for pharmaceuticals. If offered, Mycoxafloppin or Ibepokin are declined.
But a shifty looking youth sitting in the corner behind a potted palm took one, poor lamb. I don’t think he realised that they only wanted somewhere to hang the coats. Anyway, in the spirit of our dear departed Queen Mum, I said my thank-yous and sailed regally out into a sunny London Sunday virgo intacta.
What happened to moonlight and roses, love and romance? In t’old days, two men having a candlelit supper together would have raised eyebrows. Not any more. If you can’t romance a beau in any decent London restaurant in this day and age, then where in the name of Cilla Black can you? I’m old-fashioned. I like courting until I know the guy in question is worth the salt in my tears. I remember more than twenty years ago my Canadian friend Anthony lamenting ‘I want to be wooed’. This being the 90s and his friends being a couple of Carry-On fans, Lee and I said in unison ‘you can be as wooed as you want, duckie, don’t let us stop you’.
Still much to do for the launch party, so what did I decide to do? High tail it to Derbyshire for the weekend to see parents and puppies. There is nothing quite like puppy power to aid recovery from what has to have been the nastiest cough I’ve encountered in decades. I now sound like Pat Butcher but hope to be in full sail in time for the do. Until next time…