Death Becomes Her. December 2015.

Dear Rowley,

To St George’s Mayfair, Hangover Square, for the Christmas carol service and post prandial champagne last night before dinner at Andrew Edmunds. With the weather being so ghastly in London in the run-up to Christmas, I’ve found it all a bit of a chore and needed to remember the magic. Even though my voice is about ten octaves lower than Hermione Gingold, I thoroughly enjoyed croaking-out Hark The Herald Angels Sing albeit my dulcet tones sounding more like the love child of Bea Arthur and Harvey Feinstein.

As you know La Farmer and Mr Bowering are off to India on Christmas Day and I will not be joining. I have to accept that the gods have decided I am to stay at Bloomsbury Towers over Christmas and see what they have in store for me. Actually, I love the thought of a massage on Christmas Eve, a swim and steam on Christmas morning before lunch with friends and a cheeky visit to see Star Wars on the big screen in Leicester Square on Boxing Day. As the meerkats would say, ‘simples’.

Having taken to my bed this afternoon, I happened to see one of my favourite films on the telly: Death Becomes Her. The 1992 film stars Meryl Streep, Goldie Hawn and Bruce Willis who form an unhappy menage in Hollywood after Streep’s character actress Madeleine Ashton steals Helen Sharp (Goldie Hawn’s)  fiancee. Helen becomes obese and is sectioned but decides that the best revenge is to become young and beautiful again.This she does with the help of a sultry, exotic character called Lisle von Rhoman played by Isabella Rossellini who has discovered the elixir of youth.

Both Helen and Madeleine drink the elixir that gives them eternal life and youth but not immunity to the rough and tumble of life. So they must take care of their bodies. Fortunately, the Bruce Willis character Ernest Menville is an expert cosmetic mortician who has a talent for spray-painting corpses. I won’t write a spoiler but, suffice to say, maintaining eternal youth with eternal life proves to be not dissimilar to Mary Shelley’s tale of Frankenstein’s monster.

I was rather taken by Death Becomes Her because I think it foretold how warped the global obsession with eternal youth would make us. I always appreciated how prescient my friend the late artist Sebastian Horsley’s more successful aphorism turned out to be: ‘the only problem with the youth of today is that I am not one of them’. It is, I think, a fool’s game to try and cheat Father Time too much. It comes at the expense of dignity and, ultimately, dashes all hope.

Getting older is one of the few aspects of life that I don’t lose sleep over. I’ve always preferred the company of people older than I and don’t have that ghastly middle-aged urge to bury my rage with a boy half my age in the grass … even though on occasion of late I have. Kander & Ebb wrote a fantastic number for Liza Minnelli called I’m Glad I’m Not Young Anymore that included the couplet ‘how nice to go home and lock the door, and not drag my butt to 54′. Another favourite is ‘how nice to eat food not caring that, someone will say my God she’s fat’.

Actually, that last line is a little disingenuous because both Liza and I have always looked our best when we’re trim rather than Chablis chubby. As a doctor friend of mine once said, ‘if you want to stay alive, stay slim’. I think Liza is one of the few people in the public eye who has had as many medical dramas as I have. Wears you down eventually. That said, there’s another Kander & Ebb song that I always think of when feeling ground down physically: The World Goes Round.

As the song’s title suggests, whatever happens to one personally, the planet spins and the world goes round. It’s best to remember that you can let the world turn without you for days or weeks when feeling under the weather. People are so busy with their own lives that they will barely register that you’ve been out for the count. The beauty of writing is that you can do it even if you are dead on your effing back and still have a presence in the world whether you are physically able to engage or not.

Christmas tends to make me slightly melancholy because I remember the huge family Christmas lunches that were such fun when the grandmother generation was still alive. Once that generation born during World War One had gone, the magic seemed to disappear. Ordinarily, a new generation replaces the old but, as you know, I’m with King Herod on the subject of babies: never wanted one and never will.

I’ve made the comment before but when children appear in any family, one starts to feel a bit Princess Margaret: the once glamorous young thing who now drinks a little bit too much, smokes a little too often and lash her tongue with a tang a little too sharply. So perhaps Bloomsbury Towers is the best place for me this Christmas while I regroup, reboot and get my health back.