Books Etc. June 2016.

Dear Rowley,

I do hate folk music, don’t you? Glad I’ve got that off my chest. Now, don’t these book launches come around quickly? It seemed only yesterday that we were smashing a bottle against the boughs of my Discriminating Guide to London and now Turnbull & Asser: Made in England has set sail. The launch party was hosted by the Getty Images Gallery; entirely appropriate because this is my fifth book working with captain Louise Garczevska and the crew at Getty Images. Without Louise, my books would be very much diminished visually and creatively.

The gallery was hung with portraits of celebrated T&A customers – Michael Caine, Twiggy, Lord Snowdon, David Hockney – and looked incredibly sharp. The book is a limited edition and only sold in Turnbull & Asser stores in New York and London. So there were no books to sell and sign on the night considerably lessening an author’s opportunities to show-off and flirt outrageously. But the night was made when Miss P appeared mid-evening and the rest of the party popped like the bubbles in a glass of Pol Roger.

Book launches are like birthdays for me. They always cause pause for reflection and reassessment. They beg the question how am I doing on the snakes and ladders board of London working life? You might well ask! Suffice to say the months since Discriminating London felt like I’d landed on an anaconda. I could have watched Anne Hathaway’s Fantine sing I Dreamed a Dream  in Les Miserables  and said with all sincerity, ‘honey, you think you’ve got problems?’ The T&A launch signifies the first tentative steps up a rung or two of the next ladder to climb.

But having chosen a vocation rather than a profession without the support of a private income, I suppose highs and lows are to be expected. The question now is how to score financially. I’ve earned enough to keep myself in the manner I’ve grown accustomed but have somehow failed to bank enough to buy a second home on the coast of Corfu or indeed a first one in London. You know I adore Bloomsbury Towers but I’d sleep a lot more easily if the mattress was stuffed with £50 notes.

Correct me if I’m wrong Barbara Taylor-Bradford, but isn’t it virtually impossible to set out to write a best-seller? Granted, historical, sartorial, factual books are for a niche market but they have bought me a few dozen oysters at Sheekey’s over the years. Now I think it is time to take a punt and have a crack at writing what the literary agents call a ‘passion project’. I have taken the brief literally and am exploring the world of forty something London men on gay dating apps such as Grindr and Scruff. I’m eight chapters in and it is shaping up as a cross between First Wives’ Club and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.

One is always told to write about what you know and since the end of my seventeen-year relationship – a marriage in all but name hence the absence of alimony – I have become rather transfixed with ‘the apps’. I’m not going to go into all the gory details because I’m saving the smut for the book. Suffice to say, I am not short of material and in my extensive research have found friends with and without benefits. That said, Cupid has proved to be a terrible shot so far.

I have to say that the motivation for writing a novel is a chance to create a new world when you aren’t particularly contented with the one you’re in. I wish I was one of the ‘count your blessings’ brigade but optimism isn’t my default setting. A crack in a crystal brandy balloon can send me into a tailspin of despair and make me question what precisely the bloody point might be? Whether life is a test or a game or a swindle, there has to be a point to it don’t you think?

Was it Oprah or Wittgenstein who once said don’t ask what you want to do but learn what you have been put here for. Once you know your purpose, life apparently makes sense. Over and above wearing enough Obsession every day to gas a badger thereby adding to the olfactory pleasure of London, I am not entirely sure what I am for. I must have been a courtesan in a past life because the urge to please is irresistible. I scratch like a puppy at a screen door for affection and applause.

Never mind Oprah and Wittgenstein, my big issue is not what we are for but why we do what we ought when really life is so much sweeter when we follow our destiny. I firmly believe we all have one whether that be accepting an Oscar or expiring under the arches of Waterloo Bridge. Recently I was asked about religion. It is almost as divisive a subject as the EU referendum. I replied to the man in question apropos Christianity that I couldn’t possibly believe in a faith that doesn’t believe in me.

When you drill down, you can’t work with a belief system if it is set-up for you to be found wanting. That way madness lies. I find the trick is to listen to what people are telling you and believe it. There’s no ‘yes but’ or ‘in time’ about it. Your inner voice is the only moral compass you have and you simply have to shut out all the other external influences who have conditioned you to think otherwise. End of.