Friends. July 2016.

Dear Rowley,

Hardly a secret that life hasn’t been too easy of late. Point of fact, you honour, it hasn’t been too easy for quite a while now. I used to think I was terrible at asking for help but on reflection, this is not true. I have repeatedly asked for help but possibly in the wrong places. When it all comes down, the test is whether people that you ask will talk the talk or walk the walk. Yesterday I wasn’t too good. Things got truly messy. The first cab off the rank at the door of Bloomsbury Towers was Lee. The second was Anthony.

As y0u know, Lee, Anthony and I were cocktail waitresses in a very salubrious cocktail bar in Soho called The Yard when we were all in our early twenties. We have stuck together through triumph, disaster and thick or thin boyfriends. They have been with me on the roller coast of highs and lows and they are the ones that say ‘whistle, I’ll be there’.

Lee lives in London, Anthony in Toronto after many moves around the globe. Both have been incredibly successful and I love ‘em dearly. It just so happened they were both in London yesterday and both came round to stay with me as long as I needed them to be there. We all three curled-up on the day bed in Bloomsbury Towers, laughed a lot, cried a little and hugged like mad. They did a relay of making endless cups of tea, running out for food and making sure I was not alone

Anthony and I eventually went out for an early supper at Ciao Bella when I had made myself presentable. It is interesting that I think Anthony looked-up to me in those days and now I think I look-up to him regardless of age. Next cabs off the rank were telephone calls and texts from Mrs T, Tessa, Vicki, Shaun, La Farmer and Mr B checking-in and checking-up. Having these friends at the end of a phone and offering to come over if I feel like company is gold.

Nobody can make it alone. And if they try to it usually ends with much sadness. There are many more than the dear friends I have named but I don’t want to get all schmaltsy and embarrass them. Suffice to say the families at Turnbull & Asser and Henry Poole & Co have stood by me for many years now and for that I am extremely grateful.

I keep quoting Churchill because he’s ‘one of us’ and he is invariably profound and amusing: ‘when you’re going through hell, keep going’. Can I get an Amen in here? I did as it happened spend the evening on my own last night and sleep eluded me. Rather than popping a cork and singing loudly to the divas, I made more tea and sang Alison Moyet, Lisa Stansfield and the Red Hot & Blue album of Cole Porter covers until the light came. Then it was off the for the swim, sauna and steam. I have felt better of course but I do feel, well, better.

Everyone who chooses to live in London – and it is a choice – has been through the ringer on some level. As Anthony rightly pointe out, I have chosen to live in the centre of a city that’s one of the most expensive in the world and I had also chosen a vocation over a career. If neither brings joy, decisions have to be made. As it happens, my writing is giving great joy to me at the moment and I am in love with London again.

London and I have got to the stage where I feel it in the balls of my feet, the haunches and the bum. You know I am a serious Annie Walker and spent a good three hours wandering on that beautiful Sunday morning when the light was quite simply breathtaking. I walked from Bloomsbury, through Covent Garden and on into St James’s where I had the park to myself except for the runners, the homecoming shaggers and the students.

From St James’s Park I walked through Horse Guards, on past the Palace of Westminster then back over Embankment Bridge. Then it was the long walk to Borough Market and on to the Tower of London and St Katherine’s Dock. I then got lost on Tower Hill and somehow ended-up in Petticoat Lane Market. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Petticoat Lane in action. It is – how does one put it? – real London. Not super rich London. Not manicured, buffed and surgeried London but real people buying second hand dresses for a fiver a pop.

I got out of fashion then most of the luxury goods business because I no longer believe in them. I wanted to go back to the pleasure of Saturday morning shopping in Sheffield as a teenager. This I did on Oxford Street buying an emerald green Merino twinset in Uniqlo and a new pair of dark denim jeans. I’ve got my Savile Row suits and never spend money on expensive accessories any more. I’ve mislaid enough gloves, brollies, ties, sunglasses and music cases to fill the lost property department of Waterloo Station.

Anyway, I don’t want to rant about luxury goods today. That can wait for another letter…