Since we last corresponded, I am still in the hospital in Toronto but am now free to be at large from 6am to 9pm outside the fifth floor ward. This has given me forty-eight hours and counting to remind me what I loved about Canada on the last visit when I was a guest of Toronto’s First Lady Mary Symons and the Hudson Bay Company.
Having fallen foul of Market Street and St Lawrence food halls (see Letters passim), I find I am much more at home on Queen Street West (natch!) and its environs. Firstly, a movie is being filmed opposite the legendary Drake Hotel which always bodes well for a district. I just adore the shabby chic of the Liberty Village quarter of Toronto and the food, my dear, is to die.
The inhabitants are for the most part young hipsters with a bias towards the gays and a sprinkling of batty old ladies with Fiorucci shopping trolleys, Dame Edna diamanté glasses and ‘statement brooches’ who look like advertisements for Prada. They are a good-looking, slightly eccentric group that match the customised, style-on-a-dime aesthetic of the run-down Victorian terrace houses converted into pop boutiques and coffee bars with snazzy parquet flooring counters and table tops.
Friend Kim and I spent the morning shopping the length and breadth of Queen Street West diving into designer consignment shops, second hand stores, tchotchke, card and wrapping paper emporia, the odd cheeky sex shop and the many cool brand clothing stores seemingly decorated with raw wood, naked light bulbs and ‘Granny’s Attic’ antiques.
I bought black Japanese denim jeans that I was told not to wash for six months at least that made my bum look like two volleyballs. I also purchased very Norma Desmond green-frame sunglasses, a scarf embroidered with lucky white feathers that reminded me of Patricia and her Guardian Angels, a black onyx bead bracelet and gifts for my ex-Husband. Major finds included a black leather belt as thick as a barber’s strop and a vintage black leather biker jacket.
Yes, Mr Sherwood finally explores his inner Wild One. Mind you, I am with Bette Midler on that old black leather and S&M: ‘too many accoutrements!’ I can’t even remember my house keys let alone a check list of black leather jock, chaps, cock ring, harness, ankle bracelets and wrist-i-cuffs. By the time you’re dressed for a night of S&M sex, the moment has invariably passed.
But on to more savoury subjects. I love my leather biker jacket and feel I will rock it in a Nick Kamen circa 1982 Levi’s commercial fashion with a white tee, jeans and DMs. I may, of course, look like Michelle Pfeiffer-Pfeiffer-Pfeiffer in Grease Two. Love a bit of black leather as I do, we must all draw the line at leather and lace don’t you find?
Still, I am looking forward to returning to work on Savile Row towards the end of next week. The only change is my newish look that doesn’t involve Row head-to-toe any more. There may be some on Savile Row who will take a dim view of my Canadian adventure in a ‘mental wellbeing’ facility but he who has no sin may cast the first stone. ‘Go on! Get yours out!’ as Dame Helen Mirren would say.
I hear of one high-up in magazine publishing who was buggered senseless on board a merchant marine vessel in his youth and another who was so chauvinistic he made Bernard Manning sound like Sandi Toksvig by comparison. Both are now elder statesmen of the business we call glossy print. So a stint in the slammer having one’s mental health given an MOT is positively vanilla in comparison.
But for now the eye must remain on the prize: getting on the plane on Wednesday bound for City airport. There won’t be a problem making my original flight although the two weeks’ vacation I expected in Toronto didn’t quite turn out the way I expected them to: no Niagara Falls, no visiting Mistress Keegan’s parents, no As You Like It in the open air and no ‘quality time’ with one of my oldest friends. So, not all bad then…
Instead, I have met some of the most interesting people that life has presented me with in said mental wellbeing facility. I am not often among my tribe choosing to pretend that I am the only member of the High-Low club. Turns out the fellow members in the facility are my kind of people and I have enjoyed their company immensely. It is good to know one is not alone.
One of the benefits of being a writer is the ability to treat even the darkest material as food for creative writing. The only way I can spin the past week in Toronto is into a sit com. We’ve already got the working title for the pilot and six-parter: Everybody Gets Sick. If you want to know more, DM my agent.
My favourite task while banged-up has been plant duty. This began by tending a few sick triffids on window sills and graduated to watering The Hanging Gardens of Mood & Anxiety in the conservatory. Today, the Hong Kong lady who tends the gardens invited me to water the outdoor ‘Sensory Garden’ and I had the chance to share my knowledge about black spot and roses from my Clerkenwell garden days.
So what began as Blanche Dubois’s off-stage asylum in A Streetcar Named Desire has become Charlotte Vale’s Cascades in Now Voyager. I have benefitted from these few days in Cascades and am coming out a better person. Slow fade, mounting applause building to a standing ovation. I thank you.