The Swimmer. October 2017.

Dear Rowley,

As we enter my birth month I do increasingly think there’s credence to all this star sign malarky. I am a textbook Scorpio: determined, complex, secretive, lustful, resourceful, vindictive, fatal when provoked and with an inclination to kill itself rather than be killed. My favourite Scorpio trait is the power of regeneration. When chopped-off, the tail grows back don’t you know.

Scorpio is a water sign and if there’s a number one water baby in Bloomsbury it’s a yes from me Simon. I’ve said it a million times but water is nature’s tranquilliser. It is not coincidental that I begin every possible day with a swim. My very best thinking is done ploughing through laps in tight Speedos (pass the sal volatile Maud) working out how I’m going to win at life.

As you know, I have not always won at life but which of us have? I sometimes look at those Slim Aarons photographs of the billionaire belt in the US poolside in the 1950s and 1960s and wonder. The picture is beyond perfect. The subjects are immaculately groomed. The sun is always shining. Little do they know that Fate and Nemesis are waiting off-stage to strike.

I do consider a year when I don’t swim in the Mediterranean sea a wasted one. The sheer tranquility of swimming underwater in a calm sea does for me what Quaaludes or Valium did for all those Dolls in the Slim Aarons pictures. I am most at peace underwater feeling weightless and careless. Perhaps in a past life I was a guppy.

Birthday months do tend to bring out the reflective mood in me. It’s a bit like marking the score at the end of a rubber of Bridge. Well, I celebrated my last birthday less than a month after talking myself out of a madhouse in Toronto so I’m already significantly up the leader board in 2017. The head and heart have been well looked after in the past year. The next year is going to be all about the wallet.

In the bigger picture, I am fortunate to be celebrating a decade in Bloomsbury Towers and twenty-five years in ‘the business’ as Danny La Rue would say. Then again, there’s nothing quite so irritating when you’re going through lean times than to have some do-gooder reminding you there are starving children in Africa.

Admittedly I’ve made a few bucks in my time. But I’ve spent a few on booze, boys, swanky dinners and suits. I squandered the rest. I would describe my career in London with a song title. ‘They just keep moving the line’. Before I got my trophy, the race began again. And again. I always thought that money was the applause for a good performance. I know now that this is not the case.

So what to do apart from pull off a big one? I am of course referring to a bank job. Sadly I don’t think Scorpios are cut out to be master criminals. But I do think we can apply our inquiring minds to the challenge of cashing-in on our talent. As a fashion journalist, my job was to criticise and praise. As an author it is to lionise. But as CEO of Jewellery for Gentlemen Ltd it will be to test my eye for small, sparkly treasures that sell.

We all sell ourselves on a daily basis but I have never tested my ability to sell something solid such as men’s jewellery. I have sold my mind and my ability to string pretty, hopefully intelligent sentences together. But I have never yet tested whether people will buy something tangible of my choice.

I do believe writing is a talent that can be nurtured and developed and I am grateful that people want to purchase what I write. But I do daydream about having a singing voice that could carry me through life like the wings of a dove. Singing is the talent I most envy. I believe it is God-given compared to dancing. You may have rhythm in your soul  but dancing demands sweat and tears for a short career. A truly exceptional singing voice lasts forever if you take care of it.

Sadly, I don’t sing like Streisand. I don’t even sing like Dorothy Squires on a bad night in the Wheel Tappers & Shunters Social Club. But I do still daydream that one day I will find a voice that people will pay to listen to. Perhaps that is a euphemism for wanting more attention and applause. I don’t know.

Well this is turning into a very navel-gazing letter isn’t it? Let’s get back to the burning issues of the day such as Strictly Come Dancing. You know I adore that show. It is the panacea for all the ills of the British winter when your optimism/sense of humour/sex drive take a dive. But will somebody please put Tess Daley out of our misery?

The woman speaks to the celebrity dancers as if they are kindergarten pupils who have peed themselves and she’s trying to mop up and console. Patronising isn’t even in it. Neither is any discernible sense of humour. Tess is an autocue android. By contrast Claudia ‘the walking mascara wand’ Winkleman is a loose canon.

I like Claudia’s schtick but is she really good enough to be the BBC’s highest paid female talent? The sight gags are truly execrable and I can’t help but think of the Peggy Lee dog in The Lady and the Tramp whenever she peeps out of that damned fringe. I can’t call who will win Strictly at this early stage but I suspect it might be one of the pop singers who have sung and danced since they were knee high to a grasshopper. Chizzy didn’t have a chance. Until next time…