Saturday, 25 June 2011

Down memory lane

A few random notes and observations from an occasional visitor to London: Fitzrovia, the Georgian village between the Euston Road to the north and Mayfair to the south has undergone a great revival. Fitzroy Square has largely been pedestrianised, and Guy Ritchie is restoring two houses on the south side of the green grass square, which on Thursday was decked with two white tents for a summer party. After my meeting at No.6, I decided to walk home and set off south to Oxford Circus, on down Regent St, across into Hanover St and then zig-zag into Brook St where I saw a branch of Jo Malone, the British luxury brand (candles, perfume). Always on the lokout for possible outlets for our Zacharry's organic Scottish spruce essential oil, I went in. An assistant explained that the brand now belongs to US cosmetics giant Estee Lauder, and wrote the office HQ address in nearby Grosvenor St for me. There, the receptionist explained that everyone had gone for a meeting in New York, but gave me the MD's name and telephone number, and his PA's to follow up. On I went, past Claridge's hotel and down the west side of Berkeley Square, across Curzon St by which time I had been walking for about three quarters of an hour, and my feet were getting sore. I decided to cross Piccadilly and get a bus the rest of the way. I know every corner of this part of London, having lived there - first as an A level student at the redoubtable Westminster tutors in Curzon Place where I shared a flat with Vidal Sasson in 1961 (well, we had adjoining flats in the same small building across the road from where Hugh Hefner opened his Playboy Club; I went to the gala opening with Tim Bligh, then Harold Macmillan's PPS). From my bedroom window I could see John Osborne and Albert Finney going in to see their agent; I shopped for groceries in Shepherd Market; as a young journalist, I later interviewed Stirling Moss in his ultra-modern house tucked in behind Hamilton Place and did visiting celebrity interviews at the Westbury hotel in Conduit St where they used to stay. Yesterday (Friday June 24), an odd experience which I am still trying to fathom: at Victoria Station, on my way back from a meeting in Kent, I picked up a copy of the free Evening Standard newspaper. Continuing across the concourse, I noticed at another booth, a man standing beside a stock of copies of the same paper but also with a colour magazine. I waved my newspaper at him and made to pick up the magazine, but he stopped me and told me that the first one 'came from a different firm' and that I had to return the newspaper I had picked up to the other stand some way back. I put the copy down on a ledge on the stand, took the replacement paper plus magazine and walked on, the man shouting after me 'You didn't, did you'. 'No', I thought 'I didn't - because I cannot understand why on earth I should'. I think this may be an entry for my 'Recession' or 'Austerity' Diary. As a footnote, after some years of hob-nobbing with the famous and interviewing people who had done/were doing interesting things, I decided it was time I myself did something interesting instead of recording other people's deeds. Reader, I became a property developer in Los Angeles, then planted a forest where I built a house, which is now on the edge of the biggest windfarm on land in Europe. More in my next...

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